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Speyburn Single Malt Whisky Unveils Brand Refresh

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'Building Brands for the Global Market' by Sarah Clark


Caorunn Gin Airport Activation

Whisky is a long game. Anyone who, like me, is in the business of selling it to the world, starts with an understanding that this is no ‘make today, sell tomorrow’ product. Instead, this is an industry where we forecast, plan and plot well into the future, years if not decades ahead. Trends, markets and trading fluctuations have the potential to throw plans of course. And there’s no crystal ball to help!

After thirteen years at International Business, I’m now leading a talented five-strong team as Head of Channel Marketing for the global business. My task for 2024? Developing the right long-term strategies to unlock the potential of our super-premium spirits and achieve some ambitious growth targets in markets around the world. It’s a great challenge to have. Especially at a time when our business is bustling with energy and enthusiasm – not just for our single malt Scotch whiskies and iconic Caorunn Gin, but also with our newly acquired Cardrona Distillery and Larsen Cognac in the mix. Here are my four tips for success.

Build brands, don't just sell them

Finding ways to sell a bit of product in a particular market is one thing. Understanding that market, bringing value to customers and then consumers, building a meaningful brand marketing playbook: that’s the real challenge. I take a hybrid approach across sales, channel marketing and brand strategy. And it has to be bespoke. There are so many restrictions and variances across different markets, plus brands are at different stages of their life cycle in each. We often start with our domestic market, and a strong over-arching brand campaign. Then it’s about flexibility and making sure all the pieces fit so that plans are relevant and land well. It’s the only route to building genuine consumer connections and long-term commercial value.

Be prepared to collaborate

Right across the International Beverage business, we believe strongly in the power of collaboration. I always say that success for our brands needs ‘right place, right people’. The people and partnerships on the ground, especially in our core growth markets are vital. We own our distribution in the UK, but in most international markets we work with a partner and we nurture those relationships and go into activations with a collaborative mindset.  In practice that means lots of research, road testing creative platforms, converting and translating assets and refining the messaging to suit. A great example is our flagship single malt Old Pulteney’s campaign ‘Let It Slow’. A great core idea from the UK that was adapted and rolled out brilliantly by our global partners, delivering a significant commercial uplift for the brand.

Listen to customers

Being aware of the big trends is crucial. In recent years we’ve had the rise of premiumisation and super premium quality spirits; the growing importance of sustainability; the pivot to e-commerce; and above all, digital transformation, which has massively changed the commercial and marketing landscape. We stay alert to these trends, really listening to partners, stakeholders and feedback from the consumers who love our brands. We stay agile to meet changing consumer needs and desires, so we’re on top or one step ahead of the trends.  I always keep an eye on other categories too, to cross pollinate great ideas that can be a useful source of insight. Whatever is driving growth in the global rum or tequila market could be heading our way in the not-too-distant future! 

Empower your team

None of the first three points can happen without a great team. We are investing in up-skilling our people to make sure they are ready to meet the demands of the job in 2024 and beyond. Of course there has to be expertise in global markets and the various channels we operate in. But we also need a rigorous understanding of data and insights, digital savvy, an understanding of modern shopper programmes, and a finger on the pulse of what modern consumers want. We’re creating a team of super-skilled marketeers who can go anywhere in the world with confidence and deliver compelling programmes for our brands.