Drayton’s Byron Beatty writes about his recent visit to the Publican Awards and how it drove home to him the vital importance to the 21st century on-trade of a carefully curated brand experience.
“Shaken, not stirred,” doesn’t cut it anymore. I’m certain Ian Fleming’s 50s’ hero would have been completely out of his depth at this year’s Publican Awards. These days, even if you only confine your choices to gin, just one brand alone, Fentimans, have seven different flavours of tonic water. James Bond, I suspect, would have been utterly baffled by the vast of array of beverage choices. Not just the huge range of drinks. But also the myriad and exciting ways as to how you might actually drink them.
I last attended The Publican Awards, the Oscars of the on-trade industry, ten years ago when I worked as a National Sales Manager for Red Bull. This year’s event was much more sophisticated than my first one. Set in Battersea Evolution, a sleek metal and glass cube by the Thames, the evening now feels more like a West End show than an industry award ceremony.
As I stepped out of my taxi and walked towards the venue I passed street-dancers hired by WKD and a huge double-decker Carling branded bus. It was immediately clear that today’s brand owners take this event very seriously. Consequently, they invest heavily in their presence. And the reason for that is simple. Whether it be Britvic, Coke, Fentimans, or Diageo the companies at the Publican Awards all share one key understanding about the business they are in. They don’t control their customer experience. The pub owners, bar-staff and mixologists who flock to these awards do. For all the millions the industry spends on marketing, when it comes to the on-trade the first sip of any new liqueur or mixer always comes courtesy of a barman or a waiter. And that first impression is still vital. Absolutely, as the saying goes, the one that will last.
From a recruitment perspective the thing that really stood out to me, on the evening, as I chatted to key industry figures at different tables, was the diverse skillset now necessary for senior leadership roles in the on-trade sector.
As well as someone who can drive and galvanise a team to get results you now also need a candidate who, in essence, understands, at both an emotional and strategic level, a real sense of theatre. An exceptional hybrid-manager who instinctively gets the creative elements – fonts, brand narrative, glassware, mixological magic – that mould and elevate the customer experience.
People like that are very hard to find. But, please do get in touch, if, maybe, after reading this, you are thinking to yourself – unlike Mr Bond – you could be one of them?