Brown-Forman transforms marketing strategy, scaling Tableau to 1,000 users on the cloud


Quickly on-boarded 1,000 users with subscription
Visibility into operations data from 160 countries
Define ROI for promotional spend at Kentucky Derby

Brown-Forman is one of the largest American-owned spirits and wine companies, selling brands like Jack Daniel’s, Old Forester, and Woodford Reserve in more than 160 countries. Chief Information Officer, Tim Nall initially expanded Tableau across 1,000 global employees—from marketing and finance to supply chain and operations. Tableau’s subscription pricing fit with how Brown-Forman already operates, starting small and quickly scaling with demand. Today, marketing can track promotional effectiveness around the Kentucky Derby, helping forecast success for future campaigns. When launching new products, marketers understand how content resonates with consumers, increasing brand awareness and ultimately, helping ship more product.

From a global perspective, it becomes more and more paramount to have all of this information and be able to discern it. Now, with what we've created with our logical data warehouse and Tableau, people can collaborate and all of that information is accessible.

Gaining transparency into SKUs from 160 countries

Brown-Forman is among the top ten largest global spirits companies, with offices across the globe. With this global reach, communication is paramount to determining best practices and selling more product.

“We sell Jack Daniels in Germany, we sell Jack Daniels in France, we sell Jack Daniels in the U.S. We want people to be able to see how these different entities are looking at their business so that we can leverage best practices better than we have in the past,” explains Tim.

This includes best practices around trans-national trade, where teams need insight into pricing and shipping details so they can effectively manage stock keeping units (SKU). All of this data lands in a Cloudera Hadoop Data Lake, running in Microsoft’s Azure cloud, which is also where Brown-Forman runs Tableau Server. This allows Brown-Forman departments to leverage their existing technology investments and enables global teams to collaborate on best practices and share insights with Tableau.

“From a global perspective, it becomes more and more paramount to have all of this information and be able to discern it,” says Tim. “Now, with what we've created with our logical data warehouse and Tableau, people can collaborate and all of that information is accessible.”

Our whole goal is to promote and then ship more product following these promotions. Tableau is helping us reach that goal.

Driving brand awareness for new products

At Brown-Forman, brand building is a foundation of the business: “We're passionate about building brands and when we refer to our employees, we say we had 4,500 brand builders. We’d love to have everybody's title be ‘brand builder.’"

Brown-Forman’s product family is extensive and continues to grow with new brands like Coopers’ Craft bourbon, BenRiach scotch, and Glenglassaugh scotch. When Brown-Forman launches a new product, data is crucial to drive marketing strategy and to determine how to effectively connect with consumers.

“Marketing is starting to use Tableau to determine promotional effectiveness and where we should be spending our marketing dollars,” shares Tim.

With Tableau, Brown-Forman can track return on investment for marketing spend. With these insights, the marketing team can forecast promotion success for future campaigns—simultaneously saving money and increasing brand awareness.

“Historically with a new product, we would have gone to social media, probably some TV advertising, or maybe a billboard here and there. But now, with Tableau, we're able to really look at the value of that spend in those various arenas.”

Historically with a new product, we would have gone to social media, probably some TV advertising, or maybe a billboard here and there. But now, with Tableau, we're able to really look at the value of that spend in those various arenas.

Predicting social sentiment and promotion success at the Kentucky Derby

Brown-Forman’s Woodford Reserve is known as the “official bourbon of the Kentucky Derby.” As professed in a recent Woodford Reserve advertisement, “In Kentucky, horses are everything, and bourbon is everything else.”

During the Derby, attendees can purchase a $1,000 Woodford Reserve mint julep, giving them access to a special experience, complete with a historical display from the Kentucky Derby Museum, a collectable Mint Julep Royal Cup, and access to a branded bar at Churchill Downs.

“This year, we're pretty excited that we'll be able to pull in a lot more social information to understand who's looking at content, who's going to our websites, and determine what they’re viewing. For example, are they viewing the video of the $1,000 mint julep?”

The team also plans to overlay weather data to determine how rain or cold affected Derby promotions in the past and to predict how to approach these scenarios in future years.

“Here in Louisville, Derby can be hot, Derby can be cold. We've had snow on Derby in May before. So we're very excited that this year, we're going to be able to look at all the information that we now have to determine what we should do in the future—what worked, what didn't work.”

“Our whole goal is to promote and then ship more product following these promotions. Tableau is helping us reach that goal.”

We were very comfortable with a subscription model. We’re with Salesforce, we're with G-Suite, and we’re with Workday. This is how we operate. The subscription pricing model was a major factor in our decision to deploy Tableau as our enterprise-wide visual analytics platform.

CIO adopts Tableau subscription model for flexibility and lower up-front investment

As Brown-Forman modernized its data infrastructure, finding a visual analytics platform was the next logical step.

“We were modernizing our whole data set. We landed on Cloudera as our logical file structure and we have an ETL tool, which is Talend,” shares Tim. “We're bringing all this information in, we're putting it where it's readily accessible. We needed a tool that could take all of that great data and information and allow us to turn it into an insight.”

When Tim Nall, Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer started searching for a visual analytics solution, he preferred a subscription model.

“We were very comfortable with a subscription model. We’re with Salesforce, we're with G-Suite, and we’re with Workday. This is how we operate,” explains Tim. “The subscription pricing model was a major factor in our decision to deploy Tableau as our enterprise-wide visual analytics platform.”

Brown-Forman adopted Tableau Desktop and Server in January of 2017. With subscription pricing, the company could quickly scale to around 1,000 global employees. And the added flexibility of a subscription model allows Brown-Forman to scale up or down as needs change.

“You can start at any size you want. You can start with a big bang and go all out with your entire employee population if you so choose or you can start with a manageable number of people and allow it to scale up,” says Tim.

“If we determine that somebody needs to be a Tableau Desktop user and have that full-blown capability to build the models that we're after, then we can make a phone call and add that person.”

As more employees get excited about Tableau, Tim plans to expand licenses across the organization: “We plan to continue expanding Tableau to glean insights from everything from our global auditing process data to regulatory and plant issues to pricing and promotional effectiveness.”

Creating a center of excellence with IT as the one source of truth

To support their analytics strategy, Brown-Forman established an analytics center of excellence, headed by Commercial Finance with input from the CIO and CFO.

“What we've done with our whole strategy is we've said IT will be the one source of the truth,” says Tim.

With Tableau Server, IT can manage governance and security, while securing deployment flexibility. When a department wants to bring in a new data source for company-wide use, the center of excellence assesses the current infrastructure and determines the value of the investment.

“Somewhere there has to be a driver for the strategy and there has to be a home for your data scientists. You could say that this center of excellence was a block in our pyramid that always needed to be there.”

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