Creativebrief: As Director of The Famous Grouse (TFG), what is your primary focus?
Glen Gribbon: 4 key areas; emerging market growth; premiumisation; recruiting new drinkers in our mature markets where we have a strong share position; protecting our core market share.
Creativebrief: How is TFG performing internationally?
Glen Gribbon: Very well, particularly in our focus emerging scotch markets. Russia and Angola are stand outs. We have put a lot of resource into these markets. Southern Europe is a challenge for all spirits brands of course.
Creativebrief: What has made TFG brand so successful?
Glen Gribbon: Internationalisation has been the major driver of growth over the last 20 years. The UK now accounts for only 40% of brand volume. Great communication and innovation have been the two main brand drivers. The Black Grouse has been a particular success. I also think an ever strengthening route to market for the Edrington Group has been vital. In the UK we have a great partner in Maxxium UK and in all key markets we have very strong distribution vehicles.
Creativebrief: Your career has spanned The Edrington Group, Vets Now, CharteredBrands, Buildstore, Whyte and Mackay, Jim Beam Brands, Colgate Palmolive and Mars Confectionery, what have been the high points?
Glen Gribbon: Being part of the Whyte and Mackay management buyout was probably the highlight. A group of us, led by Brian Megson, acquired the business from Jim Beam. It was the largest MBO in Scotland (I think it still is). Although it never worked out for us as we planned (i.e. we are not multi millionaires) the 3 years was great experience. It is also great to be back in whisky with Edrington, as I never thought I would come back into the industry.
Creativebrief: Along the way, have there been individual marketers who particularly impressed and inspired you?
Glen Gribbon: Lots and in very different ways. I had a few years working is smaller companies that had entrepreneurs still actively involved in the business. They never really thought of themselves as marketing people, but much of their success was down to marketing. The sacrifices these guys make, and their determination to succeed is pretty inspirational.
Creativebrief: What work have you done recently makes you particularly proud?
Glen Gribbon: I was proud of the work I did in Vets Now expanding the number of clinics we had (Vets Now is an emergency vet business with 52 sites, treating over 100,000 animals). The mission of the business was to improve the Lives of Vets and Pets, and I think there is no better way to deliver on this than to extend the reach of the business through new sites. We did this through new openings and acquisitions. In Edrington the way we have accelerated a number of projects particularly in innovation (such as Ginger Grouse) are very satisfying, because I think pace in marketing is incredibly important.
Creativebrief: What are the main challenges for your sector/category over the next 12 months?
Glen Gribbon: The scotch category is in great shape globally. The challenges vary by market. In Russia it is making sure that when the huge number of vodka drinkers move into premium international spirits, they chose blended scotch and The Famous Grouse in particular. In the UK it is making blended scotch more relevant to non-scotch drinkers, principally through innovation. I see a lot more opportunities globally than I do challenges… there is a huge amount to go for in scotch at present.
Creativebrief: How do you see the media landscape unfolding in the next 5 years?
Glen Gribbon: At a global level the challenge for spirits brands in many markets is that we do not have access to traditional media due to ever increasing marketing regulation. In Russia a change in regulations is being introduced that means spirits brands cannot use TV, radio, press (with some exceptions) and even digital is restricted. In general digital will be increasingly important. In Africa a key market for TFG, mobile is the primary route to engage with drinkers. I think in spirits we need to think about media in its broadest sense. The on trade channel in markets where there are significant advertising restrictions becomes a key media channel for our brands.
Creativebrief: Do you prefer to use an ‘integrated’ agency approach or specialist agencies by individual discipline?
Glen Gribbon: AMV have been long terms partners on the Famous Grouse and we really value the relationship. I see them as our lead agency and if anything the relationship is broadening, as we do more globally and move away from an advertising focus. However, we use and will continue to use some great agencies in specific areas, such as Pocket Rocket based in Stirling and BIG Partnership in Edinburgh.
Creativebrief: Do you prefer to use local agencies by market or international/global agencies?
Glen Gribbon: We are trying to use the AMV/BBDO network more in our international markets in some key areas. However, in general I prefer that the local teams work with the agency partners they feel comfortable with. I don’t favour a centralised approach in general. It is much better to access the great talent that exists locally.
Creativebrief: When choosing agencies were you ever influenced by awards?
Glen Gribbon: Not really. I do respect the discipline of writing a winning award entry and think it is great for teams to win, however there are more important criteria for me.
Creativebrief: What challenges do you face, managing day-to-day agency relationships?
Glen Gribbon: I have two great people in the team, Ali Tuck and Asanka de Silva, who play the key role in the day to day relationship. We are in the middle of a process reviewing brand positioning and communication, and any change such as this creates challenges. I would say the key issue that we are focusing on is to ensure our UK based agencies understand that much of our growth will come from markets such as Russia, African, Turkey and Africa.
Creativebrief: How often do you look at new agencies or review your roster?
Glen Gribbon: No set process. If we have a specific need, say in innovation, the team might put a project to pitch. However generally we are happy with the agency partners we have in place. I really like the fact that AMV have been with the brand and business for over 15 years. I think this says a lot about the Edrington way of working as well as the quality of the work we see from AMV.
Creativebrief: How do you monitor and stay-in-touch with the agency market to ensure you work with the best?
Glen Gribbon: Marketing Society is probably my main vehicle. The fact the membership is 50% agency and 50% clients make it a very powerful vehicle.
Creativebrief: Which agencies do you think are ‘hot’ right now?
Glen Gribbon: All the ones we use, I hope.
Creativebrief: Do you/have you used intermediaries in the past? What are your observations?
Glen Gribbon: No, never.
Creativebrief: What’s your attitude to the ‘traditional’ pitch? Do you think there is a better/more modern way?
Glen Gribbon: I think it has a place on specific projects, but I prefer building long terms relationships with agencies as I think that is the way to great work
Creativebrief: Would you ever consider awarding an agency business without a pitch? What would they have to do / demonstrate?
Glen Gribbon: If it were a new agency relationship I would want to go through a pitch process. However, it would only be one part of the process. I put a lot of weight on recommendation, which again is where the Marketing Society can be very valuable.
Creativebrief: What are your top tips to agencies when presenting credentials to you?
Glen Gribbon: Ask me first if there is an issue that I need them to think about, and rather than just show credentials show me how they would approach the opportunity/problem. Even if they are well of the mark it shows the quality of their analysis and signals a willingness to really understand our brand.
Creativebrief: What was the most impressive agency presentation you have ever seen?
Glen Gribbon: Before I joined Edrington, AMV spent an hour taking me through all of their work. It confirmed to me we are with a great agency.