Gama spoke to Andre Jacques, Global Innovation & Marketing Services Director, Unicer.
What are your day to day activities as Global Innovation & Marketing Services Director?
This is a new position, bringing together five different areas: Insights, Category Development, Innovation (project and process management as well as R&D), Interactive Marketing and finally retailer Loyalty Programmes. This means that, besides the challenge of bringing all this together in a meaningful way and establishing a vision for the team, my weekly activities can vary from discussing new forms of energy cogeneration based on the by-products of beer production to our NPD projects pipeline and planning the activities of our complex digital ecosystem across numerous geographies and platforms, contacting millions of people every day; from attending internal workshops to discuss the freshest insights on consumer and shopper trends to discussing the next newsletter and magazine for our UNI retailers (members of our loyalty programme). I would say that it’s the most diversified job I’ve ever had in my life, with an overwhelming level of know-how needed in each area and requiring, above all, the best possible leadership so that our ‘orchestra’ is able to play as well as it can and ensure the right fit with our Business, Brand and Commercial Strategies.
What key trends do you expect to shape alcoholic drink innovation in 2014?
Looking at the various indicators, there seems to be a strong sense that trends are centred around three pillars: Indulgence, Affordability and Evolving Scenarios. When I talk abuot Indulgence, I am referring to a multitude of opportunities that range from food pairing, to serving rituals and apparatus, as well as exciting and out-of-the-box new flavour blends. As for Affordability, this has to do with the continuing economic pressures on households as well as the considerable development of private label: a cloud of commoditization (higher or lower depending of the category) that is slowly moving towards us and risks overshadowing the appeal of manufacturer brands. This means that our response in terms of a deep understanding of the needs of older consumers, bringing them new and relevant value propositions, above all in an honest and authentic way, is critical. Finally, in terms of Evolving Scenarios, I’m talking about the rapid changes in the marketplace that are shaping our business strategies and models, such as the search for new geographies as our home markets increasingly become “red oceans” that shrink every year, the growing usage of mobile devices and the need to find new ways to communicate and convert contacts into purchases are just some of the examples I can mention.
What should manufacturers do to be successful in the current economic climate?
By doing less, but doing it bigger and better. This means that focus is the keyword, which means understanding the core competencies of the organization and making sure that our resource is solely allocated there. Of course there are many other matters to consider such as reducing debt and balancing the books by being more careful with costs and making wiser (but not necessarily lower) investments, but above all, it is about ensuring the whole organization is following the same plan for growth based on core competencies, unleashing them into new product territories and new geographies, while also exploring new business models that may impact your presence in the market place in the future. Everything else is redundant now and these are not times for experimentation. The sustainability of the organization may depend on that, but so too will future profits because the organizations that are in better shape after the crisis will be the ones best placed to cash in the most in the future.
Is the demand for “easy-to-drink” (e.g. FABs and sparkling wines) and low alcohol products set to continue? How do you see this trend evolving?
I think that the answer is: definitely yes. We see it in every category, but especially in beverages. We are witnessing an increase of the importance of needstates such as “having a good time”, “connecting with others”, and “enhancing moments”, which in a nutshell can be seen as “enjoying the moment”, the “now”. These needstates are no longer as ephemeral as they used to be, especially amongst young consumers who are becoming more aware that getting a ‘kick’ fast no longer looks good. Now it is being in control and projecting yourself as being able to stay fit and in shape that is more socially acceptable.
Which categories or consumer groups currently offer the greatest growth opportunities for beverage companies?
There are three main life stages after childhood, which are young adulthood – those that do not yet have children in the household – parenthood and seniority, and these days it is the younger and older ends of the spectrum that are the most interesting. This is particularly relevant for us as manufacturers, especially in the beverage industry, because we are operating in traditional categories that are shrinking in favour of emerging ones such as ciders and cocktails / ready-mixed spirits, but also due to an overall drop in consumption. Therefore recruitment is the fundamental battle for every producer and in this case the main target is those entering the legal drinking age. On the other hand, we sometimes forget that the biggest consumers are those in their late 40s and 50s that are once again living an independent life – they have money, their health and the will to live in the same way as younger people.
From a marketing perspective, how is the way beverage companies are looking to reach and engage with consumers changing? How can a brand successfully resonate with consumers?
That’s a very difficult question to answer… because consumers are being bombarded by information everyday in a way they never were before! And to be honest, they are not really so loyal to any brand that they want to establish any level of intimacy with it. In fact, they don’t even want to think too much about it. So the most important thing, as it always has been, is to ensure that brand A is somehow more present in their minds than a competitor brand, through an image that is sufficiently clear and relevant that they do not need to make a conscious decision: in another words, the brand stays at the forefront of their mind, introducing an element of routine and comfort in their choices. The means to achieve this could be through having a big buzz on the web, or the highest SOV, a loyalty programme, a set of apps that makes their lives easier, exciting virals on the web… it depends from brand to brand and from target to target, so there’s no clear formula. Most importantly, marketing professionals need to do their best to get inside in the minds of their stakeholders, be it a consumer, a shopper, a customer or whatever that person represents to their business, and understand the mechanisms that make them choose your brand. The complexity is not inside an individual’s mind – even though each one of us is becoming more educated and in-the-know than before, the reality is that decision-making is becoming less and less complicated, because at the end of the day we make a lot more decisions than people ever used to. The complexity is therefore in understanding the multitude of minds out there, and to what extent we target a diverse range of customers, or the ones that will enable you to reach the most diverse audience. And that very narrow group, the core target group of a brand, is the one you have to try to resonate with – the rest will follow. How do you do that? Tell me the audience, and I’ll do my best to suggest the options! But there’s definitely no one-size-fits-all answer.