This week in my interview series, I’ve got Hervé Hannequin, Head of International Planning at WCRS giving us some food for thought. Hervé started his career in Germany and then moved to London in 1995. At WCRS, he’s been leading strategic development since 2004 and last year took on his current role. He’s told me he’s very flattered to be part of this series. Personally, I’m glad he agreed to be part of this – if you look at his answers, you’ll realise that he is an interesting person, which is the reason why I first approached him with my questions!
1. What is the most interesting job you’ve ever had and what lessons did you learn from it that help you in your current role?
I was lucky enough to work for Krug as a marketing consultant about 5 years ago.
These days Krug is widely distributed and name-checked by the likes of Jay-Z and others. So it’s hard to remember that at the beginning of the decade few people had heard of it besides wine buffs. Product interrogation was our first task – obviously. We dutifully tasted all the key products (Grande Cuvée, the vintages, Rosé and of course the elusive Clos Du Mesnil) – but also their main competitors. It was a tough job but somebody had to do it.
Joking aside, we soon realised that, thanks to the passion of the Krug family who was – and still is – at the helm of the company, the product was superlative. And you don’t have to take my philistine word for it. Experts around the world all agree on this. But even my unrefined palate can tell that Krug is to champagne what Rolls-Royce is to motor cars. The brand however, exacting to the point of severity, was disconnected from the festive values of champagne. It was adored by a small group of wine enthusiasts, but as Rémi Krug put it “there’s a great danger in excessive worship of the brand without consumption”.
Our job was to articulate the Krug ‘magic’ and widen its appeal. We felt that whilst Dom Pérignon and Cristal were outer-directed statements, Krug was a more complex and rewarding experience. Krug is a revelation every time – regardless of how much or little you know about wine. Our conviction was that smart was the new black. If Dom owned ‘power’ and Cristal ‘glamour’, then Krug should stand for something much more personal and subjective, like ‘inspiration’. In other words, we should make Krug the thinking person’s champagne.
I’m extremely proud of the work that the Krug team, led by Mark Cornell (incidentally, one of the best clients I’ve ever worked with) did on the back of our recommendations. One idea in particular was a brilliant interpretation of our strategy. The team opened a number of Krug Rooms in exclusive locations around the world to host private dinners. In London, it can be found next to the kitchen of the Dorchester hotel; in Tokyo , it’s at Restaurant Tanga in the Akasaka district. These rooms are by invitation only so they have great word-of-mouth value. The idea is that whilst people who drink Cristal want to be seen, people who enjoy Krug prefer privacy.
The main lesson I drew from my experience on Krug is that whilst style is nothing without substance, substance alone is not always enough.
2. Which do you think is more important – analytical skills or creative skills, and why?
I’m tempted to sit on the fence and argue that both are equally important. Great planners I know certainly have both in large measures. However, if pushed to choose I would pick creativity, mainly because of the two, it’s by far the rarest commodity in the business world.
3. Name one ad campaign or event you wish you’d been a part of, and why?
Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. He redefines politics and makes it relevant again. He embodies a certain idea of America that has been crushed by eight years of Bush. An idea based on hope, youth, positive change, tolerance and – a quality rarely experienced in politics these days – integrity. I admire the fact that he doesn’t make promises, but raises challenges that involve all Americans. I particularly admire the fact that, even under attack, he has never ceased to be true to his moral principles. The world needs more politicians like Barack Obama.
Thanks very much for your time, Hervé. I’m flattered you were a part of this!