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Chris Mason, Managing Director, First Drinks Brands

Published:  07 July, 2011

The first quarter of this year has been very challenging as consumers reel from increased taxation, fear of job losses and inflation growing. This has resulted in an all time low in consumer confidence.

We are in unknown territory now as we wait to see how shoppers will react to recent price increases (duty, tax and inflationary) which will possibly result in even more aggressive off-trade price promotions. So the year ahead is going to be a very competitive trading year.

In these challenging times, our primary objective at First Drinks remains the same, to build sustainable brands for the long term. To do this we take an integrated, through the line approach to brand building, ensuring that brand messages are encapsulated at every touch point with the right consumers. For example the recently launched global advertising campaign for Glenfiddich- "One Day You Will"-is part of a heavy-weight integrated campaign which includes relationship marketing, digital, social media and PR.

We are very specific about our business vision, strategy and target consumer. We then make sure we know our consumer, use available data and invest in research to target the right brand to the right consumers in the relevant outlets.

The role of innovation is always important, to evolve a brand and understand changing consumer tastes. For example within Scotch whisky, we have recently introduced a 35cl Glenfiddich 12 year old, successful for widening the price points we have to offer shoppers, a factor that has also made the 3 x 5cl Glenfiddich pack (12, 15 and 18 year old) a hit. It is now a top 10 selling malt product across the grocers all year round. For the connoisseurs and whisky explorers innovations such as Glenfiddich Rich Oak and Snow Phoenix offer an opportunity to try something unique.

We work collaboratively with our customers, setting joint goals so we can learn and earn together. Many customers use liquor as a destination category and we work with them to offer advice on how best to make the most of the opportunity. In the on-trade, we recognise the role of premium spirits, being in the right bars and at the right events focussing on target consumers.

We also need to recognise emerging growth opportunities for example year-round gifting, online sales, the convenience sector and categories such as Irish whiskey, non-cream liqueurs and golden rum.

It is becoming more costly to trade, but by innovating, stealing best practice, working with our customers on joint business plans and staying passionate we can grow.

Chris Mason is managing director of First Drinks Brands

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