Here is a transcript generated by of The Content Mix podcast interview with Galya Korukhchyan, global brand manager for Malibu Rum:

Carlota Pico 0:13
Hi everyone, I’m Carlota Pico from The Content Mix, and I’m excited to be here today with Galya Korukhchyan, who is global brand manager at Malibu, which is part of the Absolut company, which is also part of the Pernod Ricard group. And apart from that, she also has seven years of experience in marketing and communications. Wow, what an introduction Galya. Thank you so much for joining us on The Content Mix.

Galya Korukhchyan 0:39
It’s my pleasure. Thank you so much for reaching out to me.

Carlota Pico 0:43
I can’t wait to hear more about the structure–everything is part of everything. But before we get to that, tell me a little bit about your background. How did you get to this role and why did you decide to start a career in marketing?

Galya Korukhchyan 0:59
Sure, so, yes, my name is Galya. I’m originally born in Armenia, but raised in Russia. And then I moved for studies in Sweden. And this is where I’m located. And by background or by education, I finished business education and business school. However, I quickly got to know that marketing is really something where I feel most passionate about. So I started actually as an intern in the digital communications team, in the Absolut company working for Absolut. And it’s actually funny experience how I got to be an intern. I was in my last year masters and a friend of mine called me on like Saturday, “Hey, do you want to be part of this fun business challenge created by Pernod Ricard? And guess what, if you get to win the international finals, you could be interviewed for, you know, for Pernod Ricard.” I was like, “Okay, yeah, fun, sure. Why not?” And then she was like, “But the challenge is that the deadline is on Monday.” I was like, “Okay…”, so anyhow, long story short, we got to win the international finals for that business challenge. And yeah, it was really like one of my highlights of my, of my, I would say 20s because then I got to be interviewed for the Absolut company. And you know, back then it’s, it was when I was 23 back then. So then digital was really booming and all the social media and influencer marketing etc, etc. So I really wanted to work in that area. So I got the interview in the Absolut company, started working for Absolut, and then it was a year for my internship and then I was offered to stay within the company to work as a junior brand manager for another brand, which I accepted because I love the company. It’s such a fun, yeah… we have something called convivialité. And it’s our one of our Pernod Ricard values. So I really enjoy it. And yeah, I got to stay but quickly, I really realized that digital’s specifically maybe it’s not something I would like to be an expert in. I’m more interested in brand communication, strategic marketing. And so I got to, you know, like asking, asking the right projects within that field, I quickly moved into overall communications. Basically, now I’m brand manager for Malibu, as you said, working in communications.

Carlota Pico 3:37
Okay, so exciting. Well, I definitely want to ask you about that project that led you into your Pernod Ricard career, what was it? What made it so special?

Galya Korukhchyan 3:47
It was called Spirits of Entrepreneurs and that challenge, it was basically, you know, how when students get a case study and you would work on them on a challenge, on a test, just ike as an agency you would present back several sessions back and forth, you have a specific budget, you have a specific brief—everything that we do in marketing. And the project was, we were supposed to create an innovation—a digital innovation for Absolut. And Absolut, well, I mean, it’s a such an iconic brand and being a student, you know, you’re like, “Oh my God!”… You remember all the advertising that Absolut did, and you have all this in your head and you’re like, “What can you really create?” No, it was—yeah, it was really great.

Carlota Pico 4:33
Sounds very exciting. Definitely would have been one of the highlights of my 20s as well. Galya, I do want to ask you, so it seems like Pernod Ricard has lots of layers underneath it, and it’s kind of like a spiderweb. Would you be able to break down the structure for us a little bit just so that we understand how Malibu works?

Galya Korukhchyan 4:52
Absolutely. So I won’t bore you with all the details but on a sort of like top line level, Pernod Ricard owns a number of brands, just like I said—Absolut, Malibu, Perrier-Jouët, one of the champagne brands. And so, Pernod Ricard is a decentralized organization. We have local markets and we have brand owners. Brand owners own brand strategies, so the Absolut company is a brand owner for Absolut Vodka for, Malibu liqueur, whereas market companies are responsible primarily for distribution of those products but also local marketing efforts. So, hence, say for instance, we have Pernod Ricard in Spain who is responsible for local marketing efforts for Malibu for instance, and as well as sales for Malibu. Does that answer your question?

