CMO interview: Why Bacardi-Martini’s Jonathan Sully predicts a marketing renaissance

Marketing director for A/NZ welcomes criticism of the digital marketing medium and touts the rise of commercially savvy, creative and fearless marketers as the key to brand love

Jonathan Sully
Jonathan Sully

Getting in the repertoire  

It’s being part of the repertoire that makes Bacardi-Martini’s brands successful, Sully continues. “Not everybody goes out on Friday night and purely drinks either gin or Bombay for that matter,” he says.  

“Bacardi is a great example as a banner head brand in our business. We ‘own’ the mojito; we can be the Bacardi mojito and own that moment.  

“Gin is invariably a great opener to an evening. The stats suggest it's the first cool drink, whereas a mojito tends to be that sunset moment. How fantastic to find yourself within the repertoire at the right place and the right time. That's the connection we’re seeking.”  

Sully sees sustainable brand growth and development as key. “Bells and whistles make noise, not sales. We’re trying to be conscious of the noise, understand where it comes from, and what affect it has, but focus down on what really makes a difference,” he says.  

And to do that, it’s vital to share best practice across marketing teams. “The dynamism of change, churn and moving people around brands and putting people in new positions where it's not as comfortable is important to facilitate diverse, consumer-based thinking,” Sully adds. 

Measures of success  

So what kinds of metrics should marketers be beholden to? “I'm a huge proponent of KPIs before, and ROI after the analysis on each piece of expenditure,” Sully responds.  

“This is why I'm excited by the renaissance moment. We've learned to paint and we're looking at pictures and the pictures sometimes don't make sense right now. People are really starting to question the validity of a lot of decision making. That’s fearless. Our ongoing approach is to see if we can change behaviour.”  

This means more responsibility comes into the in-house team. Sully for one, is a big advocate of “stopping devolving creative responsibility to agencies”.    

“I want people such as social media brand managers, who happen to be in a conversation stream on social, to have a vision for how that brand should turn up in the on trade and what it looks like in the off trade. And what their ads should look like in print and outdoor, or in other contexts,” he says.  

“Through the last five years, marketers have been constrained, narrowed and channelled. This lack of field of vision and propensity to only worry about the outcome and not expect a positive outcome, or only in terms of justifying it to a CFO, is concerning.  

“I want my guys, team and culture to be fearless in saying I think it should look like this because I know the barman at Ms Collins in Melbourne and what they want out of my brand. I also know globally what we're trying to do. You can spend six weeks trying to get that message across the table, or you can take that message in as a somewhat formed idea, not being prescriptive but using agency creative, placement and media skills to the fore. Our mismanagement of agencies has been a major problem as an industry.”    

Again, Sully suggests this can be attributed to marketers looking at digital as a panacea rather than embracing comprehensive approaches that drive commercial success.  

“This is the point for commercial, collaborative, creative, consumer-based marketers to shine. I take that inspiration from Unilever and P&G,” he concludes. “These big behemoth type companies are reinventing themselves through marketing. They’re back to creativity and trying things and making mistakes, as we've seen with Dove and others. I applaud that and aspire to it.”

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