Wanted ! What happened to the Remy V by Remy Martin?

Marketing strategy & sensory marketing

I) A launch that makes an impression (2010)

In August 2010, the House of Remy Martin announced the launch of a new product called Remy Martin V, designed to compete with vodka and gin in the white spirits segment, which is experiencing a new golden age with the rise of mixology in the USA.

To do this, a 'no aged distilled grape spirits' is created, i.e. a wine eau-de-vie, not aged, too young to be a brandy or a cognac. For Vincent Géré, the Director of Rémy Martin Cognacs and Domaines, the aim "is to have an innovative spirit with the potential to mix" [...] "It became clear that we had a role to play." (Cognac Daily News, 25 May 2011).

With the exception of the ageing process, the production of Remy V is in every way similar to that of the brand's cognac, with its grapes coming from the heart of the estates (ugni blanc de Grande et Petite Champagnes), selected by hand at the beginning of each harvest and the wine distilled on the lees in a Charentais still. The wine is also cold filtered to preserve the character of the grapes. That being said, it looks like this white brandy has Ciroc grape-based vodka in its sights.

For these different reasons, Remy V is deliberately assimilated to the brandies of the Remy Martin cognac house and not to those of the Saint Remy brandy for example. The idea is to take advantage of the aura of the Marque au Centaure and to benefit from its know-how to anchor it in an ultra-premium segment.

 

 

In fact, the announcement is spectacular in more ways than one! Firstly, the bottle is identical to the iconic Remy VSOP and in doing so, underlines a family link with the cognac range. Moreover, where previous creations such as 'Remy Silver', 'Remy Red' or Remy Space saw the name of the brand set back in order to distinguish it from traditional cognacs, this latest one bears the name 'Remy Martin V'.

As for the letter V, it refers to the word 'vie' in 'eau-de-vie' in French. But this is not obvious to everyone. For some, the V seems to indicate a new mention of ageing (or rather non-ageing) like VS, VSOP and XO. This is the mistake made by some journalists or distributors who speak of a 'clear cognac'. And it is precisely this point which will bring Remy V into a turbulent zone and force the communication around the identity of the product to be tightened up with its new slogan 'clearly interresting', 'Introducing the new clear spirit from the house of Remy Martin'.

The following month, the first parties were organised in San Francisco and Atlanta as a trial to check the reception of the spirit by consumers and bartenders. This dress rehearsal anticipates the marketing of the spirit in the USA in 2011.


II) Passage of arms at Cognac City (2010-2011)

Once the shock effect has worn off, the start of the new year in 2010 promises to be stormy in Cognac with the first reactions coming from the BNIC, accompanied by a few spicy articles in the newspapers, which is rather rare in our Charente region. The Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac, which represents, develops and protects the Appellation d'The eponymous Origine Contrôlée is not failing in its mission and is studying the Remy V case with a business lawyer. In the meantime, it asked Rémy Martin, then number 2 in the industry, to stop marketing the product, claiming that there was a risk of confusion with cognac. There is even talk of 'consumer deception'. This is refuted by Patrick Pianat, the new general manager of the cognac house for barely a year. And he reminds us in passing that Remy V is not a cognac and does not fall under the jurisdiction of the BNIC...

 

 

The director of the BNIC, Bernard Guionnet, was a well-known figure in the wine industry and the first director at the head of the office who was not a senior civil servant. A man of dialogue, he nevertheless embodies the role of protector of the cognac appellation and is even considering creating a code of good conduct to avoid "borderline" experiments. However, he recognizes that Remy Martin is trying to provide an answer to the spirits competing with cognac, which tempers the exchanges White spirits are a hit in the United States. We are fed up with being cut down by vodkas or gins sold for 45 euros, which are sometimes from the region, like Grey Goose. "(Sud Ouest, 21 December 2010)

However, in the eyes of the BNIC, Remy V cannot claim to be a solution adapted to the cognac sector to keep up with premium vodkas and gin. The same applies to the winegrowers who supply Remy Martin and who are worried about seeing the image of their spirit deteriorate. Are we considering modifying the specifications by adding a new mention of (non) ageing in order to create a new category of younger cognac ? Other cognac houses have already tried to convince the BNIC in the 1990s, in particular with a 12 month old Extra Young Cognac. In vain...