Carlota Pico 5:47
It does. It does answer my question. Thank you. So my next question is going to be COVID-19 related—the word that none of us like! So when it comes—so COVID-19 has obviously impacted industries across all fields and worldwide, unfortunately. Could you walk us through best branding and storytelling practices, tips and insights for the beverage industry during these very unstable times?

Galya Korukhchyan 6:14
Let me try. So I think I could begin saying that it’s been insanely challenging to work during COVID-19, especially if you’re in marketing and especially if you are in communications and you are about to launch a campaign, which which we are in Malibu to be honest. So you face so many changes on an everyday basis, sometimes on an hourly basis. And at some point, you don’t even think about COVID-19 from a personal point of view, but more from like work point of view. So I think on a general note, you know, like when we entered COVID-19, I think in Europe, and in the US, it was beginning of March or something around that, whereas in Asia, it was earlier, obviously, so you could have noticed a lot of brands went with a slightly general message of in the beginning was fine. But, later on it became general—”We care about you,” something along the lines of we care about you, you know, it’s really hard times, we’re here for you. But then you know, a couple of weeks after it became too general, it became almost too vanilla. So if anyone is interested, you know, you can go and Google “vanilla COVID-19 marketing”, and you’ll see like a compilation on YouTube with several different brands talking—carrying across the same message, but in a different way, really not resonating. And for me, the one that stood out most…let me think which one was that? And I think maybe Nike stood out quite a bit. I really liked it. Not in the beverage though. In the beverage industry it was really Very hard because the message that we try to carry across is really about enjoying the drink together and when it comes from a functional point of view, and then you can’t be together obviously, obviously. You have to quickly turn around because consumers emotional state of mind is completely different. You know, they…it’s…they are some some people you know, lose their friends, family members. So you cannot, you know—your communication cannot be tone deaf.

Carlota Pico 8:35
No, definitely must be really difficult, also to work in the alcohol industry, because during COVID-19 I mean, it’s a very, it’s a very thin line in terms of being able to market those products already without COVID-19. But then you add the extra layer of COVID-19 challenges and it’s like, How am I supposed to talk about this product without really being misinterpreted?

Galya Korukhchyan 9:06
Exactly. I think the trick is really…I mean, we’re talking about—we have functional communication, we have emotional communication, right? But no matter what type of communication we go for, you still cannot be tone deaf because your consumer is ultimately deciding that in the end. What I’ve seen, though, or what we’ve seen as an industry, I believe, maybe I can’t speak for the whole industry, but as a company, is that ecommerce sales just you know, they went to the roof. It was like, if you’re not prepared to sell on ecommerce, I guess you lost. You lost that battle!

Carlota Pico 9:39
No, definitely, definitely. But it was also a really important time to resonate with your audience, as you said. So you faced a challenge that normally under normal situations or circumstances, you would invite them to share a drink together. But under current the situation, you can’t invite people to share a drink together because most of the world was on lockdown. So it’s not like they were able to just go over to each other’s house and, and cheers—and one, it wasn’t the time to be cheersing and two, it wasn’t the time to be meeting up either. So you get around those obstacles? What did you do, from a communication point of view?

Galya Korukhchyan 10:17
Yeah. So, a little bit of like history to that, we were—we have a brand campaign called Malibu games. And that’s our yearly campaign and celebration of summer fun because Malibu, it celebrates the spirit of summer. So we were in March, when COVID-19 hit us. We were supposed to go to Dominican Republic where we were shooting our brand campaign and the shooting is in a nutshell, it’s a live event with I would think with around over 30 influencers from different countries like US, UK, Korea, etc, etc. They would be playing games, so that, you know, they enjoy the summer fun. And then we would be shooting and then distributing that content. But since it was COVID-19, obviously we couldn’t travel. So the question comes then from a brand point of view and from all the launching markets for that campaign, what do you do? Because summer is not cancelled, yes, there is COVID-19. But summer for our consumers is not cancelled. And for our brand, it’s one of the most important time periods, so to speak. So then you kind of pause and you think and what do you do? So our strategy was really to I think we went dark on on all social media channels for like, for like around two weeks or something. And that was time for us to really think about, okay, what do we do so that we really, we are empathetic towards our consumers. We came up with a short term strategy, which was, which was basically bringing a little bit of sunshine to people around the world at this point of time, because we believe that a little bit of sunshine is all you need, because you’re under lockdown, pretty much. Then we quickly launched that campaign across the across the world with all our markets. And then we moved into, at the same time, for our summer hero campaign, so to speak, which we are to launch next week, fingers crossed.

