Real-time marketing is a challenge for highly regulated industries, such as financial services and spirits.
How does a company stay agile when there’s an approval process that starts with marketing, then moves into public relations, and ends up in legal? To be sure, much preplanning is involved, but, in the end, regulation is actually helping Hennessy foster innovation through the collaboration of various business units, according to Montana Triplett, senior director of digital marketing at Moet Hennessy USA. In other words, marketing does not live in a silo at Hennessy.
In this exclusive interview, Triplett shares more about how Hennessy stays agile, its marketing plans for the upcoming year, and the way it measures ROI on content marketing.
CMO.com: What’s the biggest challenge in digital today, generally speaking?
Triplett: Impact and engagement and doing that in an authentic way, while still getting your brand message through, is the biggest challenge in digital today. There is a lot of noise and clutter out there. It’s something that we struggle with, and something other brands outside the spirits industry struggle with as well. That’s the biggest challenge in digital, and it’s because digital is no longer about just driving these big numbers anymore. You now need to engage your consumers with very authentic experiences across the digital ecosystem—while driving brand loyalty as well. And you have to do this in a way that will create a lasting impact by having material that stands out among the competition.
CMO.com: How are those challenges different for a spirits brand?
Triplett: Specific to the spirits industry, engaging in real-time conversation is a bit of a challenge because of our legal restrictions, and navigating those conversations around the legal requirements can be interesting at times. That’s definitely something that spirits brands have to deal with a little more regularly than your typical brand.
CMO.com: So then how does Hennessy engage in real-time marketing? What’s the process like?
Triplett: As far as our regulations process goes, we have to have amazing relationships with our PR and legal teams. We want to ensure that we are staying compliant with regulations, but we also want to make sure that we are staying on-key with our message--in an authentic way. So the way that we take care of that is we think ahead. We created guidelines with all of those required teams to help us be more flexible in this real-time environment. Rather than have to ask for one-off approvals on everything, we plan way in advance and have to try and predict what is going to happen. We have to think about the potential roadblocks in advance and work through solutions with the legal and PR teams so we can create and update those guideless as technology changes.
CMO.com: Companies are constantly saying that it’s important marketing does not operate in a silo. What’s interesting to me is that while regulation may be a bit of a challenge for you, it’s forcing you to operate out of a silo and, even in a way, fostering collaboration.
Triplett: It’s really great if you get it right. It really creates a sense of comfort in what you are doing because social media, for example, is risky for all brands. So if you can align and create guidelines, essentially you can feel more comfortable with the real-time marketing that you are pushing out.
CMO.com: Can you summarize Hennessy’s brand purpose? What does the brand stand for? And how do you use digital to communicate that?
Triplett: We believe that we are more than just a spirits brand. We are a prestigious brand, and we’re steeped in almost 250 years of tradition. But our brand is also a very highly social lifestyle brand with a lot of cultural energy around it. Our purpose in digital is to reflect both of those pieces of our brand through communications. We have to make sure we are reflecting this prestigious brand along with the social and the lifestyle aspect that our consumers love about the brand.
Hennessy often creates content highlighting its rich history.
CMO.com: What are some neat things we could expect from the brand in 2014?
Triplett: We strive to “Never Stop, Never Settle,” which is a little plug for one of our campaigns. We are thinking in terms of a paid, earned, and owned digital strategy, and I know that’s not necessarily anything groundbreaking, but we are continuing to grow as a sprits and lifestyle brand through our content. We are going to be really focused this year on programs like our partnership with Nas. Last year, as part of that partnership, we created a digital program showcasing him at the Hennessy headquarters in Cognac, France, and also did a behind-the-scenes of his European tour.
This year we are excited to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Nas’ iconic album “Illmatic.” To celebrate we are doing some events and creating content programs around a documentary of the album. The last thing to expect is we are exploring some new social media platform in next few months that I can’t speak to right now. But we are looking forward to launching on some new social platforms.
Rapper Nas and Hennessy have a long-standing relationship.
CMO.com: What, in your opinion, is the most underutilized digital channel/tactic/platform?
Triplett: Interesting question. Probably e-mail. E-mail really has had this resurgence now because of how easy it is to check your email via the phone. But in terms of e-mail as a marketing tactic, it does get overshadowed by social media and other newer media. From a cost standpoint and an engagement standpoint, it has really been a top performer for us. These consumers are opting in to get exclusives and Hennessy information direct to the e-mail inbox. That’s a pretty great relationship with your consumers, and so we are really trying to leverage an email program that we launched last year and continue to be successful with it.
There was an L2 Think Digital Spirits report put out recently, and one of the pieces that helped our ranking was employing this CRM program. All of our e-mail data lives here, and we send out e-mail communications based on either where they live or certain things they’ve asked to hear about, such as events or exclusive reveals. We capture all the data with this program.
CMO.com: What’s the most important question I did not ask from a digital marketing perspective?
Triplett: What’s on everyone’s mind right now in digital is content marketing and this idea of telling stories through digital content. So the question you did not ask is, “Is it actually driving ROI for Hennessy?” My answer would be that I think it is. But there are a lot of different elements that go into being successful at content. You have to make sure that it is entertaining while still getting across the core brand message, which is an interesting challenge for all brands. Then after all that, you still need a solid distribution strategy to make sure your content gets seen.
CMO.com: Can you give me a little more on content ROI? How do you measure the effectiveness of your content?
Triplett: We have seen engagement across our platforms—social and Web site—increase significantly as we have launched new pieces of content. So depending on whatever the KPI is for that platform, we have seen an increase. For the Web site, when we put a new piece of content up, we see time spent significantly increase, and when we launch new content on social media, our engagement rates increase. Also, we actually commission marketing studies, which have found that as we optimize for engagement and content on digital, we can actually see more sales are attributed to digital marketing.
For more about the state of digital marketing from the perspective of the beverage industry, read "Digital Marketing: The Glass Is Half Full For The Beverage Industry."