We are delighted to present you an Honorary International Judge of the Luxury Lifestyle Awards 2015 Asia – Matteo Fantacchiotti, Global Vice President Commercial at Diageo Luxury Brands and share with you our exclusive interview.

– Why did you choose to work with the luxury alcohol brands? Where does your passion come from?

I am truly passionate about having great experiences with my family and friends. I always had a quite active social life and always loved gastronomy, fine dining, fine wines and spirits. Not to mention the fact that being Italian, we are lucky enough to live and breathe beauty every day…so luxury is often in our blood.

As it happens sometimes in life, not always it is a real choice, but it might be destiny or why not to say luck. But luck is when the big wave comes along and you are ready to ride it and I think this opportunity came up at the right moment. So I was lucky enough to unite one of my passions in life with my professional career.

– What challenges have you encountered on your career path? What did it take to become a Global Vice President Commercial at Diageo? Do have any secrets of success?

I think the passion for what I do have definitely helped. When you have the opportunity to have a job that fits with your purpose and gets you in the social spaces where you love to be, this gives you incredible energy and most of all great resilience, something really critical when you have big pressure and responsibilities. And it also gives you the ability to inspire and get people with you on the journey.

In big multinational companies like Nestle’ or Diageo the environment is very competitive and of course I encountered a number of challenges together with ups and down moments. I think reaching out to people, great networking, having a strong understanding of the environment and a sheer focus and determination on the right battlegrounds, where you think you can create value for the company and for yourself, are things that I would call out as important to help succeed.

– You worked in the UK, then in Italy, and now in Singapore. What are the main specifics of working in these markets? Which do you personally like the most?

Every market has different specifics and a local way of doing and communicating business and when having a global job this is something very important to learn.

I don’t think there’s necessarily an overall better market. It all comes down to professional and personal life stages and the way you like one place might change depending on the stage of your career and family development. What I can say is that UK is a great market where to learn a professional structure and approach to the business. Italy is still the best country in the world in many ways. And Singapore is probably the best place where to live when you have young kids and you’re a global traveler that makes me quite lucky at the moment as this is exactly where I am.

– You have been working in Diageo since 2006, and since 2011 you’re based in Singapore. How the company has changed during these years and what are your personal professional achievements and contributions?

The external environment is ever evolving and changing rapidly and all global companies are evolving and adapting as such. Diageo changed a lot. It is not only bigger but also more mature and grown up I would say. But the beauty is that our purpose and values have not changed and this is what makes this company unique and I think makes most of our people thick. When your company purpose is to Celebrate life, every day, everywhere I think you just need to enjoy the opportunity to live the purpose and make the most of your contribution.

I think my biggest achievement has been definitely in my last role. In the last 4 years we managed to double the size of our global Luxury business and we became the leading company in SDX spirits with a good distance from the 2nd player. And not only we managed to create a new business and source of growth for the company, but most of all we created solid luxury capabilities, a proper Diageo luxury DNA and a global community with passionate, capable and highly connected individuals which it is the biggest legacy by far as it is there to stay.

– In your opinion what changes are we going to see in the alcohol industry in the nearest future? Do you think there will be any major changes and new trends in the industry?

The drinking trends are always fast and rapidly evolving and I would say difficult to predict. But there are some themes that are surely underpinning what is and will happen. Firstly, the cocktail market is expanding at a rapid pace. The Global Alcoholic Drinks market is projected to grow at a CAGR of 3.16% in terms of value over the period 2013 to 2018, mainly driven by an increased demand for premium alcohol. And I can proudly say this is something we started investing behind since few years and for sure helped to take off. And as globalization continues and with global social mobility rising, cocktail culture is not only about Europe and America, but it flourishing and diversifying in different countries, including Africa, Asia, Central and South America. So it is happening worldwide.

This growth is making consumers to become more discerning in drinking and consequently they want to drink better. So this premiumisation around the cocktail culture is really for me a sort of new cocktail revolution.

This impacts directly the dynamic of this industry as consumers are asking for more than a drink, they are looking for experiences. One of the strongest new trends is what we can call ‘sensploration’, it is all around multi-sensory experiences that show that consumers are focusing on every aspect of the cocktail experience, not just the taste and bartenders are challenging their skills and creativity to create cocktails that defy comfort levels, push taste boundaries and explore every sense.

– Do you think awards are important for the luxury companies and brands? Can they positively influence the company status, reputation and strategic development?

Awards are important in many ways. First of all, when there’s a serious organization, clear criteria and a strong judging panel behind it, winning awards is simply telling you that you’re doing a great job. And an external benchmark is always an important beacon. And for sure they can influence the company position and reputation from an industry point of view (very few of them also from a consumer stand point).

– Please give our nominees some key recommendations on how to build a truly successful and reputable luxury brand.

I think I’ve read in the last year or so many theories and strategies on luxury brand building that I would not venture in being another voice singing around the same record. One thing that I would highlight is to make sure that you’re very clear about who are your advocates and amplifiers and what is the story you want them telling about your brand. And talk to them with the right tone. When this happens, you unlock word of mouth and advocacy, one of the most powerful and profitable growth drivers in today’s world.

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