Back to the Future with Christina Lee (Pernod Ricard)

In today’s world, and disruption have become the norm. So, it is more important than ever for brands to keep the finger on the pulse of their consumers. This pandemic reality challenged research and insights professionals to take a step back and rethink their long-standing practices and approaches. We connected with CMI professionals worldwide, to understand the pandemic’s impact on the future of market research. Which resulted in this series of ‘Back to the Future’ interviews.

In this interview, Erica van Lieven, Managing Partner at InSites Consulting Australia, connects with Christina Lee, Head of Digital & Consumer Planning at Pernod Ricard, to talk about the importance of research agility, strong consumer insights, and branding to surf on the pandemic wave.

#Research agility is key in CX

Q: To create strong consumer experiences, do we need to embrace more agile research approaches that allow us to tap into changing dynamics and act upon them?

“Due to a lot of shifts the last few years (declining entry barriers, technological advancements and increased fragmentation) a lot of suppliers are facing the pressure to realize opportunities fast and be more agile in their practices. For us especially, this has changed the way we approach NPD pipelines. We used to look at long-term strategic planning, developing three-to-five-year pipelines, which is a very typical FMCG approach. But more and more the question is: why would you build it into a three-to-five-year plan when you could potentially launch it tomorrow?

Research agility is a very important part of our approach and innovation process. We used to have a phased-out approach with innovation; now it’s about testing as many (high-potential) concepts as possible and bringing them to market as quickly as possible. Gone are the days where we could rely on one product delivering millions of dollars of sales in year one and putting all your eggs into one basket. Product lifecycles aren’t what they used to be. And this challenges us to make sure we are more efficient and agile than ever when it comes to product development and innovation.”

#Shifting gears

Q: Is generating strong consumer insights that tap into new opportunities for growth a top strategic priority for businesses today?

“It’s more important than ever before. Our company purpose is all about conviviality; bringing people together. The current situation however makes it really hard to do so; we had to look into how we could approach conviviality in the world we are in today. Consumer insights, thereby, help us to understand how we can tap into new opportunities and differentiate ourselves from the competition. As a result, we’ve been able to quickly bring virtual festivals and wine tastings to the market. Most consumers have even said they’ve connected with their international friends more than ever before. Similarly, it allows them to connect with us, more intimately. Consumers can sit in their living room and connect with our winemaker for a private tasting; that is a great and exclusive experience. We definitely heavily invest in consumer insights, to make sure that we continue to challenge the way we work and develop these unique experiences for consumers.

COVID has been a challenge as well as an opportunity for us. Being a liquor company, most of our advertising dollars go towards events and festivals. It’s been incredible to see how quickly we’ve been able to shift our investment into digital connections and virtual experiences. To be honest, we have been talking for a longer time about how to approach people’s second, virtual life and how to connect with them digitally. That’s something that was always on the horizon for us, but COVID really brought that to light a lot quicker. So, we’ve been able to try a lot more things over the last 6 to 12 months; and I expect that to just accelerate over time.”

#Brand activation to recover faster and better

Q: Will brands that continue and invest more in advertising and brand activation recover faster and better after an economic crisis?

“Consumers are relying on brands more than ever before. A lot of them are disenfranchised by their government or by different, large corporations, so they’re looking for change agents in their life. I think there’s an opportunity for brands like us to drive a greater purpose and be such a change agent in society. Right now is the perfect time to focus on your brand purpose, on why your product and brand plays a role in your consumer’s life, and on how you can support them through this time.

However, it’s not only about purpose. I call it the trifactor of purpose, product and price. From research, we know consumers would pay more for products that are sustainable and preferable local. But there’s still a price ceiling to what consumers are willing to pay. Being able to find that balance between product quality, price and purpose is what makes a brand win in the market. You can’t just do one without considering the others just because you’ve got great purpose. Having a holistic understanding of the consumer and building on strong consumer insights is key to succeed in finding this balance.”

In summary

An agile research approach is vital to speed up the innovation process and time to market; it aids brands in dealing with today’s short product lifecycles. Likewise, strong consumer insights (on purpose, product and price) allow brands to pivot fast in a pandemic reality; it helps them differentiate themselves by tapping into new (digital) opportunities.

Hungry for more? Stay tuned as we will release more ‘Back to the Future’ interviews in the coming weeks!

Interested to read more on how COVID-19 increased the need for research agility, strong consumers insights and brand activation? Check out our interviews with The Arnott’s Group, Bankwest, and Philips.

Or get in touch to find out how we can guide you to get a grip on the changes impacting categories, consumers and brands across the globe.

Back to the Future interview series

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Tom De Ruyck
Thoughtleader Future of Research
Managing Partner

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