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IMPACT Seminar Snapshot: Ed Shirley And Simon Hunt On Global Brand-Building

March 27, 2013

A year ago this month Shanken News Daily exclusively broke the news that Bacardi Ltd. had tapped consumer goods veteran Ed Shirley as its new president and CEO. After a year at the helm, Shirley delivered his thoughts on the state of global spirits marketing through the eyes of a relative newcomer to the industry at last week’s Impact Marketing Seminar.

Shirley began by emphasizing the similarities between his work as a longtime executive at Gillette and Procter & Gamble and that on which he’s recently embarked at Bacardi, noting that the knack for anticipating and fulfilling consumer needs is essential to both arenas.

In the specific case of spirits, consumers around the globe are consistently demanding a sense of authenticity and a story behind each brand, Shirley asserted. This trend plays to Bacardi’s strengths as a company which recently celebrated its 150th anniversary, and whose namesake rum is the key to classic cocktails like the Cuba Libre, he said. Shirley went on to detail a few of Bacardi’s global initiatives designed to appeal to a new generation of spirits consumers in a variety of markets, including a fresh ad campaign for Dewar’s and the U.S. launch of its new Highlander Honey offering, which Bacardi believes can bring the younger LDA set into the Scotch category. Also in the U.S., Bacardi rum and Grey Goose vodka are looking to woo the fast-growing multicultural consumer segment with their latest flavor extensions, Pineapple Fusion and Cherry Noir, respectively.

Shirley was followed at the podium by Simon Hunt, who was promoted in recent days from president and managing director of William Grant & Sons, North America, to chief commercial officer of the group’s global business. Continuing on the theme of global brand-building in a changing marketplace, Hunt said that, in the past, most spirits brands succeeded by following a fairly traditional and static marketing template. The advent of social media and consumers’ heightened engagement within the marketing process have necessitated a rethinking of that model, however.

Looking ahead, said Hunt, William Grant will employ a brand-building approach based around three pillars: product, pioneers and patience. All three have been “in William Grant’s DNA from the beginning,” he said, starting with the creation of the liquid in the bottle. Like Shirley, Hunt also invoked the need for compelling brand stories—“We need to provide consumers with reasons to engage with our brands,” he said—which can be transmitted by “pioneers” extolling the franchise, whether they be bartenders, celebrities, or consumers who are “active amplifiers” of brand marketing. The third pillar, patience, has special relevance for William Grant as a private company that doesn’t need to meet quarterly shareholder demands. “Many companies would have cut off a brand like Hendrick’s after a few years,” Hunt said. “Today it’s up 30% globally and is reinvigorating the gin category.”


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