And it’s a it’s gonna be super fun, super, super fun.

Carlota Pico 12:34
I think it’s a secret sale, right? You’re not able yet.

Galya Korukhchyan 12:37
I cannot, I cannot tell you—exactly. I hope when this, when the interview goes live, it will be already live. But unfortunately, I can’t tell much but it’s it’s gone through. I think to answer your question what we have done, we have actually done several consumer tests with consumers in the US specifically, where we’ve shared the concepts and you know, iterated, just to sense check how people feel about this because we—at this period of time, I think, you know, we have to deal with…well, we need to think about people’s feelings. And it’s really hard because it’s not…it’s not normal.

Carlota Pico 13:14
Well, Galya, if you ever need more consumers to test out your product, tell me. I’ll also take you up on that Dominican Republic experience. I’m not an influencer, but I’m more than happy to participate in any of your branding initiatives.

Galya Korukhchyan 13:31
Oh my god. Yes, we’ll keep in touch!

Carlota Pico 13:35
Okay, so let’s move into brand—best brand practices. So when it comes to content, HubSpot’s CEO said the following, “What separates good content from great content is a willingness to take risks and to push the envelope.” Because of your extensive branding experience, what do you think separates good branding from great branding?

Galya Korukhchyan 14:00
I actually agree with that saying very, very much. I think what really separates good from great is the readiness to create the tension in consumers minds. And when I say the tension, I mean, you know, it’s—a consumer communication piece would resonate, if it creates some sort of a feeling, some sort of an emotion. If it does not do that, then it’s just average. If it does not, you know, if you don’t see something and you’re like, “It made me feel happy.” So, if you don’t feel a certain feeling, then I think it didn’t get the points through. Its you know, it’s trying to, it’s a fine balance, I think, where you, you kind of understand what your consumption pool would need, but you cannot go after it because it’s, it’s very sort of, I don’t want to call it average. It’s something that everyone would understand, but you want to resonate with those who would pick this up as innovators, and then we bring it down to the consumption pool.

Carlota Pico 15:07
Galya, you make this seem so easy, like branding is just a piece of cake. But from personal experience, I know it’s not. So what advice would you give to people that are struggling to create powerful brands, especially entrepreneurs that are just at the beginning phases of defining who their brand is? How do they know who their brand is? How do they know who the brand is going to resonate with?

Galya Korukhchyan 15:34
Oh, my God, that’s a very hard question. I only have I mean, it’s like, I don’t know, to be honest.

Carlota Pico 15:43
That’s why I’m asking the question—I don’t either!

Galya Korukhchyan 15:46
I think if you like think about this… it’s really readiness to take the risk, I would think and as I said, it’s a really fine balance between coming across as too risky and coming across as a bit of risky, but still people would resonate with you. When it comes to like branding or really something that would resonate with people. I think you shouldn’t create anything that people wouldn’t really…that there is no need for that, if you know what I mean? So you really need to find your—what your consumer needs are, what your consumers state of mind is, what do they feel like, shat do they want. Ultimately, everything comes down to your consumer. If you don’t really, don’t find a way to be friends with them, you won’t, you won’t really move the needle.

Carlota Pico 16:41
So I guess you’re referring to personas as well, right? Like really defining consumers according to different personas and then thinking about what that person is doing, what that persona wants, and how you would communicate and relate to that persona.

Galya Korukhchyan 16:56
Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. I think you know that what you’re touching upon is really extremely important. So the way…I mean, is it’s not rocket science, right? You wouldn’t drop or you wouldn’t work with, from a consumer insights point of view, you don’t only have this psychological—how’s it called, actually—psychological, you would go after psychological metrics. So it’s not only about demographics as in like, okay, here’s the age bracket, here is I don’t know, the average span, etc, etc. But you would go after, what are…that just went over my head. What are the movies that this specific target is interested in? What are the beliefs that these people have? What are the values that these people have? What are the brands that they resonate with? And then you sort of like build these bubbles in a way and then you—upon that you build your targeting strategy, obviously, your PR strategy, your comms strategy, everything yeah.

Carlota Pico 17:55
Okay, that makes complete sense. Okay, now moving into product launches in Europe. Because from my research, I know you’re quite an expert on this. When it comes to the EMEA region, what regional nuances, challenges, or opportunities should marketers keep in mind?

