‘Directionless’ Bacardi heading for a cliff, writes former exec

19th June, 2015 by Neal Baker

Bacardi is “plagued” by “fundamental issues” that are pushing it “off the business cliff”, one of the company’s former regional presidents has said in a blistering public attack.

Rob-McPherson

Rob McPherson, the former president of Bacardi Canada, called on the chairman to “address the fundamental issues that plague your company”

Posting an open letter to chairman Facundo Bacardi on social media, Rob McPherson, the former president of Bacardi Canada, gave a scathing criticism of the world’s largest family-owned spirits company, claiming that its recent managerial reorganisation left him “compelled” to speak publicly.

“As Bacardi now sits with its 4th CEO and 6th CMO incarnation in the past 9 years, you need to address the fundamental issues that plague your company, before it goes off the business cliff,” he wrote, continuing, “believe me when I say, it can and it will.”

Commenting on the letter, Leonardo Levinas, who claims to be a former marketing manager at Bacardi Martini Uruguay, said that McPherson has echoed “the same feelings that we had”.

He wrote, “In Uruguay, you can write a manual of how to dynamite a successful and beloved company, from inside. It’s really sad.”

Levinas, who says he worked for Bacardi for 12 years, even questioned the integrity of the company’s leadership, saying, “The problem is simple, lack of honesty at some high positions. The rest are the symptoms.”

Bacardi has declined to comment.

‘Directionless approach’

McPherson, who spent nine years at Bacardi that he says he “thoroughly enjoyed”, wrote that the company does not have an advantage over its competitors in any aspect of the business.

“Tax structure is not a competitive advantage. Passion is not a competitive advantage. Competitive advantage is rooted in strategy – what is it that Bacardi does better than its competitive set?… At this point, I do not believe it has any,” he wrote.

Bacardi is directionless in its business approach, its passion is causing it to act “impatiently”, and it takes its customers for granted by “developing the message that it wants to hear, not developing a message that its target consumer wants to hear”, according to the former executive.

He scornfully highlighted Bacardi’s “Fly Beyond” campaign for its luxury vodka brand Grey Goose in order to make the latter point: “Grey Goose “Fly Beyond” has been executed as a campy, French-mocking low brow television spot that has lost all of the sophisticated, confident luxury that… led the brand to market leadership,” he wrote.

‘Match accountability with responsibility’

On Tuesday (16 June), Bacardi announced that its chief marketing officer, Dima Ivanov, was quitting the company after just six months in the role.

Bacardi said that Ivanov’s departure was directly related to its management restructuring, which is seeing marketing duties devolved to two regional managers, who will also have global responsibilities for some of the company’s brands – such as Martini, Grey Goose and Bacardi rum – divided between them.

Bacardi also announced it was creating a “head of creative excellence” role, in tandem with a new “head of fashion”, which was unveiled last month. All of the new positions report directly to CEO Mike Dolan.

McPherson attacked this restructuring head-on in his letter, writing that the company should organise its business “to match accountability with responsibility,” and criticised the new chain of command. “Do not have Creative and Fashion reporting to the CEO – these are brand-building functionalities and should report to the CMO [chief marketing officer],” he wrote.

One Response to “‘Directionless’ Bacardi heading for a cliff, writes former exec”

  1. Rob McPherson says:

    While I must admit, I never expected a LinkedIn posting to strike such a powerful and unifying chord, I am hopeful the level of exposure will lead to the positive change that this once great Company and its employees, deserve. I will certainly watch with interest, in hopes the senior management team has the confidence to admit their mistakes, and address them.

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