Man of action

Joey Bergstein is always looking for the next big challenge. Good thing, too, since he's just been given quite the task.

Joey Bergstein is always looking for the next big challenge. Good thing, too, since he’s just been given quite the task.

After pumping up Diageo’s global ready-to-drink business – including impressive double-digit sales growth in Canada, South Africa and Australia – Norwalk, Conn.-based Diageo North America has given Bergstein, 37, the lofty role of SVP, global rum, which will entail growing the booze giant’s strong Captain Morgan brand globally and developing its portfolio of Venezuelan rums, including Pampero and Cacique.

If Bergstein’s track record is any indication, Diageo should expect to see his impact on its rum portfolio quickly. Before heading stateside to work his magic at Diageo in 2003, Bergstein turned around the Molson Canadian brand in the U.S., carved out a niche for the Molson Bubba keg in Canada, and launched the Brazilian import A Marca Bavaria here as Toronto-based Molson Canada’s VP marketing.

Prior to Molson, Bergstein amassed European CPG expertise with P&G. His first project was to wrestle some of L’Oréal’s hair product stranglehold away for its Pantene brand, initially concentrating on France during a two-year stint at the Paris office from 1994-’96, then moving to the London office to handle Pantene for all of Europe, and in 1999, he successfully introduced Sunny Delight in the European market. In 2000, he headed back to North America and led a B2B strategy that helped Cincinnati-based P&G see an 18% profit growth for its commercial cleaning and hygiene business in 2000.

‘He’s unbelievably focused. He sees where he wants to go, and he’s like a dog on a bone,’ notes john st. advertising president Arthur Fleischmann, who worked with Bergstein on the A Marca Bavaria launch. ‘He’s very clear-thinking.’

And it’s Bergstein’s focused approach that makes him an inspiring leader, according to Keith Gillespie, director, Smirnoff vodka and RTD at Diageo Canada, who recalls going to Miami several years ago for a Diageo conference where Bergstein spoke. ‘Joey is a good visionary. We came home energized,’ he says. ‘He’s able to boil things down into

easy-to-grasp concepts.’

Bergstein’s knack for succinctly summarizing complex strategies in turn helped Gillespie clearly explain goals to his own team in Canada when he worked with Bergstein in 2004 on re-invigorating the Smirnoff Ice brand in Canada. ‘Joey is a really great strategist,’ explains Gillespie, adding it was nice to work with a fellow Canadian on the global team. ‘He was able to share global best practices, and he’s very aware of the Canadian market.’

Part of Bergstein’s strategy for Smirnoff Ice was to make the brand more relatable to the young male target. He selected London-based agency Bartle Bogle Hegarty to help craft a new global campaign for the brand that resulted in the popular ‘Uri’ ads, featuring a laid-back Arctic man who loves his dogs and his Smirnoff Ice. ‘The character is a vehicle to connect to the brand,’ explains Bergstein. And, it worked. The campaign and local activation efforts helped Smirnoff Ice go from double-digit decline to 14% growth in the past year.

This wasn’t the first time Bergstein helped create a unique brand connection vehicle. He was behind the popular Molson Canadian Bubba campaign that wound up creating a $50 million category for the beer giant. It also won gold and silver CASSIEs in 2003 for best-integrated campaign and best launch, respectively. ‘We wanted to create a real personality for it,’ Bergstein recalls. He and his team asked Toronto-based agency Bensimon Byrne to come up with a name for the new five litre kegs, and they in turn delivered over 100 different possibilities, including the hands-down winner, Bubba. To leverage Molson’s sports sponsorships, the Bubbas were outfitted with collectable sports jerseys, because, as Bergstein says, ‘guys love to collect stuff.’

During his two-year stint at Molson, Bergstein also relaunched the brand in the U.S., working with Miami hot shop Crispin Porter + Bogusky to introduce an on-package effort, ‘Back Labels,’ with over 80 different sayings like ‘I kill bears with my bare hands’ printed on label backs. ‘It was a fantastic way to engage consumers. They’re real conversations starters,’ says Bergstein, adding that the idea was picked up in the Canadian market to run as a limited-time promotion.

Bergstein’s A Marca Bavaria launch also achieved success for

the beer co, becoming Canada’s number four import beer by

mid-summer of its launch year, 2003. ‘The challenge was how do you make a Brazilian beer with a German name work in Canada,’ says Fleischmann. ‘Joey had a good backbone keeping the initiative on track and stewarding it through the management…Molson was a tough audience.’

Fleischmann recalls that, towards the end of the campaign development, they had two ads that were testing well. One featured a hot Brazilian woman stripping, which, while sexy, wasn’t strongly branded or on-strategy. The other ad, called ‘The Better Things,’ was less provocative but better reinforced the brand’s super-premium qualities.

‘He was getting pressure to run the stripper ad. He went to Dan O’Neill [Molson's CEO] and said ‘you really need a stronger ad to give the brand more salience in the Canadian market,” recalls Fleischmann. ‘He bartered a negotiated deal – they ran both ads, and they worked

well together.’

Bergstein’s focus on carving out a distinctive brand position and connecting with the target served him well during his 10-year run at P&G, where he began his marketing career. His stints for the CPG firm out of its Toronto, Paris, London and Cincinnati offices, helped him learn the importance of market research and making brands resonate with different audiences. When he launched Sunny Delight in Europe, he adapted the U.S. positioning as ‘the good stuff kids go for.’ But, the subtle market nuances meant he had to make sure the ads were speaking to the right target. ‘In the U.S. market, moms have big aspirations for their kids. In Spain, kids are the kings in their households. It creates different dynamics,’ he says. ‘In Spain, we developed advertising more towards the kids, showing them why it’s fun.’ The launch was successful, and the brand is still around in Europe today.

His ability to adapt to different markets will come in handy in his new role as VP, global rums, which will see him focusing on growing Diageo’s rum business in Europe, South America and Asia. As for what’s in store for this well-travelled ex-pat further down the line? ‘I’d love to come back to Canada,’ he says.