Digital for all now

Antonia McCahon, CDO Pernod Ricard: “Digital is a part of everything we do”

Econocom 12 Oct 2015

Originally from Australia, Antonia McCahon has lived in Europe for over fifteen years. After spending five years in London working on digital transformation in the publishing industry, she moved to France and joined Fullsix, Europe’s leading digital agency. For ten years, she managed digital projects for major groups and CAC 40 companies such as Sanofi, Danone and Coca-Cola.


In September 2013, Antonia McCahon joined Pernod Ricard Group  as Digital Acceleration Director – a natural transition for this digital specialist!


How to distil digital at the world leader in wines and spirits? How to get 18,000 employees used to a stiff digital cocktail? Antonia McCahon shared her secret recipes with us.


Antonia McCahon has been working for Pernod Ricard for two years now. A CAC 40 company, the group has a portfolio of prestigious brands including Absolut, Havana Club and Pastis 51, a drink that was invented by the founder.


She spent her first few months with the drinks giant in the Marketing department, working on a digital transformation that was almost entirely marketing-oriented. Nowadays, the digital teams are involved across all the group’s divisions. It’s no longer about looking at how digital can affect marketing but more generally, how it can boost business as a whole.



A HEADY digital Cocktail


As CDO of Pernod Ricard Group, what are some of the major projects you’ve worked on?


Antonia McCahon: During my first week at Pernod Ricard, there was a seminar in Paris with 80 digital champions from all over the group. Around 60% of them were from marketing, the rest were from HR, finance, IT, sales. But they were all interested in digital.

Together we thought about the impact digital could have on our jobs so we could then decide what the main challenges at Pernod Ricard would be.


“The group was already experimenting a lot with digital and implementing various digital actions. Some projects had a major impact, others less so. But there was no real synergy and, despite our efforts at digitalising, we needed to progress much faster.”


After this seminar we decided to launch four main projects shared by all Pernod Ricard Group’s entities: connected content, data, e-commerce – which we call “everywhere commerce” – and change management, which includes improving employees’ skills.


All in all, we have around twelve flagship sub-projects in each project. We also set up a Digital Acceleration Task Force, a group of around forty people who get together four times a year, usually in Paris, but sometimes on another continent.  Each one is in charge of a pilot project that they’ll run for three months, in order to progress as quickly as possible. These are of course often projects that are specific to the person’s local context: in the UK, for example, they’re very active in e-commerce, so our UK representative does a lot of work with the shoppers’ digital experience. In China, they also do a lot of e-commerce, but also have connected bottles, whilst in the US they focus mainly on advertising and programmatic_marketing.



CONTENT TO connect WITH consumers


The term “connected content” is very varied. For example, we had a very long project working on our websites and digital media. We found out that over six billion searches are made on Google every year with words or expressions relating to our products: whisky, wine, Pastis, bar, etc. So we decided to create content that would allow people entering these sorts of key words to connect with our brands or added-value content.


So for example, we started a website called World’s Best Bars. It’s not branded, there’s no mention anywhere of Pernod Ricard. But we use our partner relations to promote bars which are really remarkable, so that consumers can easily find the best bar when they’re on a trip to New York or Paris. It’s a good example of an opportunity that arose thanks to searches made via search engines.





Where data is concerned, we currently have four main projects on the go. The first involves sharing dashboards across all our subsidiaries.


“We’re a decentralised group and we realised that, thanks to digital, we could use joint scoreboards to share data and best practices effectively.”


We also have a media project. We rely heavily on our own data, collected from ours bars and restaurants and which we then use for our campaigns. That way, we can make sure we’re connecting with people who are over 18, responsibly.


“We’re not aiming for mass publicity: we really just want to communicate with consumers who are interested in what we have to say, directly.”


There’s another project that’s all about big data – or, as we prefer to call it, “smart data. We use a lot of open source data from the web or bar check-ins. For example, just by following what people say on the social networks, we can find out that more champagne was drunk in a particular part of Paris this month, so we can then organise our sales force accordingly.



The rise of social networks is very important for us, because sociability is exactly what we promote: it’s really in Pernod Ricard’s DNA. The transition to the social networks was quite slow at the beginning but then it happened naturally, precisely because we have this culture of sociability and friendliness that you associate with the social networks.



How do you convert your employees to digital?



We noticed that, when the various digital teams were working in silos, the development of digital skills with our “non-digital” teals was much slower. As soon as we started combining the traditional teams with the digital ones, people’s digital skills began to develop much faster.


“Digital is really part of everything we do and has been adopted by all the “traditional” teams. This is really important for us: it helped break down the silos and people were no longer afraid of digital. They used to be a bit wary of all these acronyms and unfamiliar words: they weren’t comfortable with it, it was another world. But once they started working on digital-related projects, and started using mobile devices and the social networks – in other words, once they started experiencing digital – it all got much easier.”






We’ve implemented a number of different measures to make the digital transition. One of them is via MOOCs, (massive online open courses), based on gamification. It’s fun and pretty addictive as you can play against your colleagues. The MOOC includes 14 very diverse modules, covering topics such as the media, SEO, advertising, etc. What’s good about it is that people don’t feel as though they’re at school because the subjects are relevant to their everyday lives, things they read about in the press. And the results speak for themselves:  attendance rates for these 14 modules are very high this year.


One last thing: what advice would you give a company that’s starting its digital transformation?


“Don’t use buzzwords and incorporate digital into your teams: don’t keep it in a silo and make sure it’s part of everyone’s daily life.” 


 Read our other interviews with digital and innovation experts:


– Nicolai Gerard, Digital Acceleration Officer at Group SEB: the key is not being afraid to try and fail

– Experimenting to take advantages of digital opportunities interview with Pierre-Philippe Cormeraie, Head of Innovation for BPCE Group

– Patrick Hoffstetter, CDO at Renault: you have to get all your staff involved in the digital transformation

– Sandrine Godefroy, CDO at Econocom: the digital transformation is an infinite playing field


Crédit photo : Pixabay / Licence CC0

Talk to us and share your Digital Maker’s lesson with us!