Pernod Ricard’s Ann Mukherjee is on a crusade to build companies around communicators

The company’s chairman and CEO discusses how her background as a communicator has helped translate her purpose to Pernod Ricard’s stakeholders.

NEW YORK: With the rate of advancement of today’s technologies, a company’s top competition is not with its competitor companies, but with consumers, according Pernod Ricard North America chairman and CEO Ann Mukherjee.

“We live in an age where it’s about disruption, and it’s not an age of supply,” Mukherjee said in a keynote fireside chat at PRWeek’s virtual PRDecoded conference on Wednesday. “It’s now a business operating system of demand. Technology has allowed consumers with smart devices to decide what they want to buy and when they want to buy it.”  

That is why it’s so important to build companies around people who understand consumers and customers. 

“Not just your marketing, but how you manufacture, how you price, how you go to market should be with a demand lens, not a supply lens,” Mukherjee said. “That’s a transformation every CEO should be leading in their companies.” 

With more than 20 years of marketing and communications experience at heavy hitters such as The Kraft Heinz Company, PepsiCo and SC Johnson, Mukherjee knows a thing or two about building a brand with a purpose to better connect to stakeholders.  

That means fully integrating marketing teams into all facets of the business. 

At Pernod Ricard, Mukherjee has the marketing team connected to the finance team and partnering with the production, operations and sales teams.

“It’s about architecting consumer choice,” she said. “If you don’t have marketing and communications at that table, you’re not going to win in today’s world.” 

When every team has a seat at the table, it becomes easier to respond to crises and introduce purposeful messaging — even when said messaging isn’t as carefree as one would expect from the second-largest wine and spirits seller in the world. 

Instead of avoiding uncomfortable conversations about preventable problems, Mukherjee used her position to face these issues head on. 

One of her first acts coming to Pernod Ricard was pushing for the launch of Absolut Vodka’s social responsibility campaign Drink Responsibly, #SexResponsibly, which highlighted the importance of consent in practicing safe sex, particularly when alcohol is involed.  

Mukherjee herself has a fraught history with alcohol. She survived abuse situations propagated by alcohol, and when she was 14 her mother was killed by a drunk driver.

“For someone who has gone through it, I get the pain and I don’t want people to go through the pain that I did, so I could do one of two things,” she said. “I could ignore it, or I could walk into the fire, get a seat at the table and bring positive change.”

The key to bringing her personal purpose to an established brand such as Absolut Vodka was staying true to both the company’s and her own messaging. 

“The brand has always been a brand of provocation and of giving people a voice,” Mukherjee said. “It isn’t difficult for us to market and promote our brands in responsible ways and ways that we feel reflect how people responsibly want to enjoy our products." 

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