On this subject, Bernard Guionnet speaks of "an additional outlet" (Sud Ouest, December 21, 2010), which suggests that this issue could have been addressed internally (which is what the BNIA has been doing with the blanche d'armagnac and its double 0 count since 2005). Unfortunately, his death occurred in April 2011 and the debate seems to have been put aside since then.

 

III) An irresistible rise (2011-2013)

As expected, Remy V continues its development in a few US states and arrives in New York and Chicago. However, the first questions arise among informed consumers as to its price positioning compared to Remy Martin VSOP, respectively $40 and $42. And consequently, to understand why a 'unaged' product is at the same price as a 4 year old cognac ? (Today, the change in regulations allows VSOP to be aged for 5 years)

This doesn't take away from the craze for Remy V, which meets a first big success with the placement of the bottle in the video of the RNB queen Kelly Rowland in August 2011 and which is seen more than 9 million times on the internet. Then in a club and latino register, the Remy V appears in the energetic track of Jennifer Lopez & Flo Rida 'Goin' In' in June 2012.

 

Kelly Rowland feat Big Sean 'Lay It On Me' (2011)
Jennifer Lopez 'Goin' In' (2012)

 

The two tracks did not achieve international success but reached #9 and #11 on the US charts respectively. And that's the most important thing because Remy V is specifically a clear spirit aimed at the African-American audience and mixology.

The roll-out seems to be well underway with an even greater success the following year: its placement in the global hit 'Blurred Line' by Robin Thicke & Pharrell Williams released in June 2013 and which truly marked its time. The video was a real springboard for Remy V and few French spirits will have had such a high profile in the music industry as our Charentais wine brandy.

 

Robin Thicke & Pharrell Williams 'Blurred Line' (2013)
Robin Thicke 'Give It To You' (2013)

 

However, spirits are not high in the venerable cognac house because the news from China is bad. The anti-corruption law has caused a spectacular fall in cognac sales and has particularly affected Remy Martin. Finally, the group's strategy is being called into question and we learn of the departure of the CEO in January 2014.

The question is what will happen to our Remy V in such circumstances?

 

IV) Stopping or new strategy? (2014-2021)

The arrival of General Manager Eric Viallat changed the situation. He instilled a new strategy at Remy Martin by applying the codes of luxury, which resulted in a general move upmarket around its flagship product, Louis XIII. The quest for value also concerns Remy Martin VS and VSOP in the USA, so what about the existence of a Remy V in these conditions?

At first, the organization of events continued throughout 2014, then the communication gradually died out in 2015, as if they were trying to sell the last available stocks before stopping the supply. Since then, it is radio silence and many people, even in Charente, think that the Remy V does not exist anymore. However, it is still on sale in the USA and Canada!

Also, a restyling of the bottle is being done in 2017! Which is surprising for a product on the verge of extinction. But don't expect to find one in the Remy Martin shop in Cognac. There is Club cognac for the Asian markets which cannot be found elsewhere in France but no Remy V on the shelves. This decision seems to stem from an agreement with the winegrowers : as it is not a cognac, it cannot be sold either in France or in the boutique. So it disappeared from the radar in the eyes of the Charente.

 

2017 Restyling

 

As for the redesign of the bottle, it aims to correct a few intrinsic weaknesses of the original version: firstly, it aims to give the product more impact at the point of sale by making it easier to distinguish between the brand name, the name of the product ('V' now in red) and its denomination, which now indicates 'eau-de-vie de vin'. The second step is to give it an even stronger personality.

 

50ml
375ml

 

Thus the rebranding is part of the general move upmarket that Remy Martin has been making on its products since the mid-2010s. Today, Remy V is sold at the same price as VSOP cognac, for example $38 per 750ml bottle at Total Wine.

As the Remy Cointreau group experiences strong growth in the US and sees its positioning as a leader in exceptional spirits bear fruit, it will be interesting to see how the marketing of Remy V will fit into its product portfolio in the near future.

 

 

JÉRÔME SAVOYE


 

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