Famous as the marketing brains behind Dove’s game-changing “Campaign for Real Beauty,” Silvia Lagnado, CMO of Bacardi since last fall, is determined to make the same impact on alcohol brands as she did to the personal-care category.
The Bacardi Group brand portfolio includes Bacardi rum, Grey Goose and Eristoff vodkas, Dewar’s whisky, Bombay Sapphire gin, Cazadores tequila and Martini vermouth.
Ms. Lagnado spent 24 years at Unilever, first in her native Brazil and then in the U.K., Argentina and U.S. She now lives in London with her husband and their two teenagers. Her last post at Unilever was group VP for savory food brands.
Already she has introduced Dove’s campaigning spirit to her new role by signing Rafael Nadal for a responsible-drinking campaign.
Ms. Lagnado: Each major brand has its own global agency. Bombay Sapphire is with Y&R, New York [and other WPP agencies for digital and PR]; Martini is with Fred & Farid in Paris, who also do the digital work; Bacardi is with Johannes Leonardo, New York, and Blast Radius for digital; Dewar’s is with Leo Burnett; Grey Goose is with Radical.Media, and R/GA for digital; and Eristoff is all with Glue Isobar.
Only China creates its own work, because it’s hard to do work for China from the West, but they are aligned on positioning.
It’s interesting that we use a production house [@radicalmedia], a digital agency [Glue Isobar] and a small agency [Fred & Farid] as well as the big networks. I’m open to whatever is the right setup for the job. Most of the global work is done from the U.S. except Martini, which is not big in the U.S. so it’s fine to be run out of Paris.
I am happy to trust local marketers to do their own adaptation and amplification with the agency of their choice. I’m surprised at how much easier it is to work without globally aligned agencies.
1. The best clients get the best work. Be your agencies’ best client.
2. Take risks.
3. Creative power comes from a strong culture.
4. Be fluid and work together with your agencies to find the right answers.
5. Be open to whatever is the right agency or setup for the job.
We launched a new Bacardi campaign today in about 85 countries, using the “Bacardi Together” strategy. I’ve never seen a campaign roll out in as many countries as we’ve been able to do. It’s one of the reasons I came here. I just appointed Johannes Leonardo to Bacardi but I will keep the same strategy — I’ll just expect a higher degree of creativity within that strategy.
Ad Age: What is your biggest challenge?
Ms. Lagnado: Shaping the culture here. I see more passion for the brands than I do for excellence. I think we can be the most creative company in the spirits industry. I’ve decided we will, so we will. I’m determined we will be our agencies’ best clients. I completely believe the best clients get the best work.
Ad Age: How does Bacardi’s spending — estimated at about $100 million a year — break down?
Ms. Lagnado: We spend most money on events and promotions, then advertising and PR, then off-premise promotions in supermarkets and liquor stores. Like everybody, we have a real commitment to growing digital and we’ve been delighted with our partnerships with Facebook and Google.
There is no way out of integrated, 360 marketing. In detergents you might be able to get away with good distribution and good advertising, but drinks marketers have to be much closer to the reality of the business. Promotions matter — they build brands in this industry — but they have to transcend traditional media.
We’ve just launched the Bacardi “Like it live, like it together” global initiative with Facebook, which aggregates the “likes” of people’s friends and likes across cities, and invites people to vote for their top likes. We’re putting on events in New York and Las Vegas based on people’s unusual combinations of likes.
Ad Age: Bacardi says India, China and Brazil are priorities for expansion. What are you doing there?
Ms. Lagnado: The BRIC countries are very important for every company. Russia is already very successful for us. It’s in our top three markets, and a lot of our best practice comes out of Russia.
India and China are smaller, more typical investment markets, where we don’t make money yet, and Brazil is the weakest of them all; we are still finalizing our strategy for Brazil.
They are all very vibrant economies and societies. You see a lot of hope and happiness in emerging markets, and I get a buzz out of going there.
Ad Age: Bacardi started in Cuba. Post-Castro, will Bacardi return?
Ms. Lagnado: The Bacardi family is very proud of its Cuban heritage, but we can’t go back now and there’s no way of predicting when we will. The Cuba Libre, the mojito and the daiquiri were all invented in Cuba and drunk there for the first time, so they have a high association with Bacardi. It’s an important part of our history that the Bacardi family lost everything and started again — it feeds the passion and the culture of fighting anything that comes our way.
Ad Age: How do consumers differ, and how is that reflected in your marketing?
Ms. Lagnado: It’s the nature of this industry that there are a lot of global campaigns. It’s proven to work, even though consumption is often quite different around the world. In Germany, they love all things Brazilian and the caipirinha is the No. 1 cocktail.
Ad Age: How do you personally use digital media?
Ms. Lagnado: My kids beg me not to post on Facebook or tweet because I’m too embarrassing. My most successful posts are authored by my husband or my son. I also use Facebook for business and have competitors as friends. [She has 367 Facebook friends.] My  Twitter followers must be disappointed. I don’t tweet, but if I feel out of touch, I see what’s trending.