Champagne: the luxury bubble-ometer

The “best things come to those who anticipate”, said Karen Pine (Professor of Developmental Psychology) at the G.H.Mumm and Perrier-Jouët-led Luxury Lecture last week. Her referral to pleasure used scientific-based facts to prove the point – that consumers gain more enjoyment from the excitement leading up to something than they do from the actual event/object.

Brands associated with longevity, therefore (according to Pine), will continue to prevail regardless. Exclusivity adds to this, of course (exclusive UK sales are phenomenal). As are luxury item waiting lists (have you tried to access the Birkin waiting list?). And yet we rarely wait for anything these days. Global and ‘now’ go hand-in-hand regardless when it comes to consuming.

The idea of timelessness ran through this whole performance. From the setting at London’s fine St Pancras Renaissance Hotel, right through to the speakers and their hosts. This event was all about luxury with a lasting heritage. Backed up by the stat’s, which prove that real quality brings lasting satisfaction, as opposed to instant gratification.

Peter Cross (business partner to Mary Portas Queen of Shops) said “dressing top to toe in new was naff”, envisioned mobile buying by 2015 and said that fortune will favour the brave brands who pull away from this ‘have it your way’ consumer-led approach.

Champagne is usually a good marker when it comes to the luxury-goods industry, even the economy as a whole. Luxury items tend to be the first to go. (Last year’s recorded bubble sales, however, showed a 17 per cent raise from 2010 – the strongest for three years.) But there’s also an argument that sees the likes of champagne quaffing as an escape from economic realities.

Pierre-Aymeric du Cray, G.H. Mumm & Perrier-Jouët Global Sales Director, comes from a family of wine growers in the Côte Châlonnaise, South Burgundy region and worked in various marketing positions within Moët Hennessy before joining the now Pernod Ricard group in 2005. We picked his brain for details….

Pierre-Aymeric-Du-Cray-G.H.Mumm-Perrier-Jouët-champagne

Pierre Aymeric Du Cray, G.H.Mumm and Perrier-Jouët champagne's Global Sales Director

G.H. Mumm & Perrier-Jouët are two very different brands, which must attract different markets – how would you describe them?

G.H.Mumm is very much about expressing the culture of champagne – you know, being a reference about what made champagne so special; long lasting traditions, the rituals. There’s a magic universe around champagne that we want to perpetuate in a contemporary way. We believe champagne has this association also because of Formula 1, which is the quintessence, if you like, of the champagne celebration.

Formula 1 came to champagne before champagne came to Formula 1. Because one of the winners (I think it was in 1952) opened a bottle of champagne on the podium, but it was not cold enough so the champagne sprayed out everywhere. Everyone found it very funny so they replicated it every time.

So there’s the history of Mumm, which is very much about this masculine elegance. In terms of wine style it’s very much back bone Pinot Noir. You’ve got a real intensity.

With Perrier-Jouët you have this idea to bring beauty and pleasure to life, which is centered by its artistic roots – embodied by the iconic bottle of Belle Epoque. The wine itself has a lot of floral and diamond cut styles. It’s much more feminine.

And where are you seeing the most growth in sales?

For G.H.Mumm it’s France by far – it’s about 50% of the global volume of the brand. So then Italy would be number two. Spain would be number three. England would be number four. Australia is also important for the brand. Then we have some emerging markets like China, Korea.

And if we take Perrier-Jouët it’s a bit different. For that, America would be the number one and then probably Japan (though Japan is even more important in terms of Belle Epoque sales). Then we have France and the UK.

So it shows once again that two brands have a different profile and that there are different market needs or opportunities.

Perrier-Jouët-Belle-Epoque-champagne

Perrier Jouët Belle Epoque champagne

Marketing must have to work differently again too, how to you go about tackling such a global scale?

We work with an offer strategy rather than demand. We don’t want to be reflecting cycles – we’ve been here for 200 years. Consumers like being shown the best of our knowhow and helped to discover what real wine is. We listen to what the markets are saying and so on but we then make our own decisions

We focus a lot of attention on the emerging markets in South America and Asia – they offer a lot of opportunities. But we want to do it in the right way. We want to make sure that people know how to appreciate it, that they know how to drink it also – so they embrace the heritage and traditions of the champagne culture.

The idea is really to adapt yourself to the current situation of the market that you’re in but at the same time give them the same experience wherever you are in the world. A luxury brand is truly a luxury brand when it’s consistent. So that’s why education is important and why we take time to really do things properly.

What would you say are the top importing countries from the list of emerging markets?

There’s China, obviously, which is really starting to grow. In Asia you’ve got South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore. You’ve got markets also in Russia. India is starting, though taxes are still quite expensive, which limits the access, but it’s still starting. We had the first Grand Prix of Formula 1 in India last year and really could see the results of champagne consumption setting up in India. There’s South America with Brazil and Mexico, though it’s a bit different because they’ve been exposed to champagne previously.

There’s talk that champagne’s become more of a distraction from the economy, rather than a celebration. Would you agree?

I think champagne remains the icon of celebration. So when you think about a birthday, wedding, Christmas – champagne is part of the celebration, part of the victory, you know. We have definitely diversified with the way we use champagne. It’s more and more perceived as a wine that can fit different moments with gastronomy; it can go for a simple aperitif; it can be used to make an ordinary moment a bit exceptional. So now it’s not only used when times are exceptional but when you want to make the ordinary a bit more special.

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