Thu | Sep 19, 2019

JWN taps Brown Sinclair to revive Caribbean market

Published:Wednesday | June 12, 2019 | 12:12 AMHuntley Medley/ - Senior Business Writer
Michelle Brown-Sinclair, Regional  Commercial Director, J. Wray and Nephew.
Michelle Brown-Sinclair, Regional Commercial Director, J. Wray and Nephew.

Jamaican rum company J. Wray & Nephew Limited (JWN) is making several new moves in its Caribbean division amid restoration of its small but important Caribbean business, where sales were blown off course by hurricanes two years ago.

Last month, JWN, owned since 2012 by Gruppo Campari of Italy, promoted Michelle Brown Sinclair to the position of Regional Commercial Director – Jamaica and Export (Caribbean), the first time a woman is stepping into such a high-profile role in the Campari group and an unusual placement in a male-dominated spirits business.

Her territory spans 28 countries, including English, Spanish, French and Dutch-speaking islands as well as Guyana and Suriname on the South American mainland.

Included in Brown Sinclair’s first order of business is rebuilding the 20 per cent market share the group enjoyed before the 2017 onset of hurricanes Maria and Irma, which virtually wiped out sales in the large and developing market of Puerto Rico and four smaller countries.

Asked for an update on the bid to return regional sales to pre-hurricane levels, Brown Sinclair would only say: “We are very happy with where we are. Extremely happy.”

Rum is the leading product in the Caribbean export division but Gruppo Campari has been piggybacking on the market strength of particular brands to promote newer products to those markets.

Campari’s bestselling aperitif globally, Aperol, not yet established in the Caribbean, is among the products being pushed in another big regional market such as the Dominican Republic. Its signature cocktail mix, Campari, has also been relaunched in Trinidad, the second-largest English-speaking market in the region.

While reporting good progress in the Caribbean renewal and regional buildout in its own right, Brown Sinclair also has her eyes set on positioning premium brands such as Appleton Estate rums, Campari, and Aperol for greater take-up by the millions of tourists who visit the region from the United States each year.

The strategy hopes for the cementing of loyalty to the brands and continued purchase of the products when the vacationers return home.

“Our (Caribbean) business unit is linked to the USA, Canada, and Mexico. It’s a good place to be and we utilise the Caribbean as a window to the world,” Brown Sinclair said in an interview with the Financial Gleaner.

“We are in the early journey of pulling things that we do in Jamaica and executing them in the US. The most important thing is that we have to be ready here in the Caribbean. We have to make sure, for example, that Appleton is in all the tourist hotspots, and build that platform so that they can access it and export it,” she said.

SLOW GROWTH

Last year, Gruppo Campari’s US sales grew slower than the double-digit growth it recorded in the United Kingdom. Its a big push in the Caribbean with what the regional commercial director would only describe as a “large” marketing spend, appears targeted not just at growing regional marketing share but also as leverage in the region to boost sales in the larger American market.

Brown Sinclair says that the Caribbean plays a “pivotal role” for JWN, the leading spirits company in Jamaica and Gruppo Campari, the sixth-largest global player in the category.

“There is great opportunity for us to grow outside Jamaica. The Caribbean plays a pivotal role in our business strategy. We want to see the Caribbean achieve 20 per cent of contribution to the Jamaican business, over five years,” she says.

For the new Caribbean commercial director, the interplay of the group’s brands is complementary in the regional market. “We are able, on a lot of our international brands, to strengthen the conversations locally. With our premium rums, we have a baseline product that is already getting international acceptance. We can use that to pull our entire portfolio.”

Brown Sinclair acknowledges that there are challenges in implementing the marketing strategy across the region, given strong nationalistic tendencies even within the Caricom market.

JWN’s Caribbean marketing highlights what she describes as the authentic and real-life connection to its brands to the region’s rich history. For each national market, however, the marketing is localised to highlight national and cultural nuances, the commercial director said.

The Campari brand is associated with carnival in Trinidad and other Caribbean markets, as well as the growing popularity of the Jamaican-born Magnum tonic wine in the region. Marketing of the tonic wine is pushed by the Magnum Explosion series of dancehall concerts sponsored by the brand highlighting established Jamaican dancehall artistes, while exposing emerging talent in the genre in various Caribbean territories.

huntley.medley@gleanerjm.com