Q&A with Pernod Ricard marketing director Vlastimil Spelda

Pernod Ricard’s marketing director for spirits Vlastimil Spelda talks to Marketing Week about Christmas marketing, premiumisation, the first UK television campaign for Chivas Regal and the new positioning for Havana Club.

MW – Pernod Ricard UK has launched a concerted push this Christmas, – how is this indicative of the company’s long-term brand-building strategy?

VS – A key success factor for our company is to grow value market share, which we do by building premium brands with strong heritage credentials. Winning at Christmas is essential to achieving this goal since it is such a key purchase period for premium spirit consumers and an ideal time to stimulate trial of our products in multiple different consumption occasions.

In the off-trade, for example, our research shows that more people are typically involved in spirit occasions at Christmas (6 people versus 4) and £1 in every £5 spent on premium spirits last year rose to £1 in every £4 at Christmas, according to Nielsen. Christmas is also important in the on-trade; premium spirits are growing ahead of total on-trade spirits at +2.5% in value versus total spirits, which is declining at -2.9% in value, according to the CGA.

This is why we have strongly up-weighted our total year-on-year annual marketing spend by 30%, with four of our brands featuring on TV in the run up to Christmas; Absolut, Chivas Regal, Jacob’s Creek and Brancott Estate.

MW – Why are you investing in all this activity and why now?

VS – While the recession has impacted brands and products that do not embody substance, there is still demand for brands with authentic stories, heritage and superior levels of craftsmanship. It is therefore the right time for us to invest and make consumers aware of our brands, which offer substance and exceptional quality.

MW – What do you hope to achieve?

VS – We want consumers and members of the trade to desire and love our brands and products. This is the only way we can build true and sustainable success from our premiumisation strategy – less, but loyal, consumers, brand advocates and friends.

MW – How does this seasonal marketing activity fit into your wider premiumisation strategy?

VS – Our key brands are aspirational and authentic – they embody substance and are crafted by passionate people with exceptional levels of expertise. This expertise translates into superior quality, which alongside genuine heritage and provenance, commands more premium positioning in the marketplace.

We want consumers to understand what makes our brands premium and why they are worth paying a little more for, which is why we are investing so much behind our Christmas advertising and marketing initiatives, premium gift ranges, perfect mixed drink experiences and on-pack communication and education mechanics.

MW – Why the decision to take Chivas Regal onto TV – what’s the thinking behind this?

VS – The way we use TV for Chivas Regal is very different to mainstream brands. Our approach for Chivas Regal is very much based on a micro-marketing ethos; we use an extremely precise selection of channels, programs and slots that genuinely amplify our message due to their relevance and correspond to a very tight target audience.

MW – Tell us more about the new brand platform for Havana Club

VS – Our new campaign, “Nothing compares to Havana,” showcases authentic Cubans, their real emotions and the country’s uniquely positive vibe and life philosophy. It is a combination of these factors that inspires spirit and genius loci that you can feel only in Havana, one of the last truly authentic places in the world. When you understand Havana, you can then understand why Havana Club rum is such an exceptional, unique and passionately crafted product perfect for authentic Cuban-inspired mixed drinks and cocktails.

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