Pernod Ricard CMO Martin Riley on premiumisation and making 'a friend a day'

Martin Riley, chief marketing officer at Pernod Ricard, on the need for marketers to remember that all brand communication and promotions are, at their heart, simply about a social connection with people.

Pernod Ricard CMO Martin Riley on premiumisation and making 'a friend a day'

For me, the past month has been characterised by meetings and events that relate to best practice and key issues for marketing in the future.

As the global chief marketing officer of Pernod Ricard, I am based at the head office in Paris, located in the Place des États-Unis, an elegant square between the Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower.

The view of the Eiffel Tower from my office window is a reference to our roots as a French company that carries the name of the two founding brands, Pernod and Ricard. We have affiliates in 85 countries, global brand companies in six and flagship brands such as Absolut vodka and Chivas Regal whisky, which sell in every market around the world.

In March and April we select our Best Practice Awards, which culminates in an ultimate prize with recognition by top management. We organise the initial submissions by region and brand company. I attended the European event in Paris and was impressed by the range and originality – a strong basis for initiatives to be used by other markets across the group.

I met Ricard marketing director Sophie Gallois later to review activities on this extraordinary brand, which remains the biggest spirits brand in France.

Social marketing

Ricard’s founder, Paul Ricard, was a visionary who understood the impact of events and social marketing in building social brands. His message to his sales force was to "make a friend a day" by talking to people in cafés and bars to understand their motivation and build their enthusiasm for Ricard by placing it at the centre of social activity.

My discussion with Sophie centred on new initiatives within the context of the loi Évin, a law in France that restricts communication about and promotion of alcoholic drinks.

Later that week, I flew to Bilbao, Spain, to visit Rioja. We own Ysios, a key Rioja brand with a stunning bodega designed by the Basque architect Santiago Calatrava.

Ricard’s founder, Paul Ricard, was a visionary who understood the impact of events and social marketing in building social brands.

We were there with a group of experts in the fields of fashion, photography, music and art to judge our co-creation awards, submitted by our marketing teams. This exercise is different from the Best Practice Awards as the criteria are very specific: co-creation with external artists. The judgement and awards are made by the experts. The standard of submissions was high and the judges complimentary.

I left Ysios later in the afternoon to see our Campo Viejo vineyards, then back to Bilbao for the last flight to Paris.

The following Monday I was in Sydney, Australia, as president of the World Federation of Advertisers. The WFA is composed of the top marketing companies and 55 national advertiser associations, who together account for $650bn of advertising investment.

The WFA’s remit is to represent advertisers’ interests and champion self-regulation and responsible marketing. Every year it holds a Global Marketer Week, in collaboration with a national advertiser association – this year it was co-hosted by Australia. The opening cocktail party was attended by Droga5 founder and creative chairman David Droga, who had flown in from New York.

The conference opened with my speech on the importance of marketers making sure that, in this age of transparency, words are matched by actions.

"Avoid the Wikileaks moment" was the headline picked up by the press. A strong line-up of speakers included Colin Currie, managing director of Adidas China, Marc Mathieu, senior vice-president of marketing, Unilever, and Michael Birkin, the Acer CMO. In addition, BBH’s Sir John Hegarty gave a great speech encouraging marketers to "stop trying to turn marketing into a science" by investing in research methods and techniques that kill ideas. Brainjuicer founder John Kearon stimulated the audience with his powerful message to use intuition in assessing ideas, and limit research on advertising and brand concepts to three seconds in order to get an immediate, emotional reaction – because we buy with our emotions.

Premiumisation strategy

During my time in Australia, I met up with the global marketing team from our wine business. In addition to Jacob’s Creek, the leading Australian wine, they manage Brancott Estate New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, and oversee the activities of Campo Viejo and our Argentinian wines.

I also had a meeting with the MD of our Australian company and the marketing team, who presented the spectacular success of Mumm Champagne and Chivas Regal in Australia. It was great to see our premiumisation strategy in action.

I am finishing writing this diary in Rome, where I am one of the keynote speakers for the Festival of Media Global. The theme of my speech is about ensuring media choices work together to create impact and engagement, and highlights that brands have to be clear and consistent with their tone of voice during social-media conversations.

At Pernod Ricard, as "créateurs de convivialité", we have a shared purpose in enhancing key moments in people’s lives. The example of how Paul Ricard developed his social media in the real, face-to-face, world in those earlier years is still a reference we use for marketing our brands in the digital space.

People, after all, remain the same.