How have the events of 2020 impacted on how Ballantine’s & Royal Salute communicates with its customers?
We - like everyone else - have never seen a year like this before. The impact has been important in a number of ways, and above all else, I’m proud of the people behind our brand and business, and their exemplary response to the pandemic. It has presented new challenges and opportunities in the way we communicate with customers.
We’ve seen shifts in key channels, for example Travel Retail; a key channel for luxury products due to its high concentration of affluent consumers who have the time and want to discover, explore and shop luxury products as they wait for their flight or are in transit. The Travel Retail channel has been relied on as a great opportunity for brands and for consumers through attractive prices and exclusive offers that encourage a trade up to higher end products. The impact of 2020 on how we communicate through this channel is being approached cautiously, because ultimately, if Travel Retail is impacted, the industry will be as well.
More than ever we’ve seen that communicating and connecting with consumers through virtual experiences is essential from a brand perspective. Throughout lockdown and beyond, we continued and will continue to engage with our audience through virtual means thanks to our brand ambassadors, numerous partners and efficient social and digital platforms – this has proved to be effective.
Offering gifts to friends, family, colleagues, or even to ourselves has also yielded strong domestic market performance. It’s opened up new routes to communicate and connect with our consumers through gifting opportunities, perfect for a high quality brand such as Royal Salute, the ‘King of Whisky’.
What has been the biggest marcomms lesson you have learnt since March?
The need to adapt is constant and ever so important. I’m sure that you are familiar with Darwin’s quote around species, ‘those that survive are those who are smart enough to evolve, react and adapt to the world around them’. I think that being agile with our strategies and offering more digital-focused content and experiences is crucial. In these tough times, it’s important for a luxury brand to have a strong yet simple storytelling, one that inspires a sense of enchantment and wonder. This will help engage with consumers through remote, and not physical activities whilst remaining true to the product and to the purpose of said brand. We don’t need to compromise on the quality of what we do for the short term and must always keep a long term vision. I do believe that any crisis represents an opportunity to accelerate change and to transform for the better.
What do you believe are the ‘new marketing luxury rules’ for the ‘new normal’?
It is still early days to be certain of the lasting impact of the pandemic specifically, but the world we live in today requires us to constantly reimagine the way we do things and connect with our consumer. Experiential activities have always been essential in luxury communications but in today’s world, we need to pivot the focus more on the virtual rather than the physical. Brands need to tell their enchanting stories through digital content, and need to be able to convey the magic of luxury through new mediums. Our existing consumers have an amazing influence on others – continuously satisfying their appetite for new news, for discovery, for innovation in turn helps us reach new audiences and consumers thanks to their strong share of voice.
Luxury will always need to surprise and excite its consumers and this won’t change. We will continue to innovate the way we express and communicate our brand. As an example, the world of enchantment and wonder that is unique to Royal Salute will be brought to life in ways that work for our consumer. The need for evolution, for adaptation, has not been solely forced by the events of 2020, and will not end with a vaccine – it is the key to being a true luxury brand in today’s fast-evolving landscape.
What can we look forward to hearing you discuss during Day 4 of the Festival?
I very much look forward to discussing and exploring the intricate luxury landscape with you. Other topics on the table will be the luxury consumer and their fast-evolving behaviours. For example, we find they are more emotional and less materialistic than they might have been a couple years ago, looking for self-achievement, and prove to be more open-minded rather than only brand-focused.