Pam Forbus, SVP, Chief Marketing Officer at Pernod Ricard North America, will be Jury Chair of the first WARC Awards for Effectiveness, North America Edition, leading a panel that will review entries into the Brand Purpose, Sustained Growth and Instant Impact categories. Here, she talks about the balance between long and short-term investments, Pernod Ricard’s approach to purpose and what she’ll be looking for in this year’s entries.
Describe your role.
I joined Pernod Ricard North America in July 2020 as Chief Marketing Officer to lead the marketing strategy, content creation, earned/owned and paid media as well as new product innovation in the US for the company’s portfolio of leading premium spirits and wines & champagnes brands (supporting over 25 brands). To do this, I must orchestrate initiatives across functions to influence pricing, supply chain, digital transformation and workforce planning. Ultimately, I believe my role is twofold: on the one hand it’s inspiring and influence marketing and creative effectiveness, on the other it’s coaching and mentoring the next generation of great marketing leaders.
What are the main challenges you are facing at the moment?
There is always more work than we have capacity to manage, so setting (and keeping) priorities is a challenge. I lead a large marketing and innovation team (150+), so we are always recruiting and working through open roles. I led a major transformation the past two years that included a new marketing philosophy, brand building system and reorganization of the team around key centers of excellence. It is great to have that behind us, because now we can accelerate our performance.
How do you balance short-term activations and brand building at Pernod Ricard?
First, I believe great marketing builds the brand and builds the business – that is the North Star we try to achieve in everything we do. Ideally, there isn’t a trade-off. Even a lower-funnel, e-commerce campaign can build brand equity and a brand building effort should have a sales impact – if done well. Second, we ensure that our investments (marketing budgets) are allocated across the consumer/shopper path to purchase appropriately. Leveraging a very large custom dataset, we know which touchpoints matter and size those touchpoints by brand and category. Marketing budgets are distributed in ‘envelopes’ to ensure we don’t over- or under-invest in any one touchpoint. This helps ensure the right Media to Shelf (upper-funnel/lower-funnel) investment balance.
What is the key to a successful long-term brand-building initiative?
A successful long-term brand-building initiative would leverage a relevant consumer or cultural insight that the brand has a role to address. Then it must leverage consistent, distinctive brand assets and sufficiently invest over time to ensure attention thresholds are achieved. But even before that, ensuring a deep understanding of the brand and business problems to solve that can unlock growth and the role of marketing to solve those issues is critical. This is the basis for a strong marketing strategy that any brief would need to address, otherwise marketing activity is just activity without impact.
Do you think brand purpose is necessary for brand building? What is your approach to purpose at Pernod Ricard?
Yes. Every brand should have a purpose. Our brand-building system starts here. But let’s be sure we define ‘purpose’. Does it always have to be ‘philanthropic’? No. Not every brand has a right to take on big societal issues. The purpose must be authentic and core to the brand’s DNA so it can show up in the world in a genuine, relevant, and appropriate way.
Absolut, born in Sweden and Born to Mix, believes the world would be a better place if we embrace differences and mix it up. With over 40 years as an LGBTQ advocate, the brand not only has a right to champion this community, but an obligation. Malibu, on the other hand, believes the world would be a better place if we embrace the summer/vacation mindset – anytime of year. Our lives are often burdened by obligations and responsibilities – it’s okay to let go and have a summer moment occasionally.
Can you share an example of a recent North America campaign (not from Pernod Ricard) that recently impressed you for its effectiveness?
I’ve always been a fan of Allstate’s ‘Mayhem’ – I was glad they brought it back. The campaign is so distinctive, and I imagine effective (if they brought it back after a hiatus of over a year). This campaign achieves something that’s really hard to do: grab and hold attention. You want to watch it over and over. They really nail the insight and then dramatize it in a unique way.
What are you hoping to see among this year's entrants? What advice would you give them?
I’m excited to see the sausage making by reading the submissions. There is so much work behind the work! My advice would be to clearly state what the brand problem to solve and the insight that led to the idea were.
What is the value of effectiveness awards, in your view?
Effectiveness awards have many benefits. First, they reward work that works! It is an honor for those who worked on a campaign to be recognized for their efforts. Second, they can be a talent magnet. The top talent at your agencies and in your companies want to work on brands that win because it gives them a better chance at creating great work. Finally, they can legitimize the craft of marketing to skeptics inside and outside the company.
What are you excited about in chairing the North America edition of the WARC Awards for Effectiveness?
Learning from the work and learning from the other judges. I can’t wait to have the discussions and learn from great leaders in the industry.
The WARC Awards for Effectiveness, North America Edition, are now open for entries, with deadline on 21st September. To get started on your entries, download the Entry Pack, and should you have any questions, email firstname.lastname@example.org.