Bacardi Brand Marketing & Storytelling | In Practise

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Bacardi Brand Marketing & Storytelling

Former Chief Marketing Officer at Bacardi & Walgreens Boots Alliance

Why is this interview interesting?

  • The three core principles of the Diageo Way of Brand Building
  • How Bacardi told stories of the heritage for the core rum brand
  • The story and campaign of Grey Goose and how to connect with consumers
  • The importance of connecting with consumers as a brand marketeer

Executive Bio

Andy Gibson

Former Chief Marketing Officer at Bacardi & Walgreens Boots Alliance

Andy began his career at Diageo in 1999 where he was primed in the Diageo Way of Brand Building and led various different spirit brands across different continents. In 2011, he joined Carlton United Breweries, the leading beer company in Australia, as Chief Marketing Officer where he led the revival of the VB brand. In 2013, Andy joined Bacardi as CMO where he managed the global brand portfolio including Bacardi, Grey Goose and Bombay Sapphire generating revenue of over $4bn. In 2015, Andy joined Walgreens Boots Alliance, the $26bn revenue global pharmacy, where he led the Global Brands Portfolio.Read more

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Interview Transcript

Andy, a good place to start would be for you to provide some context to the state of the marketing landscape, when you joined Diageo, in 1999.

I stared at Diageo in January 1999 and it was an interesting time for Diageo, in that the business, primarily, had only been formed for one year. The business was, really, a merger of two very big businesses, that approached marketing in a very different way. So you had a whole new business of people and a function of marketeers who, actually, talked about, thought about, described marketing, with different language, with different tools, with different methodologies. The wisdom of the executive, at the time, was that we had to get one language. We had to develop a way that Diageo approached marketing, attracted consumers and grew its brands.

So there was an enormous transition, over the next 18 months, from really, a United Nations of marketing people, into a one way, which was called the Diageo Way of Brand Building. That became the way of talking about brands, of talking about, even more importantly, consumers, of understanding, globally, where brands were, how they were position and therefore, how we should move brands into a more global positioning, whilst driving performance.

It was an amazing learning period. I argue that I actually got my MBA in Marketing, through the Diageo Way of Brand Building. It was a real combination of learning and then practicing skills, on the job. Which I believe, is crucial for anyone coming into the marketing world, today.

What were the key principles in that Diageo way of marketing?

So these key principles, actually, form my key principles of marketing which, I’m sure, make sense. It was my formative years. First of all, understand your consumer. Who is your consumer? I’m not talking about all females, 25 to 85. That’s being everything to no one. I’m talking about, really get clear on who is the most commercially, high-potential target, that you could choose, that your brand can, authentically, weave its way into their lives and play a role.

So the first thing was, understand your target consumer. The second things was, understanding what your brand currently stands for, in their hearts and mind. How emotionally do they feel about your brand and then, functionally, how do they use your brand? What could your brand to, to actually help them, inspire them, encourage them to live the life they want to live, whilst using it? When you connect those two things together, what you have is a brand that’s starting to be clearly positioned, in a consumer’s mind.

The Diageo Way of Brand Building had a very clear set of tools and criteria, as to what great looked like and it pushed us all to get great happening.

That’s thinking and strategy. The next thing then was, how do you execute your brand positioning, so that it’s consistently on brand? So that it’s consistently building equity of the core DNAs, the core values that your brand stands for, in a positive way and doesn’t drift off positioning and start to deteriorate and eat into those core equities that your brand stands for. The system that was built and the behaviors and the language and the tools, actually ensured, globally, that you could be appropriate to your consumers in market, but actually be on brand, be consistent, globally. Very, very powerful.

Taking the first principle then, understanding your consumer. How granular do you get with that?

Very granular. In fact, I believe you should name them. I believe you should give them a name that you can relate to. Demographics are important, but demographics are like the ticket to the dance; they are base level. That will help you in things like media buying, for instance. But that’s about where it ends. What you need to get into is the psychographics of your consumer. What’s important to them, in life? What’s their structure in life? What’s their friend, family, social set up? What are their hopes, their dreams? What do they watch? When I say watch, I don’t just want Netflix; I actually want, which box sets do they get into? Which box sets do they actually talk about to their friends and binge on? When it comes to devices that they use their mobile phone; I want to know which apps are they using and for what purposes. If it’s a 45-year-old female, is she using mumsnet as a network, for instance, to find life hacks, to actually make her life much easier? I want to know what their values are in life. What’s important to them, from a values perspective? Is it honesty, is it integrity? Is it, actually, trust? Is it friendship? Is it family? I want to know, in detail, what those values are. Then I want to know what their unmet needs and motivations in life are. What are their dreams, their aspirations? What is it they hope to be? What is it that they are continually striving for?

That’s as a human. Then the next part of understanding your consumer is, their relationship to the category. When do they use it? Why do they use it? Where do they use it? What are they using, in the category? What are the competitive brands that they’re using? When we pull that picture together – I call that the 5 Ws, the What, Where, When, Why, Who – when we pull that together, we’ve got this rich picture of our consumer.

The first part that I explained, about them as humans, that’s where we position our brands. We position our brands against them, as people. Then when I talk about the second part of that, the what, where, when, why, who, that’s all about execution. Where do I now go, to find those consumers? How do I execute in a place that they’re in? How do I intercept them, on their journey to purchase? My answer is, as much rich detail as you can possibly get. You should know these people like they are a family member.

What do you think is the biggest challenge for the large brand houses, today, in really understanding younger consumers. We’ve seen a shift in the generations; how do you stay on top of that shift, in the consumer base?

I don’t think that challenge is any different today than it was when I was a young marketeer. The biggest challenge we have is, we like to paint a picture of our consumers, just as we like to see them. Quite often, I see a target consumer understanding, that actually looks like the brand manager, that actually sounds like the brand manager. I did a piece of work in Spain, during the 2008 GFC and it was a brand that was targeting millennials. You read the target consumer understanding and they were going out to bars, they had nice little cars, they had the latest applications. They loved their jobs. This is at a time when Spain had a 55% millennial unemployment rate. I looked at the brand manager and said, that’s you.

So the biggest challenge is being honest. It’s truly walking in your consumer’s shoes, living their lives and continually being curious about how the world is moving and changing, for your consumer and being on top of that and being open to move with them, as opposed to defining what you think they are and what they should be.

How do you, personally, stay on top of that or drive humility in that understanding of your consumer, versus painting that picture?

There’s many techniques. Some of my favorite techniques, when I’m running a marketing team, every month, getting a minibus together and going, with cameras, with live questionnaires, and actually doing vox pops. Getting my marketing team to go out and interact with the consumers. Go out and be in their lives. Answering a set of distinct questions, which we’ve formulated beforehand, where we think there might be shifts, there might be things happening. Actually, interacting and learning live, learning really, while these consumers are living life.

You’ve got to be careful, because some consumers might be a little upset and might see that as a bit aggressive, so you’ve got to take protocol. But actually, any methodology where you can walk and live in your consumers lives, is the key. As you can tell, I’m not a young pup anymore, but I’m on a lot of feeds and streams, through my app, that aren’t my core interests and my core needs. I’m actually on feeds and streams that are my current consumer base’s feeds and streams and I’m watching and listening to what they’re up to, continually.

Let’s take Bacardi, for example and their core rum business. How did you look to formulate a marketing strategy?

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Bacardi Brand Marketing & Storytelling

March 26, 2020

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