Ms. Pauline D. Cha has been appointed Managing Director of Campari China, in charge of the Group’s brands in one of the fastest-growing markets.
Ms. Pauline D. Cha | Managing Director of Campari, China
With extensive experiences within the industry, excellent leadership and innovative spirit, Ms. Cha has profound knowledge in China’s premium drink market. Previously she was the General Manager of Brown-Forman China, spearheading the business development of company’s iconic brand Jack Daniel’s. She holds a Bachelor and Master Degree from Cornell University US. Since 2006, she started her career in China with a senior position at PepsiCo Foods China, overlooking the marketing, new channel development and Lay’s brand management.
Since joining Campari Group China in January 2021 as GM of Marketing and New Business, Ms. Cha has worked in operational and strategic roles in launching a series of successful marketing & sales campaigns including Bisquit & Dubouché’s artist crossover, celebrity ambassadorship for X-Rated and global inaugural auction for The Glen Grant 60 YO.
ML: What makes you devoted to the wine and spirits industry?
PC: I am a marketer by trade. I joined the industry as the Director of Marketing for Brown-Forman. I had never heard of Brown-Forman then, and had no interest in the spirits industry. But then they said the flagship brand is Jack Daniel’s! Now coming from the US, of course, we all know how iconic Jack is. So that’s the story: I walked into the industry for the opportunity to work on an iconic brand built on authenticity, independence, and integrity; I simply wanted to introduce Jack to Chinese consumers.
And I stayed because it’s fun: Campari has so many wonderful brands to bring people together in joyful moments, whether it be in a high-energy bar, experimenting with different cocktails, or enjoying meals with friends and family.
ML: What are the main transformation & changes in the industry you have experienced so far?
PC: Now there’s a real concerted effort on responsible consumption; “drink responsibly” is no longer just a slogan, but a way of promoting your products and a way of doing business, especially as younger people who seek a healthier lifestyle enter the business. And of course, we are seeing more and more women in the industry, but more so in the wine industry, I feel. In Spirits, I hope to see more women in positions of leadership, especially on the sales and commercial side of the business.
ML: Who influenced you most when you first entered into spirits business?
PC: I honestly cannot think of anyone specific off the top of my head. I was more influenced by the team, especially in Sales, as they made me aware that “Every top-down policy has its own bottom-up counter measure,” so I have to think more holistically. It has influenced the way I lead, the degree to which I trust, and the approach I take in terms of networking and relationship building.
ML: You have lived in two cultures – with Chinese (HK) origin but study and work in North America / Asia, what are the main “culture shock” in the drink business when you firstly came to China?
PC: My parents are from China, but I was born and raised abroad actually. My father taught us that “fallen leaves return to their roots” so here I am. Prior to coming to China in 2006, all my experience had been in the US, and none in spirits. Even so, there was no “culture shock” per se; being here, on this land, was a warm sense of coming home. Insofar as “culture shock” in the spirits business, well, it was just the way of doing business in general, including channel diversity, concept of “sponsored outlets”, and bottle consumption norm in modern on trade.
ML: What do you think of Chinese baijiu? Do you consider Baijiu is an obstacle or main competitor that imported spirits are facing today?
PC: I think Baijiu is quite interesting, being the largest spirits category in the world, but consumed only in one country; it just shows how immense this market is. It is an acquired taste and I’ve grown quite fond of Baijiu and it is true that it pairs really well with Chinese cuisine. No, I do not consider it to be a competitor to imported spirits; for consumers, it is another option for a different occasion, as everything has its place in the order of things. It is the national spirit of China, and I respect that. It is about culture, not business.
ML: Today many wine and spirits brands put more emphasis on environment protection and sustainability, the latter is also our annual theme. Will Campari group or has it initiated such actions in terms of products / consumption?
PC: As a company, Campari Group operates according to criteria of social responsibility and sustainability in the management of its business activities; we consider them to be an integral driver of our company’s growth.
Here in China, for instance, as we know, gifting is an important custom and certainly, Chinese New Year and Mid-Autumn Festival are two key occasions. For our key brands, we have begun to develop occasion-appropriate festive sleeves that go over our regular packaging instead of entire new packaging that gets discarded after opening. For other gift packs, we are going for functional designs that can be repurposed for other use.
ML: China is a market with full potential. In terms of geographic focus and consumer profile, what is(are) the next trend(s) in your opinion?
PC: Given the uncertainty of current environment, home consumption has got to be at the top of the list for trends. That has a great deal of implications in terms of how we sell (direct to consumers) and where we sell (eCommerce primarily), and it is not limited by geography. Even when we recover from COVID, the habit of home consumption, I believe, will remain to a large extent.
ML: What you enjoyed most in your career? The biggest challenge you have encountered as a woman in the industry? What drives you keep going?
PC: What I enjoy most in my career, and I consider myself a marketer first and foremost, is of course the creative side of things, the “Aha!” moments when great ideas are born. In my spirits career, I’d say I enjoy the challenges; things are never what they seem and you have to peel away the layers and seek to build relationships based on trust and respect. In the process, you test yourself and learn about people, and what keeps me going is being true to myself.
ML: What are the main distinguishing merits / qualities in women attributing to the career success?
PC: Perseverance. A fearless can-do attitude. Resilience. And to reach positions of leadership, Empathy.
ML: Any Advice to your peers?
PC: I suppose I’d have different answers at different stages in my life and career. But as I look back now, I’d say there are no short cuts; always choose to do the right thing. And I’ve always liked the saying “In a world where you can be anything, be kind.” So be sharp in your decisions, but let kindness guide your actions. There is no greater impact than that.
ML: What will you do, if you are no longer in drink business one day?
PC: If I were no longer in the drinks business today, I’d probably be chilling out in random travel spots on my bucket list, translating and reciting poetry I like, finding joy in play on words, while nurturing followers on my official accounts.
ML: Who will you recommend us to interview as the next WWS figure?
PC: Madame Luo Xiao Rong, the Board Director of China Region Association of Keeper of the Quaich, or Phoebe Han, owner of the bar Healer in Shanghai.
Campari Group is a major player in the global spirits industry, with a portfolio of over 50 premium and super premium brands, including Aperol, Campari, X-Rated, SKYY, Wild Turkey, The Glen Grant, Bisquit & Dubouché and Grand Marnier. Headquartered in Sesto San Giovanni, Italy, Campari Group was founded in 1860 and today is the 6th largest player worldwide in the premium spirits industry. Listed on the Italian Stock Exchange, it has a global distribution reach, trading in over 190 nations.
IMAGES | CAMPARI CHINA