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Qualitative Research, Boston, November 2002
qualitative research the glue for fragmented brands?
Mark Whiting JAs Heennessy & Co and Sandrine MonnierMcClure Green Light International
A Brief History
The Hennessy family recognised the power of branding long before most of today's leading brands were even conceived. First came the brand name. When Richard Hennessy founded his trading company in 1765, he immediately propelled it to the position of leader in the market of eauxdevie from Cognac. Using his Irish ties as a foothold, England was quickly established as Hennessy's largest export market. The reputation of the cognacs supplied by Mr Hennessy quickly grew and by 1794 the first sales were made in New York, swiftly followed by orders from the Royal Courts of both Russia and Spain. As relationships were built with agents across the world, Hennessy cognac found new markets from Calcutta to Havana and from Montevideo to Japan, where the first recorded shipments were made in 1868. Then came the visual identity. Recognising the association that cognac amateurs made between the Hennessy name and constant standards of quality, the first prototype bottle labels, bearing the Hennessy name, appeared in 1855 in order to personalise the brand. To these, the symbol of the bras arm was added as a registered trademark in 1864. This development also responded to a necessity, since counterfeit imitations multiplied with the success of the brand. By then, recognised in the four corners of the world, Hennessy realised the emerging importance of advertising at the end of the nineteenth century. To the wellknown name and the visual identity was henceforward added a generic slogan: 'la toute premire marque' (the number one /first leading brand). This was succeeded by a series of inventive catchlines to be seen on advertising hoardings across the world: 'Hennessy de mayor consumo en El Mundo' (South America) 'Hennessy the spirit of success' (Singapore) 'Le nom qui a fait le renom du cognac' (France) Long before the concept of a central marketing team working on a global brand strategy was even devised, Hennessy's success was built on the quality of its products and the sound instincts of its partners around the world. The entrepreneurial instincts of Hennessy's distributing agents established it as a pioneer brand in many new markets. Their talents for promotion allowed the brand to embed itself into the most diverse cultures: from Hennessy ginger ale in Ireland, Hennessy martini in the United States, XO on the rocks in Taiwan or Hennessy dry in Moscow, Hennessy cognac adapted itself to the different consumption habits in each of its local markets. Each market found its preferred Hennessy product. VSOP (developed in 1817) and VS (1865) are particularly suited to mixing in cocktails or as a long drink, whilst XO (1870), containing a more complex blend of aged eauxdevie is more suited to a consumption with ice, 'on the rocks', or neat. Merging with Mot & Chandon in 1971, and then forming LVMH Mot Hennessy Louis Vuitton in 1987, the world's leading prestige and luxury goods company has given the brand further impetus, enough to double its sales in the last 15 years. Looking at the dominant position of the brand today, the legacy of its two and a half centuries of history is clear.
In 2001, over 3.2 million standard cases (just under 40 million bottles) of cognac were sold by Hennessy, giving it a 37% share of all cognac shipments worldwide, according to the BNIC (Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac). This is double the volume of the number two brand of cognac and, notably, over 99% of Hennessy's production continues to be consumed outside France, in one of the 94 countries where Hennessy is distributed. Sales volumes of Hennessy are thus comparable to those of other wellknown spirit brands such as Chivas Regal and Johnnie Walker Black and Crown Royal, but Hennessy is sold at a clear price premium over these other brands which means that Hennessy is in the top five premium spirits brands by value in the world according to Impact (see Table 1).
As an Impact Top 100 'Hot Brand' for the last six years in the United States with a CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate) of over 10%, around half of Hennessy's sales are now recorded in this market, with a heavy focus on the young, urban, AfricanAmerican consuming inhome. A 60% share of the cognac market in Japan with a heavy presence in 'hostess bars' where business deals are traditionally struck and sealed, close to a 90% share in the 'pubculture' market of Ireland and fastdeveloping sales in emerging prestige markets such as China and Russia, continue to perpetuate the global legacy of the Hennessy brand; whilst new products such as Fine de Cognac and Pure White, adapting cognac to new modes of consumption, are being introduced in order to reconquer European markets where the brand has lost its position of leader.