Galya Korukhchyan 18:18
Well, I would say I mean, I can only speak for the alcohol brands—

Carlota Pico 18:24

Galya Korukhchyan 18:26
—And so I think in general, we have a lot of sort of regulations and rules that we need to follow. And every market is very specific from you know, like legal drinking age or you know, how old you should be—yeah, exactly, legal drinking age, etc. So, I mean, there is no, so to speak “one rule” for every market because within Europe even you have markets where we actually technically cannot do advertising. We call those markets “dark markets.” Like for instance in Sweden above the line advertising, it’s pretty much non-existent. France is a dark market as well, so it’s very hard to communicate anything in France, you have to be ultra careful. And, for instance, we’ve been launching—when I was working on Absolut…we’ve been…my last project on Absolut it was to launch a limited edition across, I think it was around 70/80 markets. So like, pretty much you have to find your groups of markets, and then, you know, for instance, in France, specifically, you cannot portray on your main visual or on your hero piece of assets, anything that hasn’t been used to produce the product, which is obviously extremely hard. You know, the creativity level that you have to—or your agencies have to work with. It’s…yeah, it’s very tricky.

Carlota Pico 19:57
Right. So how do you get around that? How do you market a product that can’t be marketed?

Galya Korukhchyan 20:03
It’s, hard to be honest because ultimately, you know, working for such a brand as Absolut where creativity is really very high on an agenda because it is a creative brand, you have to find different ways. It’s working directly and super tight collaboration with local markets to find if something is going to work. But it’s also ultimately, you know, trying to prioritize, because I think no matter where you work, either if it’s in marketing or in any other industry, you have to have critical thinking as to okay, what are my priorities and what are the priorities from business point of view, as well?

Carlota Pico 20:43
Okay, sounds like very hard because to be creative, when you’re not really allowed to promote a product. I mean, I I wouldn’t know how to get around that, to be honest. I wouldn’t know where to start.

Galya Korukhchyan 21:01
Yeah, I think, you know, it’s we have specifically—if we’re talking about France—we have had a super interesting campaign in France, where it’s extremely challenging to, to promote actually to do any marketing, where everything in the visual, that visual communication, and in the visual was in a creative manner, portraying what’s being used in the production of the product. And when I say in the creative manner, I don’t necessarily—you know, you have different techniques, right? Digital techniques, or photography techniques, etc, etc. So, agencies who have a bit of experience working with markets, kind of get how to do that.

Carlota Pico 21:48
Okay, so then just to really drive the point home, what does the final product look like? That special campaign that you were working on for Absolut—for the Absolut company in France—what was the final product? What did the final product look like?

Galya Korukhchyan 22:02
It was, it was basically a limited edition bottle called “Absolut Comeback.” The creative idea was that—it was a recycled bottle—and the creative idea was that all Absolut bottles come back in a new shape and form. So the visual portrayed pretty much broken glass which was used in production of the product. So, it was done in a, not in a very, I would say…creative manner. If that answers your question.

Carlota Pico 22:36
Yeah, no, it definitely serves to inspire our listeners because I’m sure lots of our listeners are thinking the exact same thing as I’m thinking—or that I was thinking—like, okay, well, so then how do you promote that product if you can’t promote it in that market without speaking its name? So by using different graphics and visuals, that will basically say the same thing without saying it, I think does serve as an inspiration and a way of getting around those hurdles.

Galya Korukhchyan 23:08
Yeah, right. I would say like, I mean, you, you know, in communications, I really like those kind of campaigns that do not overtly communicate what they’re supposed to say, but kind of create communication that implies what the viewer should think. So the more of implying is done, the better, I think. Because then you let the consumer interpret in the way you want them to interpret.

Carlota Pico 23:36
Okay, so let’s talk more about some of the campaigns that you’ve recently seen that have really just sparked your imagination, inspired you to continue your career in brand marketing. What do they promote? What were they saying, what made them stand out, or so special?

