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How Pernod Ricard decoded the travellers' buying behaviour: Segmentation beyond nationalities

min. read
Business question

How Pernod Ricard - the No.2 company worldwide in Wines & Spirits – worked with boobook to connect with the ‘Sixth Continent’

The 3.6 billion people travelling internationally every year are often described as the ‘sixth continent’. With 25% of the $12 billion annual global spend on wines and spirits, travel retail is a primary distribution channel for Pernod Ricard’s portfolio of prestige brands. 

Pernod Ricard understood that the need to understand behaviour across borders is vital. With such a complex and extensive portfolio of premium brands, as Emma Donnellan, Head of Centre of Excellence, Shopper, E-Shopper, Traveller says: “when you look at the size of our portfolio, we really need to understand portfolio management and how to segment the portfolio beyond nationalities”.

The opportunity to do a strategic global study into this growing audience came about when the company set up Global Travel Retail as a new business unit two and a half years ago. Before that, travel retail was managed at a regional level. But with the new central team in London, working with regional business units in Asia, the Americas, Europe, and the Gulf, the company seized the opportunity to do a strategic cross-national and cross-regional project for the first time. 

While Pernod Ricard had an excellent understanding of which nationalities were important to them, it was clear they needed to go beyond nationalities to understand buying behaviour in this growing market. As Emma adds, “it's a no brainer, for example, that you target Chinese travellers with Martell because we sell a lot of Martell in China and we know that when they travel they like to purchase. But we were very much just targeting at nationality level. And obviously there's many different types of shopper profiles within a nationality”. 

Combining different kinds of data

As the then head of insights for Global Travel Retail, Emma and her team started to get to grips with this huge audience by scoping the project qualitatively first, in order to understand the market and set a framework. “It was really important to set up how to frame what we needed to quantify. And we wanted to come up with statements for the different typologies for example”. They then partnered with customer data analysts Boobook for the quantitative stage. This combination was key as Emma says “The qual and the quant worked really well together. And Boobook used the qual to bring the quant data alive in our reporting”. 

Pernod Ricard awarded the project to Boobook because they were impressed by “their ability to make data talk and answer business needs, in a way that is really relevant for people” says Emma.

The study was done into eight nationalities and multiple categories. “That is where some of the brilliance of Nicole and her team came into play”, Emma adds “being able to design quite a complex study, to get us exactly what we needed. They are always really clear on the business and the business constraints, and how the business can use the data. In terms of putting activation ideas on the table they're thought through and relevant for the business needs”.

Working in partnership

Boobook’s analysis of the data from over 18,000 people, combined with many “roll the sleeves up, look at the data” workshop sessions with the team at Pernod Ricard, led to a series of typologies based on consumer attitudes and behaviours that transcended nationalities and demographics.  As Emma says, Boobook worked in close partnership with her and her team to thrash out core questions such as whether to have six typologies or seven, or whether you use one across the world, or the implication of using one from multiple nationalities versus each different nationality.  It was a close and iterative process. 

One example of a typology that evolved from the work is ‘discerning value explorers’ - highly knowledgeable, prestige buyers, who attach a lot of importance to authenticity and quality, love to explore new spirits and want some value in duty free. As Emma says, “how you would talk to them is very different to how you would talk to a ‘bargain catcher’ where really all they care about is price. So, for the ‘discerning value explorers’ you would be talking about the story behind the brand, the authenticity of the brand. But for the ‘bargain catcher’, it's purely about price and you need to show the value that they're getting”.

Activation and application

Key to the success of the project was the quality of the reporting and internal communication. For Emma, who has a background in marketing as well as insights, this was a major strength of Boobook.

“That's what they're really good at doing as well,” she says. “I think the visualisation and the storytelling in this work was absolutely fantastic. The work was brought to life really, really well. And it was consistent too, even just in terms of the type of iconography that we use. We used a lot of visuals, not the heavy data slides you would expect for an 18,000 person study”.

As with all decent communication, Emma stresses it was key to really understand the internal audience and for Boobook to work hand in hand with the team at Pernod Ricard. “Over two weeks, we did a big debrief, where we introduced the typologies and the missions and then we did workshops with all of the subgroups…Overall, I have personally either sat in meetings listening to Boobook presenting or I have presented bits of this work over 50 times now. Five zero”. The lesson that you cannot over communicate internally is clear here. 

But it did not stop there. As Emma says; “the work is fully embedded in the business and the language we use in terms of the types of different shopper profiles, the different typologies that they target, and the different campaigns that we put in place. We have brand consultants and brand ambassadors working in multiple markets around the world. Out of this study we were able to simplify and talk to them about different types of shoppers and how they should pitch depending on the type they're talking to”.

“It was really great to be able to look at these typologies across multiple nationalities, while also being able to explore where there were differences. So, it was possible to identify that some of the typologies were bigger amongst some nationalities”, Emma adds.

New decisions based on the insights

They also learned a lot about where people shop. “For example, with the Chinese, we were thinking about China, but actually a lot of Chinese buy on the return part of their trip, outside China. We also thought about what they're actually purchasing. For this Chinese New Year, we launched our first campaign that is across multiple brands. We’ve combined Royal Salute and Martell because we know that people buy across categories and the Chinese often buy in twos”. Another interesting finding was that people trade up in travel retail. So, for example, if a traveler buys Chivas 12 at home, they may buy Chivas 18 in travel retail, to take advantage of the value. 

The scope of the project was travel retail, but interestingly the work exposed the importance of understanding the travel consumer before they leave home. As Emma says “before we did this work, we were putting a lot of our efforts into what happens in the store. But what we found through the work with Boobook was that about a third of decisions are made before people even leave their house”. 

“Ultimately, this has led to a very well-defined media strategy where we're able to target people who we know have trips coming up” Emma says. “Now we can test different messages based on the typologies – a ‘discerning value’ message versus a ‘bargain-catcher’ message. And then depending how they react, we can send people messages that are more relevant for them”.

Emma admits she sometimes talks in her sleep about the project.

“It was hard, we sometimes all ended up working weekends before the workshops, but we were all committed to making the work really good”.

And it paid off. Not only has it had a huge positive impact on how Pernod Ricard understands and communicates with the ‘sixth continent’ but even after 50 meetings, workshops and presentations Emma is never bored.

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