A Fragmented Brand
But the legacy that has created the Hennessy global brand has also created a brand that is in many respects fragmented. By 'fragmented' we do not in any sense mean a broken brand, but one that with respect to its image and positioning can lack cohesion. Hennessy consumers from its different markets would clearly recognise the product by its characteristic taste and aroma, but as to whether they would always recognise the brand's public face in terms of the image portrayed to the consumer is another question. Quite clearly, there are benefits for a global brand in having a harmonised image across all of its markets, not least in terms of speaking with a single voice to increasingly mobile consumers, particularly those consuming premium products such as Hennessy. They are open to an accumulation of exposure to a brand outside of their domestic market, which can significantly increase the stature of the brand in their minds. How strange it would seem to the Japanese consumer visiting France not to see a strong presence of their cognac brand of choice, particularly since this brand emphasises its Gallic credentials of 'art de vivre' in its Japanese communication. For this reason, the investment in communication by Hennessy in France far outweighs the current interest perceived in courting the domestic consumer, drawn by their specific knowledge of wine to explore small, specialist brands in preference to the international brands consumed elsewhere in the world. So what would the Japanese consumer think if visiting the suburbs of New York where instead of consuming Hennessy cognac with important business clients in expensive 'hostess bars', the young AfricanAmerican consumer can be seen on neighbourhood streets drinking Hennessy from a hipflask shaped bottle, produced specifically for the American market? Or of the rap that the musicmad American consumer will enjoy listening to that features tracks in praise of Hennessy and its potent sexual effects? Or even of the fact that the consumer will most likely refer to the product not as Hennessy, but as 'Henny' or even 'the Hendog'? A longtime investor in quantitative research, Hennessy is only too clearly aware of the differences that exist in its image in its key markets and a series of surveys (see Table 2) clearly elucidate that whilst quality is a constant brand value across markets, other top image associations do vary. In the United States Hennessy clearly holds a modern product image as it is drunk on casual occasions whilst in Asia (countries such as Japan and Taiwan), Hennessy is frequently chosen for the status and prestige it conveys about the drinker. But a deep understanding of what the Hennessy brand means to its various consumers in different parts of the world only becomes really apparent once we begin to listen to consumers describing the brand in their own words. Here we can compare the results of a 'planet Hennessy' exercise conducted with consumers in the United States and Japan, which clearly illustrates the cultural dichotomy faced by the brand: 'I'm thinking of a ski resort, where people are sipping martinis and eating expensive chocolates It's men at cigar bars, sipping their drinks. The men have got big bucks, suave and sophisticated, smooth with the ladiesI'm thinking of a rap star who has recently come into money, Derek Jeter or Darryl Strawberry' (US African American males aged 25 35) 'I see thick, red, soft carpets with water fountains of brandy, beautiful women and fashionablelooking men There is a queen in a castle with guards, a lot of tradition, the medieval age It is a big planet with people wearing burgundy robes, in an exclusive nightclub, dimlit, elderly, classy, unhurried time with classical music' It is a farm, a nice place, green, vineyards, people eating baguettes and cheese, it's better than the planet Jinro (Korean white spirit), classier and tastier' (Japanese males aged 30 45) Whilst consumers in the United States perceive Hennessy to be at the pinnacle of cutting edge fashion, the kind of brand consumed by the latest music and sporting icons, the aspirations of Japanese consumers focus on a much more traditional image of the brand, driven by notions of heritage and terroir. But the source of the fragmentation for the Hennessy brand lies much deeper than simple cultural differences, although these are clearly complicated by the fact that the brand's core consumers are not only found in different countries, but also in contrasting social strata within these countries. Whilst the average Hennessy consumer's income typically lies in the top quartile by revenue in its Asian markets, in the United States the mean household income of an AfricanAmerican cognac consumer is, at around US$ 43,000, some US$ 8,000 below the average household income of a general market adult beverage drinker income.
