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Interview, Part 2: Lee Applbaum On The New Strategy For Grey Goose

May 14, 2019

Following its acquisition of Patrón last year, new owner Bacardi appointed Lee Applbaum, the Tequila brand’s CMO, as the new marketing chief for Grey Goose. 

Since taking over the position in August 2018, Applbaum and his team have been working on repositioning Grey Goose with a new consumer platform called “Live Victoriously.” Grey Goose was at 2.3 million cases in the U.S. last year, according to Impact Databank, down from 3 million cases in 2010. With the “Live Victoriously” campaign, Applbaum and company are looking to revitalize the brand. SND associate editor Shane English spoke recently with Applbaum about what’s on the horizon for Grey Goose.


SND: How do you see the state of play for Grey Goose as you take over the brand’s marketing?

Applbaum: In the U.S., Grey Goose has experienced slow, but consistent declines over the last 10 years. So we went back to our consumer research. If you look at the thousands of pages of consumer insights, the interesting thing is that over the last 10 years it all said the exact same thing: consumers and the trade give Grey Goose credit for our brand intrinsics. But there was a consumer issue of relatability. Consumers’ inability to connect with the brand on an emotional level hurt us.

SND: What do you hope to accomplish with the “Live Victoriously” platform?

Applbaum: Previously, Grey Goose spent a lot of time promoting the idea of special occasions. That’s great if you’re a Champagne; you can focus on New Year’s, life milestones, and other celebrations. But those don’t happen with enough frequency to support the scale of Grey Goose. The ethos of “Live Victoriously” is that every single moment has the potential to be a lifelong memory. Why not spend a few dollars more and treat yourself? With the digital part of the campaign, we’ll target the epicurean and mixology audience with messaging around Grey Goose’s versatility in cocktails. We can also take a different, more lifestyle-oriented message to other groups of consumers. We’re latching onto the rich cultural history of the Victory sign, which we think of as our call sign for the brand.

SND: So far, it sounds like you’re talking mostly about consumer facing strategies. How are you planning to reengage the trade?

Applbaum: We’re very candid about the mistakes we’ve made as a brand. We had three go-to cocktails. They were all basically martinis. But that can’t be your reason for being. You can paint on the canvas of vodka any way you want: sweet, spicy, classic, etc. But we have to facilitate that creative spirit. We can’t walk into bars and say, “This is how you have to serve us, bartender.” We have to go in and say, “What are your crazy, wacky ideas?”

SND: How has your experience leading Patrón impacted your strategy for Grey Goose?

Applbaum: We’re cutting and pasting pages from the Patrón playbook because there are so many similarities. We’re also cutting and pasting talent. My head of digital and experiential, Adrian Parker, is responsible for building all of the digital success at Patrón. He’s running the Grey Goose experiential side. My head of brand for Patrón, Jennifer Pisciotta, has joined us as well. It’s about the people, the talent, and the learnings, and importing them over to Grey Goose, for sure.

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