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Interview: Rémy Martin CEO Eric Vallat

November 15, 2016

Veteran luxury goods executive Eric Vallat was named CEO of Rémy Martin Cognac in January of 2014. In the nearly three years since Vallat took the helm, Rémy Martin has unveiled a global “One Life/Live Them” campaign heralding multifaceted cultural contributors such as actor/musician Jeremy Renner, and sought to connect with consumers via initiatives like La Maison Rémy Martin, an interactive pop-up brand concept making stops in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles this fall. Meanwhile, the brand has prospered in the U.S., growing by 23% over the past two years to reach 765,000 cases, according to Impact Databank. SND senior editor Daniel Marsteller recently met with Vallat to discuss Rémy Martin’s growth amid the Cognac boom.

SND: What’s the update on the Rémy Martin brand in the U.S. market?

Vallat: We’re enjoying very good momentum in the U.S. (Editor’s note: Rémy Martin VSOP grew 16.6% in IRI channels in the 44 weeks through October 30). There’s a general trend toward craft and authenticity, which favors aged brown spirits. We’re well-placed within the category, being recognized as the Fine Champagne brand—the one picking its grapes from the heart of the Cognac region, the more selective eaux de vie. We’ve quit the VS segment, and we’re playing more at the high end. Today, we sell more VSOP ($40) and 1738 Accord Royale ($50-$60) than our combined VS and VSOP volumes of five years ago. We’ve increased volume while repositioning at the higher end. 1738 is a fantastic weapon. The expectation for crafted products helped it pick up a few years ago, and I don’t think it’s done yet. It’s growing at strong double-digits year-over-year. I also strongly believe in the potential of our XO ($150-$160).

SND: What was the impetus behind the La Maison Rémy Martin experiential initiative?

Vallat: We’re aiming to have a direct relationship with our clients. We’re in an industry where you have many layers between the producer and the final client. The more you can tell about who you are through digital and experiential the better. La Maison is the beginning of a story, not a one-shot event. We’re beginning a relationship with the people who register to come to the Maison. We could imagine it being a kind of yearly rendezvous with evolving content—that’s what’s happening in the U.K., which is the other country where we’re doing La Maison. In the 1990s, people were buying logos to signal that they were successful. Today the quest is more toward two things: authenticity and experience. La Maison represents both.

SND: How has the larger One Life/Live Them campaign been received?

Vallat: We launched One Life/Live Them about a year and a half ago, and it’s a campaign that’s meant to last. It’s a worldwide campaign focused on “slashers,” or multifaceted individuals, and it will have many faces over time. We used to have one campaign in the U.S. and another in China. As a lifestyle brand, our clients are traveling worldwide and we need to be consistent everywhere. We needed a unifying concept—and this has proven to work. That’s one element of success. The second is that our surveys show the campaign has been well-received and has contributed to rejuvenating the brand. Not that we’re losing our loyal clients (while attracting younger drinkers), because I don’t think being a “slasher” is a question of age. It appeals to everyone. The campaign has been successful, but there is much more to do, many more creative ways of treating the topic.

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