Diverging Notions of Luxury
In addition, Hennessy has to confront notions of 'luxury' that diverge from market to market. Many of Hennessy's Asian and emerging markets are still typified by a 'luxmania', almost a schizophrenia created by economic prosperity interspersed between periods of crisis. Newly well off, but uncertain about the future, consumers feel an absolute need to show that they are successful. This translates into bulimic and ostentatious consumption patterns. For the Asian consumer, largely motivated to purchase luxury goods for 'outerdirected' notions of status, the Hennessy brand is a badge, the XO bottle an icon to be placed on the table whilst drinking to demonstrate to others the elevated social position of the individual; it is
equally a gift to buy favour amongst key business contacts. This same trend drove the Japanese cognac market to boom in the early 1990s, as cognac volumes more than doubled from 6.6 million bottles in 1984 to 15.9 million bottles in 1991; before the economic bubble burst reducing the conspicuous consumption of cognac and deflating its volumes to below 1984 levels in 2001. Will the newly flourishing cognac markets of China, Russia and Korea, already substantially shaken by the crises of 199899 follow the same path or will new definitions of luxury be adopted that will offer new opportunities to Hennessy? Indeed, in Japan, although cognac volumes continue to decline, new patterns in luxury goods are already being identified. With economic uncertainty restricting personal expenditure, consumers are seeking a new balance between their careers and their personal lives, with an emphasis placed on realism. More consistency and quality is being demanded from brands, more thought being put into the purchase act, and brand choice is becoming more selective. Luxury goods are still highly desirable, as the continuing shining performance of the Louis Vuitton brand bears witness, but consumers are demanding that luxury goods offer good value for money, like any other product. But unlike a FMCG, the added value of a luxury good is not found in terms of its material performance, 'washing whiter' or 'lasting even longer', but in terms of its immaterial added value. These are notions of heritage, origins and rarity, which make the consumer feel that they have exercised their refined taste and accumulated knowledge to find the best possible product. Repositioning the Hennessy brand as a connoisseur brand, rather than as a purely status brand is a long process, as discussed in the paper given to the Esomar Qualitative conference by OllivierLamarque, Herbert and Carpentier, but tapping into the deeprooted needs of the luxury goods consumer is essential if Hennessy is to continue to be a player in the Japanese market. Notions of luxury are no longer bound integrally to the product itself. The wider experience surrounding the consumption of a product can now outweigh the value of the product itself. For the Irish consumer, drinking Hennessy VS by the glass, the notion of luxury sought is temporal, a break from the ordinary, a means of savouring a moment in time for relaxation and enjoying the company of friends. As one of the pivotal brands within the LVMH group, Hennessy must confront the different manifestations of the luxury world head on more than any of its competitors, for the eyes of the world's investors are clearly focused on its every step and its strategic interpretation of the trends in the luxury market reflect on the whole strategy of the group. The latest trends reveal two almost contradictory themes. The first is that of the democratisation of luxury. In the search for a wider consumer base, luxury goods' companies literally must descend into the street in order to reach new consumers. Louis Vuitton's megastores welcome any consumer that aspires to the exclusivity that its products offer. Hennessy, in redefining the cognac category in Europe with Pure White, is trying to bring the full style of the cognac moment to a much wider consumer base. With a revolutionary packaging more typical of a white spirit, a more approachable, lighter taste developed specifically for consumption in mixed drinks and cocktails and a price position well below that of traditional cognacs, Hennessy hopes to make cognac more accessible to the younger European consumer who has struggled with the historical image of the product, but who aspires to be seen with the latest 'in' drink in the style bars of Paris, Madrid and London. Running counter to this trend is another movement, this towards a resurgence of inaccessible luxury, not at all meant for the hands of the aspirational luxury goods consumer. These are products that are marketed by their rarity, expensiveness and exclusivity. In the world of cognac, or of perfume, we have thus seen the creation of prestigious limited editions, often with numbered certificates guaranteeing their exclusivity. Their distribution is tightly controlled and they are communicated only to a very few privileged clients. Hennessy Private Reserve is a recreation of the cognac created in 1873 by Emile Fillioux for the Hennessy family's private collection. Now available for purchase, in a limited edition, each bottle is individually labelled and marked with an exclusive serial number. It targets the cognac connoisseur who takes immense pleasure in discovering an authentic cognac of the utmost finesse.
