Businesses appear to be regaining their confidence after undergoing harsh times in 2016, as most industries are increasingly attracting new investments and raising their portfolios.
Raphael Lipszyc, the Business Development Manager of Veuve Clicquot, makers of the ageless and most popular brands of Champagne in the world, visited Nigeria from France recently. He spoke to Frank Eleanya about the brand’s mission to expand and educate Nigerian consumers onthe art of champagne consumption.
What is the objective of your visit to Nigeria?
We see a lot of opportunities here because Nigeria is our second biggest market in Africa and the Middle East, apart from being the largest country in Africa. This makes it one of our priorities for 2018. We have been able to assess the future potential of the brand and we are confident it will continue to grow.
Will you be releasing some new products in the market with your coming?
The flagship of the brand is Yellow Label, but we recently introduced Veuve Clicquot Rich and it is growing rapidly. We made this particular Champagne so you can express your taste. It’s playful. The signature notes in Veuve Clicquot Rich are magnified by the presence of chosen ingredients: pineapple, grapefruit zest, cucumber, celery, peppers or tea – all on the rocks. The consumer can create a personal experience and imagine his/her own cocktail with Rich.
Also, it is sweeter than Brut and Rose. We’ve found that there is a new trend for sweet Champagne so this is one of our innovations that I am sure is going to be big in this market.
What are the challenges you face being in the Nigeria premium drinks market?
I am in charge of Canada, Mexico, Africa and Middle East. I am actually coming to Nigeria for the first time and I have already fallen in love with the nightlife here. It is really lovely. However, I find that although people have a growing understanding of what champagne is, it still remains a challenge to educate the new generation of champagne consumers. For example, there is a big difference between Champagne and sparkling wine, which many people are unfamiliar with. Champagne is not sparkling wine as this appellation is dedicated to wines coming from the region of Champagne only – a small region 200 kilometers from Paris.
Another distinct aspect of our champagne is the prominence of Pinot Noir, especially because we’ve used Pinot Noir in our Champagne since its creation, inherited from its exceptional vineyard. The strength of VCP Champagne is provided by the Pinot Noir dominance and its characterized structure. I felt that the structure and the body of our champagne match with the Nigerian taste and it is a perfect pairing with spicy food.
What is the impact of technology on your business?
We have a global Facebook page and Nigeria is one of the top three in terms of followership.We can see that you are definitely big on digital and since you are part of our audience, we have to adapt our strategy in order to engage with you. Thus, we work a lot with influencers here in Nigeria. It has helped us in communicating with our consumers and keeping us closer to them. Digital is helping us build a Clicquot family here in Nigeria.
What is the DNA of Clicquot?
More than a Champagne, Clicquot is an attitude.
We like playing with Conventions, always thinking out of the box, using tradition with a modern twist!
We want to reaffirm our difference: Veuve Clicquot is a brand that stands out. Whether it is with the Yellow Label, the surprising events, new products and creative packaging.
You have seen the Yellow colour of our label is very different than that of any other Champagne. When we created the Yellow Label to create the difference between sweet and white Champagne in the UK market in 1877, it brought out the fashionable and trendy feel which is closely associated with all of our brands. One of the reasons we are very close to the fashion industry is because we always want to be different. The Yellow Clicquot is something very shiny and very playful.
Always Dare is key and a tribute to Madame Clicquot. Madame Clicquot was a daring women, a true innovator. Daring is fully part of the Veuve Clicquot spirit. We encourage everyone to be disruptive.
Bringing Creativity into every moment is also at the heart of our DNA: we make sure to create ‘wow’ events, to always be creative and surprising.
Are you in partnership with Nigerian businesses in terms of distribution?
Definitely! We work with restaurants and lounges and thus, they are our partners. They not only sell our products, they recommend our products to consumers. We are not going to be arrogant and say that because we are Maison Clicquot we do not need partners. We do need partners. Traders (Grocers, Supermarkets) are also our partners. They help us increase the visibility of the brand.
What is the place of women in a brand like Clicquot?
We are not a man or woman brand. We are a brand for everyone because anyone can drink Champagne. But we do have something very special with women, because Madame Clicquot is a real“demoiselle.” At 27, Madame Clicquot lost her husband and decided to take over the business established in 1772 by her father-in-law. Imagine the audacity of this decision, at a time when women were not even allowed to open their own bank account!In France, no woman was allowed to sit for a high school diploma before 1861. And until 1938, women could not even apply for an identity card without a man’s permission.
Not only was Madame Clicquot the first business woman in her community, she was innovative. From taking over her husband’s company as a 27 years old widow to creating blended rosé in 1818, the riddling table in 1816 and the first vintage in 1811, Madame Clicquot was a powerful and audacious woman! Her quest was to get the “only one quality, the finest” with the ambition to bring Champagne out of the Boarders of France. Madame Clicquot used to say “I want my brand to rank first, from New York to Saint-Petersburg.” I would add Africa and Nigeria also! Today, Clicquot is the second biggest luxury brand in the world. Thus, we need to celebrate women in general. We need to celebrate women in business as well. So, according to the story of Madame Clicquot, we are more close to the women than we are to men.
Can you tell us why you are supporting the Nigerian Polo Tournament?
It is part of our DNA. From the quality of our champagne to the joyfulness of our Yellow label, Veuve Clicquot masters the tension between elegant and fun, perfectly. Polo is a traditional sport but we bring a twist to our Polo Events. We have Polo in many cities of the world. Last year we celebrated the tenth anniversary of Polo in New York City and over ten thousand people bought tickets in just one hour. We even had the color of the iconic Empire State Building changed to Clicquot Yellow. It is a traditional sport and we leverage it to affirm our difference. That is why you see us supporting Polo in Nigeria and South Africa. It is a great platform and it is a way of life.
2017 was a mixed fortune for Nigerian economy however the sales of Champagne brands like yours went up in the country, what did you do?
Yes, Nigeria had a bad year two years ago while last year was one of the most impactful. I guess the situation of the economy can change people’s attitudes towards our products. We did a lot of marketing communication and many business deals with our partners, which I think must have helped. For me, the growth of Clicquot in Nigeria is very natural .
The brand, the DNA and our spirit match perfectly with Nigeria. Of course, we have been working on the marketing &communication as well as collaboration deals with our partners, which I think must have helped. I feel a real attraction for Veuve Clicquot. I can’t wait to see how the brand will grow in Nigeria in the future.