We need to celebrate more!

Having a box of chocolates to celebrate the smallest of wins is just as important as marking the big wins.

We sat down with Murielle Dessenis, VP Marketing Global Gins, who gets her infectious energy from her family, friends and colleagues. “They are my oxygen,” she says…

You recently became VP Marketing Global Gins last autumn. Can you tell us a little more about your role?

I was super excited when I got my new role. Gin is a fascinating category, it’s a fantastic balanced spirit made of savoir-faire, excellence and embracing a modern lifestyle. Our gin organisation has been very much like a start-up over the past few years. We have done an amazing job building its brands such as Beefeater for example, growing our portfolio and making some great acquisitions including Monkey 47 and Malfy. Now, it is about scaling up our business and organization through maximizing our portfolio impact via desirable brands, but also from a team and culture perspective. That is why it is fantastic to be part of The Absolut Group (TAG). We can leverage synergies and embrace a structure that empowers us to make faster and more informed decisions. Building and growing a talented, diverse, loyal and passionate team will be a key part of this new adventure. So, together, we can create a portfolio of desirable and inspirational brands with compelling marketing initiatives to win more market share.

Gin is a fascinating category, it’s a fantastic balanced spirit made of savoir-faire, excellence and embracing a modern lifestyle

Is the growth momentum in the gin market sustainable?

I believe so but also, I need to acknowledge that the gin boom has been slowing down recently – the category is entering a new life stage of maturity – still +6% growth expected. Yet, the gin market still only accounts for 7 per cent of the spirits market so there is a lot of headroom for growth. New craft gins and new players have entered the market in recent years but the boom has been driven by strong long-term consumer trends that go beyond gin. The botanicals epitomise its naturalness enticing more health-conscious consumers and giving a strong right to win to mindful drinking expectations. Younger generations are less loyal and are eager to navigate across categories. Gin has that versatility; it is a ‘chameleon’ spirit as our Master Distiller Emeritus Desmond Payne would say, you can drink it whether in cocktails, with a garnish or as a simple gin and tonic. Gin’s quality epitomises cool sophistication and as marketers, we can capitalise on that. It is a very visual category, with the highest level of talkability – it is the second most talked about spirit owning 24 per cent of digital discussion. Finally, gin is the number one spirit in terms of bonding and sharing.

Gin portfolio

What is your marketing strategy for the gin portfolio?

I’m always saying that we should be “space hunters on time and space fillers”. This is why I believe that our unrivalled portfolio is our best asset, mapped on all the key consumer gin need states but also through the different premium price segments. We also need to keep on top of the long-term trends driving the market. People are looking for more health-conscious and mindful drinking options and subsequently, we recently launched Beefeater 0.0% so consumers do not compromise or miss out on the occasion. We also need to strive to go beyond gin by building lifestyle brands. With Malfy, our Italian style gin, we are building a lifestyle brand by tapping into the aperitivo occasion harnessing Spritz cocktail boom. Our luxury gin from Kyoto, Japan called KI NO BI, is an ultra-premium spirit for Japanese luxury enthusiasts who pay attention to detail. KI NO BI is all about striving for Kyoto-style pursuit of excellence for Japanese luxury enthusiasts around the world. We have an unrivalled portfolio with distinctive and inspiring brands and our mission is to competitively grow it to win on gins and beyond! 

What does conviviality mean to you?

Conviviality is at the heart of who I am. Friendship is my first value. I come from the Basque country  in the Southwest part of France, where French and Spanish cultures fuse for the best. The culture is about sharing and partying – bonding, and uniting friends and family around drinks and food. I get my energy from people – family, friends and colleagues. They are my oxygen. To me, conviviality is also the power of inclusion – sparking the curiosity to welcome and learn from people with different backgrounds. I am very proud and energised to have 15 different nationalities in my team! I have had some wonderful experiences living in vibrant international cities such as Vancouver and London – while I’ve been very lucky to have shared many memorable moments with colleagues at Pernod Ricard long into the nights.

To me, conviviality is also the power of inclusion – sparking the curiosity to welcome and learn from people with different backgrounds

You were an intern at Procter & Gamble; what advice would you give to an intern today?

I worked with some very inspiring people who had strong character and leadership qualities during my internship. It was a very empowering programme that was instrumental in my forging a career as a marketer and a leader. The advice I would give to my younger peers would be to take it very seriously and to remember that you can learn as much from a bad experience as you can from a good one. Many interns don’t know what they want out of a career. When I was 18, I was obsessed with HR but then I realized that the spark of my creative side combined with business impact adrenaline and joy of developing and growing teams were my fuel and dopamine. Having different experiences allowed me to find out what I wanted to do, but also what I didn’t want to do. When you are young, you’re pushing yourself to have the best internship, to succeed and then to be hired. But you don’t have to succeed at everything you do. An internship can last from six months to a year; use the time to learn positively even if it is deciding what you don’t want to do.

How would you describe your leadership style?

I see myself as the captain of a team and a cheerleader – that’s what I hope! I have an unstoppable infectious energy and an incredibly positive mindset. I am committed with passion and have a very strong desire for results – I like to see an impact. Encouraging, supporting and developing my team are my fuel and motivation. I always say we must celebrate – not just the big wins when the going gets tough but even the small wins, with a box of chocolates. 

Photo of people

Where do you get your inspiration from?

My inspiration comes from the people I am with outside of my work too. My friends as festive animals when we go out partying. I am also a culture lover, reading a lot of novels but also a modern art enthusiast. I love street art and photography specifically. I’m chasing all the exhibitions I can in London and was recently at Saatchi Gallery for the fantastically inspirational Beyond the Street exhibition. Having children also unlocks my curious mind. It is funny that the older you get, the younger you get as your children grow. I remember when my 18-year-old and 13-y13-year-old daughters started talking about BeReal, the social media app. I had no idea what they were talking about and they said, “Oh come on Mum, you should know!”. When it comes to work, going into the market to talk to the sales and marketing teams is crucial. It was what I missed most during the pandemic. They always inspire me and I always come back with ideas!

I see myself as the captain of a team and a cheerleader – that’s what I hope!

How do you relax away from the office?

If I’m not running, I’m going to be hell for my team because not only do I relax but I meditate when I run; it’s my mental space for focusing on what is important and it’s when I fix a lot of problems. I try to ski as much as possible – I’m a big powder skier and I also love to dance. It’s a little embarrassing to admit but my favourite is dancing to 1980s pop music!

Which brand, outside of the Pernod Ricard Group, inspires you most?

Without question, Patagonia. Its founder Yvon Chouinard is a visionary who has led the way on sustainability but who has hired passionate people with purpose – its products have never compromised on quality. His book, Let my people go surfing, highlights beautifully how people at work are more than just professionals – that they have personal beliefs and values. We are lucky to have Absolut’s support because it was part of the brand at the beginning. We already have a fantastic culture here and I hope one day we can become the Patagonia of the spirits industry.