Hennessy's Product Range
To the opposing forces of different countries' cultures, exaggerated by the economic backgrounds of Hennessy's core consumers within these different countries and their respective notions of luxury, we can add a final layer of complexity to the Hennessy brand, derived from the variations in Hennessy's product range that have developed in its different markets. Hennessy's core range of VS, VSOP and XO accords to the strict quality appellations defined by the cognac appellation.
VS or 'Very Special' is made up of predominately young and already structured eauxdevie, but all have been aged for at least two years; VSOP or 'Very Special Old Pale' is a complex blend of around 60 eauxdevie and sets itself apart by the presence of subtle eauxdevie from La Grande Champagne and La Petite Champagne delimited regions of Cognac; XO or 'extra Old' is composed from around a hundred eauxdevie, all of which have been aged for at least six years, and some for up to approaching thirty years. Thanks to the tannins in the young oak wood barrels that are used for the ageing, its taste is rich and strong.
Hennessy VS accounts for around twothirds of all Hennessy's sales, but outside of the United States and Ireland, it is a product that is little known to consumers. Hennessy VSOP is dominant in Hennessy's Asian markets, but the VSOP Privilege brand found in South East Asia and the VSOP Fine Champagne brand found in the Japanese market have little in common for their consumers a different blend of cognac, with a different taste, different bottles and a price that is up to three times higher in Japan. Hennessy VSOP Privilege is likewise available in the United States, but in the last year has been replaced in continental Europe by a VSOPquality product, but one that no longer bears the VSOP appellation. Having identified that the cognac quality labelling system not only confused European consumers, it was a source of discontent since the quality of competing brands VSOPs could vary widely in price and quality, Hennessy Fine de Cognac attempts to break out of the old grading system and communicate to consumers through a product name that is more original and more easily understood. Hennessy XO is a common thread in all of Hennessy's markets, although the appreciation for this highgrade quality cognac is far more widespread in Asia than elsewhere and the large majority of Hennessy's XO sales are concentrated in China, Japan, Taiwan and Hong Kong.
To the Hennessy core range must then be added the Prestige Range of cognacs, Paradis Extra, Richard Hennessy, Private Reserve and Timeless, destined for the cognac connoisseur, the newlydeveloped PureWhite in certain European markets, countryspecific references such as Classique in Japan and a range of Duty Free special products. Together, the fullrange of products constitutes the public face of Hennessy, but their coexistence, and specific characteristics (often poorly understood by all but the most connoisseur of consumers) serves largely to further fragment the brand's image.
