Marlene V. Coulis brings a woman's perspective to the unapologetically male domain of beer marketing.
|Marlene V. Coulis, VP-brand management, Anheuser-Busch
Ms. Coulis, who in August became the first woman and first Hispanic to ascend to Anheuser-Busch's top marketing post as VP-brand management, has overseen a marketing shift at the No. 1 brewer, which is battling not only beer rivals such as Miller but also the growing wine and spirits categories. Against that backdrop, Ms. Coulis has been charged with managing a rapidly expanding brand portfolio, and she's responded by embracing new media to what, for A-B, is an unprecedented degree. Recent partnerships have included deals with cellphone networks, viral Web sites and even art galleries.
While A-B remains one of the largest TV advertisers, it has financed those new-media ventures in part by cutting back on network TV. At this stage, her approach appears to be working. A-B's sales climbed more than 5% during the first quarter of 2006 vs. a year earlier.
"Marlene has done a tremendous job with the brands," says A-B wholesaler John Matesich. "The act is getting together on marketing." "We're acknowledging it's a new world," Ms. Coulis, who declined an interview request for this profile, told Advertising Age in April. "We're trying to be more nimble, to respond more quickly and to manage a lot more brands."
Before her promotion, the 14-year A-B veteran held positions in geographic marketing, new-product and brand development, and marketing research. As part of the promotion, she also was given a seat on the Anheuser-Busch Strategy Committee, a group of senior executives who plot the company's strategic course.
Ms. Coulis, 44, has A-B operating more like the spirits distilleries that have been guzzling its market share for much of the past decade. And that approach has the brewery thinking about an audience it seldom pondered in the past: women.
That shift was apparent during A-B's recent Super Bowl ads, which eschewed women in bikinis and the like for less sexy spots focused on secret beer fridges and the company's signature Clydesdales.
"If there's a new piece of insight I brought to our agencies, it's that we have a lot of female beer drinkers, a lot of coed beer-drinking situations," Ms. Coulis told The New York Times in February. "They love beer ... And they're influencers; they have influence over brand choice. We want to make sure we equally appeal to males and females."