‘We maybe over limited ourselves’: Pernod Ricard on its changing face of luxury

The luxury industry has seen significant changes over the last decade, leaping to heady heights and spiralling to worrying lows, and for drinks giant Pernod Ricard this has meant reshaping its luxury “mindset” and making its elite portfolio more accessible to consumers after admitting it was chasing too narrow a demographic.

Comprising eight brands – Royal Salute 21, Martell Cordon Bleu, Perrier-Jouët Belle Epoque, Absolut Elyx, Ballantine’s 30, The Glenlivet 18, Chivas Regal 18 and Plymouth Gin – Pernod Ricard’s luxury portfolio, or Le Cercle as it is known internally, has worked over the last few years to implement a global framework to better position the individual brands in the category and speak to a wider audience. Previously, each brand within the portfolio had taken its own approach, but Pernod Ricard is now pushing hard to foster an approach based on consumer experience to build “aspirational and desirable” brands.

Speaking to The Drum Tareef Shawa, luxury & CRM director at Pernod Ricard, explained why the drinks company made the move to target “consumers of luxury” over luxury consumers.

“Initially we said we are looking at ultra-high net worth individuals or super wealthy billionaires, which is great but they are very difficult to find and they not necessarily faithful,” he said. “But what we do know is that many of us are not just luxury consumers but consumers of luxury… even if it’s just once a year for a special birthday or anniversary or even every Saturday night on a romantic date for example. We find those consumers everywhere.

“We probably had to shoot high in order to realise there is an entire sub section of society that is wealthy or affluent or even comfortable that also enjoys consuming luxury. We maybe over limited ourselves at the beginning but now we have a broader approach and a more friendly, more democratic, more convivial approach.”

To strengthen its luxury brands Pernod Ricard has adopted three strategies: premiumising its portfolio through new products and line extensions, identifying new moments of convivialité (the brand’s corporate signature) within the luxury world and optimising on price. Experiential activity that features educational tones form the backbone of marketing activity for Le Cercle, which currently accounts for 10% of sales and is present in 35 markets globally.

The idea is to play on people’s passions points, such as art and fashion, to create more memorable experiences, while including education about the product itself. For example, at last September’s London Design Week Pernod Ricard ran an event named L’Eden by Perrier-Jouët that featured an installation from Parisian designer Noé Duchafour-Lawrance and a ‘bio-responsive garden’ by Bompas & Parr. 

L'Eden
 
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The installation was underpinned by a vertical system of 3D-printed elements suspended from the ceiling on a network of brass tubes that grew from the ceiling. At the end of each vine a champagne glass hung upside down and guests were able to pick one before it was filled with Perrier-Jouët.

In a similar experience for its whiskey brand Chivas Regal, Pernod Ricard created The Blend, a pop-up bar in London that allowed visitors to learn about the art of blending whiskey.

It’s a strategy Pernod Ricard is hopeful will resonate with millennials and in emerging markets, to help protect its brands from becoming “the flavour of the month” and failing as a result.

“In some of the emerging markets, particularly in Asia, the boom happened so fast and the education wasn’t there to help consumers really understand the depth of cognac or whiskey so they move on and they move on to the next flavour or category because they haven’t had a chance to embed in the category,” said Shawa. “Yes, we like the volume and the margin, but to sustain it and build a relationship where the consumer comes to appreciate what he or she is buying it can’t just be transactional.”

To that end, ecommerce represents only a small proportion of the luxury business at Pernod Ricard. “Our goal is it to make it less transactional and more experiential, but right now I don’t want to over emphasise on ecommerce,” added Shawa.

Elsewhere, Pernod Ricard is bolstering its luxury CRM database to get closer to its consumers and is deploying ‘relationship directors’ to better understand the wants and needs of those purchasing its luxury portfolio.


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