Progressing the Brand
Hennessy has always been driven by product excellence combined with commercial tenacity but the brand has now reached a stage where careful handling of its fragmented image is needed. In today's global and sophisticated environment, consumers cannot be exposed to messages that are so different that they become confusing. This is possibly damaging to the brand equity. As David Lewis and Darren Bridger explain in 'The soul of the new consumer', increasing demands are made on consumers and getting share of attention demands that a relationship based on trust is established with a brand. This is especially important in the context of a prestige brand and sending a mix of differing messages as is the case today with Hennessy undermines this trust. What is a consumer to believe? Learning is available from brands that have succeeded but also from brands that have not. A paradox has to be dealt with in the Luxury market. Luxury is about selectivity, yet as more and more consumers are exposed to a brand the danger is for its personality to become diluted. Brands such as Pierre Cardin have been so widely available that they have lost their specialness. Brands such as Wedgwood also seem to have chosen to expend into areas far away from their expertise (from Jasperware teapots to leather handbags) which in time may prove to be a costly diversification. Therefore one key learning emerges with regards to what makes a strong luxury brand (and that can be extended outside the luxury sector): a strong brand is a brand that offers consumer recognition rather than confusion. And Hennessy, as already illustrated, does offer its fair share of confusion. However, Hennessy is aware that homogeneity is not the solution either, as currently cultural differences are so anchored in perceptions of the brand. Clearly Hennessy speaks different languages in all corners of the globe, and also at a purely human level, as each consumer can have five or six different personalities with regards to alcohol. As a result of this, the Hennessy marketing thinking follows a 'convergence' model. There is awareness that given the current situation the challenge of finding a common positioning platform for the brand is neither achievable nor desirable. How could a young AfricanAmerican rapper relate to the same brand communication as a mature Japanese businessman or a Russian consumer? This is where qualitative research comes to play. Qualitative research is an enlightener and is viewed as such at Hennessy. Of course adhoc needs come up that must be met with precise answers. Yet further understanding of what the strength of qualitative research is means that Hennessy commission work with a view to giving further assistance to the brand's development.
Uniqueness of Qualitative Research
David Ogilvy once said, 'Companies often misuse research. They use research as a drunkard uses a lamppost, for support and not for illumination'. Hennessy has understood this both in the context of quantitative and qualitative research. When quantitative research is commissioned, precise answers to a list of clearly defined questions are requested. How many people consume Privilege? What is the price elasticity of Pure White? What is the size of the VSOP market vs. the XO market? The final objective internally is to validate that an ad is working, that a product is selling, to check whether the weight in brand values is shifting. Yet the limitations of quantitative research are also clear. What if a new brand value emerges that needs tracking. Isn't that when qualitative research comes to point it out? For example, a qualitative project took place in Japan last year that aimed at researching a series of possible brand propositions. Further to meeting the objective of giving guidance on the propositions, we found that suitability for drinking in female company was also a key element of what the Hennessy brand stood for in the Japanese consumer's mind (particularly in the competitive light of single malt whiskies). This element ('a brand that creates a nice atmosphere with women') was subsequently added to the list of dimensions present in the continuous tracking. This example shows that whilst quantitative research provides clients with reassurance it is not the role of qualitative research. As we see it, qualitative research is a door opener. It does not put lids on mental boxes; it must feel free to provoke, to bash open doors.
Qualitative Research at Its Best When Provocative!
There is a role for qualitative research past reportage that no longer needs defending. It is now we hope common belief that the best qualitative research understands that consumers do not always know what is good for them and that their response should be taken at everything but face value. Hennessy has just launched in Europe a new cognac called Fine de Cognac. A classic programme of positioning research was first put in place that was subsequently used to write an advertising brief. One of the key elements of this brief was as follows:
Key Brand Promise
'Hennessy Fine de Cognac is a true and satisfying drinking experience: a drinking ritual where a unique symphony of sensual aromas and tastes heightens all your senses' A series of press executions were researched in Europe and the main objective was to check whether the execution of the strategy was doing it justice. On the whole it was. Consumers endorsed the concept with great enthusiasm across markets and typologies. Yet many executions had been developed and we were to give guidance with regards to those that held most potential to be progressed prior to being researched quantitatively. A couple of executions were consistently well received and were the 'easy answer' we did not want to give. One of the executions was rejected across the board. The following words were used to describe it: dark, sombre, mystical, scary there was talk of death and burials needless to say this was totally off brief. Yet we knew that the central device of the ad was the analogy of the candle and Fine de Cognac. We therefore got consumers to talk about their associations with a candle. In the context of the ad they had been exposed to, the candle was consistently described as a funereal, backwards device. Yet we knew that outside this context and even if consumers were not willing to admit it the symbol was communicating many of the brand values we wanted to put across: indulgent, sensual, relaxing, warming, comforting, possibly romantic. A candle is central to a luxurious ritual, intimate and subtle, so is Fine de Cognac. We therefore went totally against all groups and recommended pursuing this execution, knowing that even if appeal and communication had been weak, there was a way of flipping the situation over. 'Candle' is now a key execution in the Fine de Cognac launch campaign and the idea has actually been stretched further into belowtheline territory. A Fine de Cognac scented candle now available to both the trade and consumers supports the ad but also taps into a new trend. Actually, many companies have now realised that their brands can be further strengthened if the olfactive dimension of what they represent can be tapped into. As such olfactive communication is a new trend, brands like Club Med have decided to exploit. Postcards bought in Club Med shops are specially scented with a view to provoking further escapist imageries and anticipation in the recipient's mind who is not travelling. Not believing consumers is therefore a luxury of qualitative research. Another luxury of qualitative research is to have the possibility to gather random information with the belief that one day they will make sense and maybe will become a key brand insight.
