Take 5 Interview: Rick Monkarsh, GSM National On-Premise and Strategic Activation, Campari Group
ITM: Campari America has made significant investment in the on-premise. What’s different for Campari America now compared to a few years ago?
Rick Monkarsh: Our most impactful change was the increased headcount and incorporating all three customer-selling teams under one structure. These teams are primarily customer facing, not distributor facing, which enhances our ability to react faster to customers’ needs, allows us to share information across the country quickly, and ensures we have a consistent approach to managing the channel. This structure also grants us the ability to support our customers if they grow from a single key account, to a regional account, to a national account, and focus on their needs efficiently.
We know brands are built in the on-premise and we have seen success in tackling this model – specifically with Campari, Espolòn Tequila and Aperol. With the entire company and our distributor partners aligned, we are well poised to achieve our strategic objectives and aggressive ambitions for the on-premise channel.
ITM. How is Campari America gaining momentum with its national accounts and maximizing trends that are important to those partners?
RM: Campari America’s positive momentum is driven by several factors, one of which is heightened customer focus. For example, specialization in the on-premise channel has led to an increased headcount in hotels, casinos and casual dining, which in turn helps us better understand those customers’ needs. We’re also committed to our segmentation strategy to ensure the right brands are in the right types of accounts, based on relevant consumer insights. Most importantly, we are working more closely with our distributor partners to align on the right customer focus, and then ensure consistent communication with the buyers for better teamwork and support of their needs.
We’re also leveraging information sharing and our expertise. We frequently share best practices and successes of both cocktails and activations, from our key accounts to our national accounts, much faster due to our one-team commercial strategy. We’re working closely with our agency partners that support the channel and communicate better with the key stakeholders. This gives us the opportunity to focus on promoting activations for our key brands that generate better results based on our team’s growing expertise of their customers.
ITM: It takes strong business partnerships to obtain the success Campari America has had. Let’s talk about how your alignment with Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits (SGWS) has propelled Campari America forward.
RM: Dan Butkus, Vice President National Sales, Campari America, has led the charge with our SGWS alignment. He says, “Campari America weighed many options during our decision process to consolidate nationally with SGWS two years ago.
“We’ve had a long-standing relationship with the Chaplin family’s organization. Our companies also have a similar mission and values. Separately, we recognized their national footprint would afford Campari America opportunities in areas that were important to our growth, particularly national accounts and the on-premise channel. Aligning our route-to-market allowed us to leverage our resources and capitalize on the scale of SGWS’s enterprise.
“The results have been exactly what we had hoped for. In 2018, Campari America expanded significantly in our market share gains in national accounts, both on-premise and off-premise, as well as finishing the year as a top performing supplier in the on-premise channel (second to only Tito’s Vodka in growth, according to Nielsen CGA). But our partnership extends beyond a traditional commercial supplier/distributor relationship. We realized cross-functional synergies in logistics, IT, procurement and POS optimization, to name just a few.”
ITM: How important is education when it comes to forging your on-premise relationships?
RM: Education is a key pillar for Campari America, and we are working on several initiatives to support our ambitions. With information so readily available and the thirst for increased knowledge from the trade, we are ensuring our team is armed with the best resources to support our customers and investing in digital technology to better communicate key messages for our brands.
As part of the strategy behind the recent move of Campari Group’s North American headquarters to New York City, we have built a beautiful space called the “Campari Academy” for internal and external education needs. The Campari Academy is led by Jessamine McLellan, who created a stimulating education curriculum that “levels up” Campari America’s internal team and the spirits industry at large. Her curriculum ranges from simple cocktail tutorials and technique courses to deep, comprehensive dives into industry education – offering a truly immersive experience for guest bartenders and industry professionals. We want our customer-facing teams to be viewed and used as experts regarding the category and brand training needs. Campari Academy is how we’ll get there.
ITM: Campari America has a clear vision and strategy. What’s next for the company?
RM: Campari America will continue honing our focus on listening to our customer needs and ensure we enact upon their feedback efficiently. Part of this includes using technology to be even more nimble and support those needs. Additionally, we’ll drive our “big bets” such as Aperol and Espolòn Tequila with full 360-degree programming for increased awareness and conversion both in the on- and off-premise. We will evolve our strategy as needed to ensure we remain laser focused on our customers’ needs and the ability to deliver against them.