Galya Korukhchyan 23:56
Of course. So well, I think one that comes to my mind straight—is I’m not sure if you’ve seen but it was a campaign who won at least several Cannes Lions, I think last year, 2019, I believe, or 2018. it was Vulva la Vuvla, or Viva La Vulva, I’m sorry. I’m not sure if you heard about it. It was done by a female hygiene brands portraying…it was basically a long form video ad, where the female vulva was presented through different shapes and forms to communicate, yes, female hygiene, which I believe is you know, back to the point of your last, you use your creative imagination or the agency uses the different creative ways, how this could be communicated to imply what you want to say. So that was one of them. I think there was another one, which I really liked to be honest. It was. It was, I think, done in Poland, if I’m not mistaken, it was a collaboration between several brands and organizations where they… were they…I think they… it was a last issue of… Oh my God, give me a second, I want to remember the name. I’m really bad at this. It was the last issue of a porn magazine. Now, I remember. It was the last issue of a porn magazine. And in Poland, there’s a stigma that, you know, women are used in those kind of magazines, right. So they brought, they brought out the magazine, they called it the last issue and they used all the, you know, female females that had some sort of a specific… that were opinion leaders in the country. And they completely shifted from a I think it was yeah, it was a porn magazine towards you know, this high quality magazine with females in the cover through the different interviews, etc, etc. So to convey that, you know, to kind of kill the female porn stigma in the country.

Carlota Pico 26:14
Oh, I love that. I love that last example.. All right. So creative. Wow. Okay, my last interview of this section will be what would you have loved to have known seven years ago when you started off in marketing? So what major lessons have you learned since then? What advice would you love to give to aspiring marketing professionals who want to follow in your footsteps?

Galya Korukhchyan 26:45
That’s a very good question. That’s a very good question. I think two things maybe one of them is and don’t be afraid of making mistakes because s mistake is ultimately a learning—it’s an experience. And it’s just, it’s just a matter of your attitude how you approach the mistake. You could, you know, think about a mistake as if you failed. But you could also think of the mistake as learning. So you just take that on board and quickly move ahead with that learning. And I think the second one would be to, I think, like to trust your gut feeling. And this one is very hard, because I mean, and it has to do with your confidence, right? So and the gut feeling is not really—if you’re in the beginning of your career, the gut filling isn’t really experienced enough, so to speak. So you have to really sort of consume a lot of publications, media, read books,, talk to people within your industry, get inspired, ask to be challenged. So by doing that, you kind of train your gut feeling. And then when you know a decision comes, when it’s really hard…You first of all, I mean, you you are used to actually asking being challenged by your colleagues, by your team members by someone outside of the company then, and then you you also listen to your gut feeling your intuition ultimately.

Carlota Pico 28:18
Okay, so keep on hustling. Just keep on pushing the envelope and always listen to your first instinct. Yeah. Yeah. Very valuable. Now we are going to be moving into our set of rapid fire questions, which are your recommendations to our audience? You’ve already fired us so much. So I can’t wait to hear who inspired you. Who do you admire? Why do you admire that person? Is it an influencer? Is it a professional role model? Please go ahead.

Galya Korukhchyan 28:48
I don’t think I’ll be… I hope my answer is inspiring. That’s my sister. Nothing… but like I mean, it’s a family member, a very close person to me. She…yeah, she’s a role model to me.

Carlota Pico 29:02
What makes her a role model?

Galya Korukhchyan 29:05
She’s the person who’s never afraid of speaking out her mind.

Carlota Pico 29:09
Okay, beautiful. What about a book, a publication or an event that you would like to recommend?

Galya Korukhchyan 29:17
I think…I’m reading right now the book called Principles by Ray Dalio. I don’t know if you heard about it. It’s not necessarily in the marketing and communications, but it’s definitely a really good book to read if you want to kind of amp up your critical thinking and you know, become a better person, no matter your industry.

Carlota Pico 29:39
Okay, excellent. And last but not least, what’s your favorite app at the moment during Corona times?

Galya Korukhchyan 29:47
Instagram. Nothing very different I guess from the rest.

Carlota Pico 29:52
What makes Instagram so special right now?

Galya Korukhchyan 29:56
Pictures. You know, you can’t travel and traveling is something that I love. So hence you just travel around the world through your Instagram.

Carlota Pico 30:04
Okay, excellent, Galya. Thank you so much for joining us on The Content Mix. It was a pleasure to meet you, and also to learn about your experience.

Galya Korukhchyan 30:12
Thank you so much for inviting me. It was a pleasure.

Carlota Pico 30:15
The pleasure was ours. And fora ll listening in today, thank you for joining us on The Content Mix. For more perspectives on the content marketing industry in Europe, check out The Content Mix. We’ll be releasing interviews just like this one every week, so keep on tuning in. Thanks again. See you next time and have a fabulous day. Bye bye!

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