From a Random Piece of Information to Insight
Hennessy like many brands does not have the luxury of commissioning global exploratory research programmes. Rather qualitative research is commissioned to answer ad hoc needs (packaging, new product launch, etc.), yet it is requested to inform the bigger picture, the actual medium term development of the brand. Hence if each project is a tree, the wood is what must be borne in mind at the end of the day. The brand is fragmented and any answer has to feed into its shortterm tactical development alongside the brand's strategic progression, the 'soft convergence' mentioned earlier. On each project we therefore always have questions at the back of our mind. Are there elements coming from consumers that remind us of anything noticed in another country, on another project? Are there subtle commonalities that can be picked up, further validated and ultimately tapped into? This 'open eye' strategy has actually paid off when one of the commonalities we picked up became an insight. Across projects we always have a question that revolves more or less in depth around cognac consumption and what it provides at an emotional level. Each time the experience is explored we have noticed that suddenly across cultures consumers stop talking with their voice only, nonverbal cues come up which are highly powerful. As such whether in Moscow or in New York consumers will take their hand out, holding an imaginary glass and they will start swirling it, in anticipation of the aroma to come out and envelop them. The power of this gesture is that it is still anchored in the category imagery, whether cognac is drunk neat or mixed. Hennessy and cognac is not unique in that many categories or brands offer their own gesture. As such work on Nescaf has given us the opportunity to witness countless numbers of consumers suddenly lifting up their hands to surround an imaginary warm cup whilst talking ... totally unconsciously. Similar reflexes have been noticed on Baileys where consumers suddenly run their fingers on their throats whilst talking about the drinking experience. Yet what the cognac gesture gave us was an insight to tap into when communicating. It allowed us to understand that cognac is not a static, onedimensional drink. It becomes the pleasurable experience it is when in movement in the glass, regardless of the need state at that moment. As such, as soon as the movement is noticed, a wealth of desirable associations come up that create the desired Pavlovian effect of mouths watering. The multisensoriality of cognac comes across: it is not just to be drunk, what makes it special is that it is also to be looked at, played with, smelt. This is what makes it a total experience. We knew that the evolution of the brand needed a platform, a launch area from which the brand would be comfortable and that consumers would get excited about without being too destabilised. We are talking cognac, we are talking luxury. We also knew that we needed a symbol that could transcend cultures and language barriers. We had to bear in mind that verbalisation is often a barrier to consumers picking up on a brand sign, a problem so key in Hong Kong, for example, that a CDRom and a guide to brand name pronunciations has been developed by Eunice Lam so that people would not make fools of themselves in society mispronouncing Vuitton and Chanel. Was the swirl this evolutionary catalyst? We subsequently treated it for a while as an addon to other qualitative work and as a result uncovered that the potential of the swirl was strong enough to help deal with the problematic fragmentation of the brand and to contribute to the desired brand convergence. More precisely, the continuity of the process further informed the development of the launch of Fine De Cognac. It led to the mandatory inclusion of the swirl in the launch campaign visuals.
