Pernod Ricard USA Is Putting Its Purpose to Work

Pernod Ricard USA has built a business model that inextricably links good business practices with doing good, and they’re urging the entire drinks industry to follow suit

This advertising content was produced in collaboration with our partner, Pernod Ricard, USA.

The drinks industry has faced a series of unprecedented challenges since COVID-19 arrived in 2020, but rather than seeing those challenges as insurmountable roadblocks, the team at Pernod Ricard USA utilized reasoned struggle to reevaluate everything. Focused on their three “D’s” —data, demand, and diversity—Pernod Ricard USA emerged with a business model that inextricably links good business with doing good.  

It’s not just a model other brands can emulate: It’s a lead Pernod Ricard USA is actively inviting the entire industry to mimic.

“There will always be competition in the commercial sense, but that should never stand in the way of key industry players collaborating in creating growth for our industry and a better world for our employees, our families, our communities, our consumers, our customers, and the planet,” explains John Barrett, Pernod Ricard USA’s chief commercial officer. “We believe there should be a shared responsibility to fight for the future of the industry we are privileged to work in and the businesses we serve.”  

By prioritizing this goal, the team has created a road map for good in the drinks business—a significant challenge considering the industry’s white- and male-dominated history. Pernod Ricard USA feels now is the time to embrace their purpose-driven approach because conscious consumers, engaged employees, and impact investors will continue to demand more transparency and commitment from producers—and reward the brands that deliver. 

“We’re on a journey to ensure that everything we do is grounded in our purpose: to be creators of conviviality by unlocking the magic of human connection,” adds Pernod Ricard USA chief marketing officer Pam Forbus. “And purpose is the biggest innovation in our industry since the advent of digital.”

Putting Purpose to Work

“For every single metric of brand success, from trial to advocacy to loyalty, purpose-driven brands win,” says Forbus, citing data from Nielsen and BrandZ global studies. The exponential growth of purpose-driven brands, or labels rooted in creating environmental, political, racial, or other social change, is proof that consumers are shopping for more than a product in 2022. By concentrating on data related to purpose-driven work in tandem with sales metrics, Pernod Ricard proves everyone can win. 

For example, when pandemic restrictions decimated the in-person connections Pernod Ricard had historically used to deliver on the conviviality of its purpose, the team was forced into digital channels. In doing so, they rediscovered the power of purpose within trusted legacy brands like Absolut, Jameson, The Glenlivet, and Martell isn’t limited to traditional channels.  

“We maintained and built stronger connections with our consumers via enhanced use of social media, so they didn’t socially distance from our brands,” says Forbus. The brands promote everything from the arts to inclusion and safe sex. “We’re monitoring consumer behavior in real time to understand new, emerging, or changing habits, allowing us to offer the right products at the right time to the right consumers, for every occasion and in every market.”

And their data-driven connections aren’t only measurable in Instagram likes and shares: In 2021, Pernod Ricard USA experienced its highest-ever year-over-year growth, increasing 16 percent over 2020. 

“Data is the digital signature of consumers, and therefore a powerfully rich tool,” says Forbus. “It is a critical means to the end, but not the end itself.” 

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Leading by Example

The proverbial “end” combines data with demand and diversity to yield an accurate picture of the complex U.S. drinks ecosystem—which is easier said than done. But by sharing purpose-driven ideas and balance sheet successes across the industry, Pernod Ricard USA is making huge strides toward that goal.

“Without data transparency and access to the right signals, how can we respond to what our consumers want and better reflect who they are? How do we know what to innovate against? And how do we make sure there is enough supply in the market?” Pernod Ricard CEO Ann Mukherjee asked the industry at large this year during her Shanken Impact seminar. “Without data fluidity we are not able to understand long-term supply and respond responsibly with sustainable strategies.” 

So Pernod Ricard built a solution: By hosting listening seminars, mining new forms of consumer data, and sharing the results—thus developing a full understanding of both economic and social demands of stakeholders—Mukherjee and the Pernod Ricard USA team are investing in the infrastructure required to transform the drinks industry to reflect the diverse communities it serves.

Rather than focusing solely on ROI, the team has begun focusing on ROR—return on responsibility. “Our industry has a responsibility to reflect the consumers we serve—in both our leadership and employee base—so we can better meet their needs,” says Forbus. “This means widening the circle, and growing the pie for all of us.”  

The organization’s tangible investments in equality—internally and externally—through partnerships with Better Up, VetJobs, Women in Hospitality United, U.S. Bartenders Guild COVID Relief Fund, and Restaurant Workers’ Community Fund, among others, prove Pernod Ricard isn’t just slapping a diversity and inclusion page on their website or limiting its efforts to full-time employees. Instead, the organization remains at the vanguard of purpose-driven work in the private sector: By engaging at the industry, brand, and national level, they are creating a road map for ongoing holistic change. 

“Return on responsibility also means that our brands meet the highest standards of responsible advertising. It makes doing the right thing the most immediate, urgent priority in service of our consumers and communities,” says Barrett, noting that ROR inspired the team to found the #engageresponsibility campaign, which combats online hate speech. “As industry leaders, we cannot ask people to engage with us on social platforms and then absolve ourselves of accountability for the hate they may experience in those spaces.”

Holding the Door Open

What’s really impressive about the Pernod Ricard approach is its full-tilt commitment. The company has added a vice president of diversity to the leadership team, created a dedicated team of experts in culture and inclusive marketing, and it organized inclusive leadership training for its top 100 leaders across markets and departments. 

But that’s the point. Right now, every brand and the drinks industry at large still has the opportunity to evolve, serve a purpose, and impact meaningful change. By investing in and looking critically at the right data, understanding the drivers of demand, and truly embracing diversity, any brand can be a part of the solution and help make the drinks industry at large an example of purpose-driven, inclusive, diverse success.

And probably boost the bottom line while doing it. 


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