Company: Anheuser-Busch InBev
Title: Director, Shopper Marketing
Education: Clark Atlanta University (bachelor’s, mass communications, with a concentration in PR management)
Growing up in Reno, Nevada, Bronica Banks knew she wanted diversity from her college experience, so she chose to go across the country to Clark Atlanta University in Georgia. Her years at the HBCU (historically black college or university) taught her tenacity and instilled a fire that she believes is the reason she’s such a motivated employee today.
After earning a degree in mass communications that included internships at Coca-Cola and GE, she joined Union Pacific, starting in the railroad’s marketing and sales development program – a “standard fresh-out-of-college” training program, she says. She became a commodity manager, working on strategies, programs and services to expand Union Pacific’s presence in relevant markets. She then decided to make a career switch to CPG and searched for openings at Anheuser-Busch.
In April 2016, she landed her first position at A-B in Boise, Idaho, as a trade marketing manager, at the time a newer role for the brewer that thrust her into the booming craft beer market. She focused on trade execution and led a team of brand activation managers before being promoted to senior manager of on-premise trade programs. That came with a move to New York City, where she was charged with piloting all field activation programs and eventually supported all high-end imports.
In January 2020, Banks was named the director of event strategy, a short-lived position when the pandemic hit. She then worked on special projects until being named the director of shopper marketing in August 2020 when the retail integration team became the shopper marketing team with new titles, roles and responsibilities as well as added support through its agency of record.
Banks now works with all U.S. channel teams to deliver omnichannel customized retailer solutions, leading a team of seven shopper marketing managers. They manage national cross merchandising and coupon strategy to provide retail teams with turnkey programming intended to improve rate of sale and provide basket-building retail solutions while encouraging consumers to trade up. It also collaborates with A-B’s agency to create below the line solutions rooted in shopper insights to drive category growth and develop shopper media plans to support new innovation brand launches at retail.
Last year, the team also developed alternative sampling plans when traditional activity was paused due to COVID-19 and strengthened partnerships with other CPG companies. “We really elevated and stepped our game up when it comes to partnerships to be much more than just a stand-alone rebate in-store,” she says. The team has gotten a lot smarter about creating 360-degree omnichannel programs and engaging in the e-commerce space to talk to consumers when they’re in an active planning or browsing mindset, she adds.
The company’s Home Gate program, a response to the disruption in field marketing plans at the beginning of the pandemic, is one of Banks’ career highlights. “Approximately 40% of our sales and marketing package is dedicated dollars to drive trial and encourage ‘liquid to lips,’” she says. The Home Gate program consisted of sweepstakes, digital and social activity as well as sampling (the last handled by Field Agent).
The trial effort drove 15,000 samples of Bud Light Seltzer, the company’s No. 1 priority brand in 2021. And Field Agent is now utilized as a primary tactic for sampling, especially in the non-traditional environment, with initial program results showing 89% first-time buyers, 82% positive shopper sentiment and 83% repurchase intent.
Banks credits her parents for teaching her to never give up, and bad bosses for teaching her what not to do. “Leading with empathy is where I’ve seen the most success and where I hadn’t had support in the past,” she says. Her current manager – Colleen Kelly, A-B’s head of trade and shopper marketing – has been the mastermind behind setting the vision for the restructured shopper marketing team. “Her agility and steadfast vision is the reason I am where I am today.”