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Impact Seminar Snapshot: Diageo, Bacardi, William Grant Firmly Focused On Future

March 17, 2016

Diageo, Bacardi and William Grant & Sons market some of the most established and best-known spirits brands in the world. However, in addressing attendees at last week’s 40th annual Impact Seminar, top executives from all three companies stressed the need to embrace change as a core element for achieving success in today’s drinks market.

Family owned for more than 150 years, Bacardi Ltd. has made efforts to diversify its leadership team in recent years, bringing execs from a variety of industries, such as former IMG Worldwide CEO Mike Dolan, into the fold. Dolan—who was appointed Bacardi’s interim CEO in 2014 and named permanent CEO last year—detailed the ongoing evolution of the group’s growth in his seminar presentation.

According to Dolan, one of Bacardi’s biggest changes was last year’s move to consolidate advertising operations for its core brands, which include Bacardi rum, Bombay Sapphire gin, Dewar’s blended Scotch and Grey Goose vodka, among others.

“We took all the ad agencies that we had—we had hundreds of agencies around the world—and fired them all. In place of that, we went with a single ad network, giving BBDO and their sister agency, OMD, all our business,” explained Dolan. “But the proviso was that we wanted great ideas that travel—we want them to work in North America, Europe, Africa and in Asia. And we want these ideas to live on social media just as easily as they live on TV.”

In her presentation, Diageo North America president Deirdre Mahlan—a native New Yorker who previously served as Diageo PLC’s CFO before returning to the U.S. to take over for the retiring Larry Schwartz late last year—provided a unique perspective on a market that has seen an accelerated pace of change and innovation in her eight years away. “Today we are a part of a significant consumer shift,” Mahlan told seminar attendees. “It is fundamentally changing the dynamic between consumers and the entire consumer goods supply chain.”

Mahlan went on to highlight four current trends among consumers and how they socialize today—digital ubiquity and mobile shopping; the pursuit of healthy lifestyles as alcoholic beverages compete with a new field of nutritious beverages and fitness occasions; fluid social spaces such as pop-up stores; and, lastly, a variety of meaningful experiences consumers seek out. Mahlan concluded by urging drinks marketers to adapt to deliver relevant propositions for today’s consumers at the right places, times and price points.

As consumers in today’s marketplace increasingly turn to products with heritage and authenticity, William Grant & Sons has sought to link its centuries-old Scottish heritage with a contemporary marketing message. Simon Hunt, recently appointed William Grant’s CEO, pointed out some of the company’s recent initiatives that illustrate this effort—including two short videos highlighting the company’s journey from creating quality Scotch whisky at a time of few regulations and standards to its competitive position in today’s marketplace.

William Grant has also worked to diversify its portfolio in recent years, Hunt told the seminar attendees, either developing or acquiring brands like Impact “Hot Brand” Hendrick’s Gin, Tullamore Dew, Drambuie, Sailor Jerry and Monkey Shoulder.

Dolan, Mahlan and Hunt all showed the seminar audience that, along with their illustrious histories, their companies are well-positioned for the future.

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