Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Beam Suntory appoints R/GA London as digital innovation partner across global portfolio

Premium spirits company Beam Suntory has appointed R/GA London as a digital innovation partner. As part of this new partnership R/GA London will create a direct-to-consumer design system to be implemented across Beam Suntory’s portfolio of digital platforms and product websites.

Beam Suntory has previously worked with R/GA’s teams in New York and Tokyo, however this new partnership with R/GA London represents the brand’s most ambitious digital project to date, with the potential to encompass over 15 brands on a global scale.

Beam Suntory’s brands include Jim Beam, Courvoisier Teacher’s, Laphroaig and Sipsmith.

R/GA London has been tasked with delivering a mobile -irst platform, built on a flexible framework, which will enable brand expression while delivering efficiency, conversion and commercial growth.

New Digital Age spoke with Rebecca Bezzina, SVP Managing Director R/GA London about the Beam Suntory account win and the ongoing impact of the pandemic on digital marketing strategies:

Was this partnership already in the pipeline or accelerated by Covid and the need for Beam Suntory to expand its DTC capabilities? 

Covid has obviously accelerated a global trend towards digital transformation, but it certainly wasn’t the driving reason behind this partnership. Beam wanted a digital innovation partner to help create a next generation design system to be implemented across their brand portfolio. This comes from their long-time understanding around the importance of having a market-leading digital transformation strategy.

We’re delighted to have been chosen as the digital innovation partner for this strategic reimagining of Beam Suntory’s brand portfolio. It’s a fantastic opportunity to create a lasting, flexible digital platform for a global client, while showcasing how R/GA can humanize technology for their consumers. The new design system will create a human-centric connected journey for people that is truly representative of Beam Suntory’s iconic and premium range of brands. The first roll-out of the work is scheduled later in 2021.

What you mean by a ‘human-centric connected journey’?

Essentially we want to ensure the new online experience puts the customer at the forefront. We want to create an elegant design system that makes it as easy as possible for people to navigate and find the information they need at speed.

How has Covid changed brands’ digital thinking and strategy?

Covid has meant a lot of different things to a lot of different businesses but we have absolutely seen an increased importance on ‘the brand’.  Are they clear on what they stand for? How aligned is their brand purpose with the needs of their customers? Do they still have an authentic role to play in consumers’ lives? These questions have never been more important.

What are the challenges and opportunities in digital for brands, particularly FMCGs, in this coming year?

The primary way people have historically experienced FMCG brands is through traditional channels – especially through physical retail footprints. As audience behaviour has shifted so much over the past 12 months, brands need to meet people where they are.

The opportunity for digital is not to compete with or replace traditional channels, but to expand the ways people can experience the brand and create new sources of growth for the business. Digital marketing is evolving from cookies and banner ads that follow people around on the internet, to creating impactful and emotive experiences that build brands and move people to take action.

Privacy in the digital space is a critical conversation within the industry, and steps being taken are absolutely neccessary to protect people’s data online. From a marketing standpoint, this is also forcing the industry to evolve for the better and to understand and value people as more than just clicks and impressions. The reality is it’s never been enough to just reach people, you need to connect with them emotionally.

How can ‘digital innovation’ be successfully applied to a brand’s business?

Innovation is a way of thinking and at R/GA we’ve always firmly believed that if you don’t innovate your own business model regulary, then you might as well pack up and go home. Innovation is a requirement for growth for any business, and the FMCG industry has historically addressed it mainly through product innovation. Now they are also looking at ways to do this from an experience standpoint. In 2021, delivering innovative ways to experience brands and shop for products is just as important as the products itself.