Women to Watch

Barbara Jackson

By Published on .

Sales of courvoisier cognac soared in 2002 once rapper Busta Rhymes praised it in the song "Pass the Courvoisier."

Barbara Jackson, VP-marketing for Courvoisier and Kahlua at Allied Domecq Spirits North America, took charge of the brand after the song broke and since then has deepened Courvoisier's hip-hop connection.

In January 2003, Allied Domecq tapped GlobalHue, New York, a multicultural agency backed by Interpublic Group of Cos., as its global ad, promotion and grassroots marketing shop. Last March, the distilled-spirits giant enlisted Fonzworth Bentley as its "Arbiter of Good Taste." Mr. Bentley is best known as Sean "P. Diddy" Combs' personal assistant and the parasol-toting dancer in the video for OutKast's "The Way You Move."

"Fonzworth is a perfect match for Courvoisier," Ms. Jackson said in a release announcing the partnership. "He epitomizes the essence of the Courvoisier brand-sophistication, fashion, luxury, compelling attitude. As the `Arbiter of Good Taste' for Courvoisier, he will introduce consumers to the finer things in life that people in the know aspire to possess."

Ms. Jackson, who declined to be interviewed for Women to Watch, was VP-consumer marketing strategy at Diageo before coming to Allied Domecq in September 2002. She's building on a strategy put in place five years ago to position Courvoisier as a brand for urban hipsters and influencers. The marketer worked with Russell Simmons' now-defunct agency dRush to develop the "House of Courvoisier" ad campaign. Allied Domecq complemented that effort with "Club CV" parties at nightclubs.

The brand took off with the 2002 release of the Busta Rhymes song. Sales climbed nearly 20%, but that level hasn't been sustainable; sales increased by 1% in 2003, according to figures from Impact.

Courvoisier continues to work with Mr. Simmons and his Phat Farm clothing brand. Allied Domecq held a Courvoisier and Phat Farm Super Bowl party in Houston and is running additional programs though August.

The hip-hop link has been crucial to updating the brand's image, says Tom Pirko, president of consultancy BevMark. "They've been very successful," he says.

Now, Ms. Jackson is working to ensure that keeps up.

"Since the campaign's introduction, Courvoisier has led the transformation of cognac from a drink of dusty, old wood-paneled rooms to a mixable, sociable, decadent cocktail," she said in a release announcing the hiring of GlobalHue. "We're linking Courvoisier's sense of style with sociability to create a fashionable and premium brand and lifestyle that every discerning, urban consumer aspires to."

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