Beam Suntory hires a ‘President of Brands,’ eliminates CMO title
Liquor marketer Beam Suntory is doing away with its chief marketing officer role in favor of a more powerful “president of brands” position that it will fill with Carlsberg executive Jessica Spence.
Spence is making the move to Chicago-based Beam Suntory after spending seven years at Carlsberg, most recently as the Denmark-based brewer’s executive VP and chief commercial officer.
Beam Suntory, whose brands include Jim Beam, Maker’s Mark, Hornitos tequila and Effen vodka, created the new role nearly 10 months after its global CMO, Rebecca Messina, left for the CMO job at Uber. Messina left Uber earlier this month amid a corporate reorganization.
Beam Suntory described Spence’s duties as covering "end-to-end" oversight over global brand strategy, development and performance. Notably, she will get P&L responsibility over the company’s largest global brands, working alongside region presidents. (Messina did not have P&L responsibilities as CMO.) Spence’s duties include global innovation and product R&D, as well as emerging marketing technologies, integrated marketing communications and design.
The CMO position had been structured as a “center of excellence” role focused on marketing “without the follow-through on accountability for the performance of the brands,” Beam Suntory CEO Albert Baladi said in an interview.
By contrast, the president of brands is expected to work more closely with various departments. That includes collaborating with supply chain leaders to ensure products under development appeal to modern consumer tastes. That is an especially critical function in the whiskey market, where it typically takes years to bring products to the masses, given strict rules on barrel aging. “The brand team will have a lot more [of] a seat at the table defining 10, 20 years out, where do we see the brands going, what kind of liquid do we need to lay down,” Baladi said.
Spence had a similarly broad mandate at Carlsberg, where the chief commercial role gave her oversight of global marketing, sales, insights, R&D and innovation. She came to Carlsberg in 2012 after working for SABMiller. She also has ad agency experience, holding jobs at Leo Burnett and J Walter Thompson.
Baladi called her a “true brand builder at heart.” He said he was impressed by Carlsberg's recent move of “going back to their roots” to talk about the quality of their beers. That “really worked very well with where we are taking the company, which is a greater focus on quality,” Baladi said.
Carlsberg recently reformulated its flagship lager. To support the move, it ran a campaign in which it admitted that its old version was “probably not the best beer in the world,” which was a play on its classic tagline, “probably the best beer in the world." The brewer in the ads admitted to losing its way and focusing on quantity over quality.
Beam Suntory has been bolstered by strong whiskey demand. Its flagship Jim Beam brand grew sales volume by nearly 7 percent in the three months ending in March, while Maker’s Mark was up by more than 9 percent, according to a recent report from Sanford C. Bernstein.
In January the company debuted a new campaign for Jim Beam by Adam & Eve DDB New York called “Raised Right." Ads dig into the brand’s heritage, while also plugging quality measures like barrel-ageing the bourbon "twice as long as the law requires."