Pernod Ricard names Pam Forbus as CMO for North America

Brief:

  • Pernod Ricard, whose brands include Absolut vodka, Mumm champagne and Martell cognac, named Pam Forbus as CMO for North America as part of several executive appointments at the spirits maker, per an announcement shared with Marketing Dive.
  • Forbus previously worked as senior VP of consumer experience, insights, data strategy, analytics and planning at Walt Disney Studio Entertainment. She replaces Jonas Tahlin, who left earlier this year to pursue other interests.
  • The company promoted Pierre Joncourt to SVP of Pernod Ricard North America operations from VP of cognac at Martell Mumm Perrier-Jou√ęt, and moved Guillaume Thomas to the role of chief transformation officer from CFO. Pernod named Mauve Croizat as CFO of its North American operations and promoted Nicolas Krantz to president and CEO of Corby Spirit and Wine.

Insight:

Pernod Ricard’s executive appointments including CMO Pam Forbus are an early sign of changes under Ann Mukherjee, who became CEO of the company’s North American unit last year. Mukherjee previously was CMO at SC Johnson, and has worked in key marketing roles at PepsiCo and Kraft Heinz. Forbus’ appointment comes at a time when Pernod has canceled some of its advertising and promotional spending during the last quarter to cut costs as the pandemic impacted sales, Reuters reported. More broadly, it has been a tough couple of years for CMOs, who were already expected to face significant challenges this year as demands around digital transformation grow. The current health crisis only exacerbating the difficulties that CMOs face.

Pernod has faced significant challenges as the coronavirus pandemic led many cities, states and countries to shut down restaurants and bars to suppress the spread of COVID-19. The restaurant industry started to recover in the U.S. as lockdowns were lifted, though growing fears of a second wave of infections on June 14 led to a sudden drop in seated diners, per data compiled by restaurant booking company OpenTable. The environment is likely to remain challenging for all suppliers to restaurants and bars, including spirits companies like Pernod.

Even though at-home consumption of alcohol has increased during the health crisis, this may not be enough to offset the loss of restaurant sales, with Pernod reporting an almost 15% yearly decline in sales during the first three months of the year, when China was most affected by the pandemic. Nine-month sales rose 3% in the U.S. in January and February, but slowed as restaurants and bars closed in March. The full effect of shutdowns will show up when the company reports results for the current quarter.

Forbus’ appointment as CMO arrives at a time when the CMOs as a group are becoming more diverse and as the transformation of the CMO role potentially opens up opportunities for new faces. Forty-three percent of CMOs at the 100 most advertised brands were women in 2019, up from 36% in 2018 and 28% in 2017, according to a recent report from Spencer Stuart.

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