Qualitative Research is Subtle
Qualitative research is therefore about subtlety and flexibility and this is what makes it meet many of the Hennessy needs so clearly. It also informs how they need to be assisted when research abroad is conducted. Expectedly, from a brand that has decided to develop an evolutionary rather than a revolutionary approach to deal with its fragmentation, multicultural brand decisions are made that ensure that the brand will not suffer from them and qualitative research methodologies follow that pattern. As such advertising research is still very much a local affair, yet projects such as gift pack design call for multicountry projects. Gift packs are not only available locally: a huge amount of the business comes from duty free shops at airports by foreigners about to go back to their home country. Visual consistency across the globe is key. Regardless of the international vs. local nature of the project, though, a key mantra is followed. No research is to be conducted that does not respect cultural differences. And, as aforementioned, cultural differences are huge as far as Hennessy is concerned. The result is an interesting mix of moderating styles used across typologies of consumers. In the United States, young black rappers drink cognac to show they have made it and can afford luxury brands. Hennessy there competes with brands such as Cristal Roederer, 'bling bling' brands to use the street term favoured by many hiphop stars (think Moschino, Tommy Hilfiger and lowslung jeans). Hennessy consumers are hormonally wild, they want to pull and this needs to be taken into consideration when moderating. They need a cool moderating style that will make them feel valued as consumers and heavily flirting with them has proved to be the most powerful means of maintaining their attention and ensuring their cooperation. If we look at Japan though, Hennessy is a stamp to show status as a powerful/successful businessman. The usual consumption context is one of intimacy where a man sips cognac whilst sharing tales of his life hardships or achievements with an attentive hostess. Therefore men are used to drinking cognac surrounded by women listening to them. Replicating this hostess attitude is key, yet gaining respect as the moderator is also important. This makes the 'Mamasan' the ideal moderator. This is why, even in a heavily male world, a mature female moderator is best chosen. She displays maturity, understanding, and shows respect, yet can be authoritative. A third example would be France where again the situation is totally different. France is the home of cognac and this is something consumers are proud of. Therefore a lot of posturing is encountered in groups where consumers revel in taking the higherground of the expert role, with or without foundation. Reinforcing this pride can be a way of ensuring cooperation. For example, when the moderator allow consumers to take the highground of expertise, consumers are made more confident (hence more comfortable) and assertive in their comments. That said, inconsistent levels of knowledge also come up as an issue to deal with in groups, and no screening can really deal with that at the recruitment stage. Attitudes towards one's own knowledge vary and the real connoisseur is not always the one who claims to be. This can potentially lead to a situation of intimidation of the Luddite by the real or selfproclaimed expert. And this is when the moderator needs to come across as authoritative in his/her knowledge of cognac so as to control a leading voice. Indepth expertise is key to show a soft, to the point knowledge when needed. Boosting confidence and pride whilst firmly shutting up experts is the fine balance to find. Finally Qualitative research offers unique benefits. It offers flexibility of 'mental gymnastics'. Whilst quantitative research is excellent when precise, qualitative research benefits most from being supple. Qualitative research does not offer the same type of reassurance. We have all been in debriefs where our findings have been disputed for their lack of validation. However, the fact that we cannot put fingers on and ascertain facts is a strength. The key strength of qualitative research is that it does not validate yet it challenges, provokes, and opens doors ... as long as we keep our eyes and ears open. Ultimately, qualitative research we feel is of great value to fragmented brands. Whilst quantitative research is a differentiator, qualitative research can be a federator, which is what a fragmented brand needs. Differences need to be taken into account but they are a snapshot of a situation and not the solutions to it. We feel that quantitative research has a diagnostic role whilst qualitative can inform the curative process. And this is what makes it a great glue to fragmented brands.
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NOTES & EXHIBITS
TABLE 1: LEADING PREMIUM SPIRITS BRANDS BY SALES VOLUME AND RETAIL VALUE
Source: Impact Databank
TABLE 2: MARKET AND CONSUMER CONTEXT
Source: IWSR 2001, Hennessy estimates, Hennessy Brand Evaluation Monitor (Research International, AMI, Behaviour and Attitudes)
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