Campari America VP Melanie Batchelor: “The further I advance in my career, the move I value finding a mentor”

The further I advance in my career, the move I value finding a mentor. My mentor, Simon Lowden at PepsiCo., taught me not only about building brands, but also about finding ways to drive change from within an organization. He’s been an incredible resource for information and advice as well as a great example of […]

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The further I advance in my career, the move I value finding a mentor. My mentor, Simon Lowden at PepsiCo., taught me not only about building brands, but also about finding ways to drive change from within an organization. He’s been an incredible resource for information and advice as well as a great example of the kind mentor I strive to be for my team.

I had the pleasure to interview Melanie Batchelor, Vice President of Marketing at Campari America. Melanie “Mel” Batchelor is as passionate about mentoring the women in her organization as she is about cocktails. As Campari America’s Vice President of Marketing, Batchelor oversees the company’s U.S. portfolio of brands — from advertising and public relations to digital integration and influencer relations. But her role is far more expansive than just promoting spirits brands to the legal drinking age masses. As a female executive in a predominately male-driven industry, Batchelor is aware of her responsibility to both deliver strong results and foster a diverse, inclusive and supportive environment. She inherently understands the importance of leading by example, and encourages leadership opportunities for women wherever and whenever possible. Early in her career, Mel realized the importance of female mentorship in the workplace. To wit, Mel recalls strong female role models in her career, such as Caroline Dempsey, Oral Goevarts and Lynn Power, the head of advertising agency J. Walter Thompson New York. These women have helped shape and define the leader Mel is today. Since taking on her current role, she has been instrumental in the global repositioning of Wild Turkey Bourbon. She’s also guided the team responsible for the colossal rise of the Aperol Spritz — a cocktail phenomenon in the spirits industry. Batchelor has held several roles at Gruppo Campari, including, Vice President, Global Spirits Brands, and Global Category Director — American Whiskey & Tequila and Marketing Director — Australia & Pacific. During her tenure, she led the growth plans for various brands, such as SKYY Vodka, Wild Turkey, American Honey, Glen Grant, and Espolòn Tequila. Prior to joining Gruppo Campari, Batchelor worked with PepsiCo in their Global HQ in Purchase NY as well in Asia and Europe. Her interests outside of the office include jogging, skiing, traveling and sipping Boulevardiers (equal parts Campari, Wild Turkey Bourbon and Cinzano Vermouth). A native of Australia, Mel splits her time between Austin and San Francisco, as she — like the many amazing women juggling a career and family — balances the challenges of having both an active personal and professional life. Asked which five, fearless women she would choose to dine with, Mel would choose Misty Copeland, Margaret Thatcher, Madonna, Indira Nooyi, and Sheryl Sandberg.

Thank you so much for doing this with us Melanie! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I always knew I wanted to work in the corporate world. I earned my bachelor’s degree in Marketing, attracted to its combination of art and science. I also felt drawn to the opportunity to help brands tell their story and to be a part of compelling campaigns that would engage and excite consumers.

I started my career in marketing at a small agency where, after I gained experience on several client teams, the leadership selected me to manage our Pepsi account, our largest client at the time.

I then moved from agency to client side, working directly for PepsiCo, and working my way up to European Marketing Director. In that role I worked with Pepsi worldwide, similar to the global collaboration I now experience with Campari Group, which I joined in 2011. Campari has provided an exciting opportunity to explore and work with the brand’s unique history and vertical reach.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

I lead U.S. Marketing at Campari Group, where I work with an extensive portfolio of premium spirits brands. This has led to many interesting experiences, though, I think the most interesting was the development of Wild Turkey Longbranch, a small batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey released last year. It took several years to develop Longbranch, which is a collaboration between Master Distiller Eddie Russell and actor Matthew McConaughey. The product represents the pair’s passion for authentic taste and their dedication to retaining the brand’s connection to their Kentucky and Texas roots. This really shows through and has resonated with consumers, with Longbranch experiencing the biggest launch in the U.S. whiskey category in 2018. We’re very proud of it.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I’ve made several mistakes, though I’m not sure they’re all funny! I once had to present a new campaign to the Pepsi South American Team, a campaign linked to our football platform. As I introduced the new Pepsi Dream Team lineup, comprised of some of the world’s top football players, I unfortunately mis-pronounced one of the players’ names, Kaka, which to Spanish speakers means something very different than in English. From then on, I learned to double check everything before presenting it — especially when my audience consists of 200 people!

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

As a marketer for Campari Group, I work with an amazing portfolio of unique brands, each with its own rich history, quality products and inspiring and passionate people behind them. This includes working with talent such as Jimmy and Eddie Russell, the master distillers behind Wild Turkey; Joy Spence, the master blender of Appleton Estate; and Denis Malcolm, master distiller of Glen Grant.

In particular, I think Aperol and the Aperol Spritz phenomenon stands out. It’s a brand that we have built collectively worldwide, with a consistent approach and strategy. What started as a small trend, led by bartenders in Venice, the Aperol Spritz has become one of the fastest-growing cocktails around the world. Being part of that journey has been fulfilling and exciting. We’ve been able to build the brand organically in the U.S., as it taps into many consumer trends. I have also learned a lot from the process and my fellow marketers in other countries.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

One thing I love about working for Campari Group is that our portfolio is filled with purpose-driven brands. I’m especially proud of SKYY Vodka’s “Proudly American” campaign, which celebrates the evolution of American values and champions a new generation, whose voice has helped reshape our country today.

Most recently, we launched a new initiative, #SparkChange, as a continuation of “Proudly American.” The social campaign asked consumers to post their inevitably bad Fourth of July firework photos to have a donation made to the National Diversity Council. This was a fun way to bring consumers into a conversation the brand values while partnering with a great cause.

Diversity and supporting progressive innovation and change is at the heart of the SKYY brand. SKYY Vodka has been a vocal supporter of LGBTQ+ rights since its launch in 1992 and has always sought to find inventive ways to champion the queer community. In 2002, SKYY was the very first spirit brand to release an advertisement featuring a lesbian couple. Over the years, SKYY has strived to go beyond standard corporate ally ship; for example, we have campaigned for anti-discrimination legislation designed to protect transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals and partnered with Amazon Prime’s groundbreaking Emmy award-winning show, “Transparent.” We recently supported WorldPride in NYC this June.

I am proud to work for a progressive brand that is constantly innovating how consumers connect with a spirits company.

What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?

If I reflect on my career, I wish I had a stronger mentor group in the earlier years of my career. The best advice I can offer female leaders is to encourage team members, especially other females, to seek out mentors and take control of their careers.

Additionally, these are exciting times to be a female leader. Unconscious bias is still prevalent, but we’ve come a long way. The right conversations are happening and we have a platform to change the future, so please support one another!

What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?

There are three pieces of advice on managing a large team. First, the best way to manage a large team starts with building trust with your direct reports. Second, you need to ensure that everyone works well as a team, aligning on and achieving goals together. This includes encouraging your team to support and learn from one another and to appreciate each other’s unique perspectives. It’s also important to recruit talent that is a cultural fit for the existing team; this cannot be taught. Third, you need to make tough calls early versus avoiding issues and hoping they will resolve on their own.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Of course! I am grateful for the support of Simon Lowden from PepsiCo. He believed in me and encouraged me to be better. I learned a lot about building brands from Simon and still leverage a lot of his insights in my work today. Simon knew how to empower his team, letting their individual strengths shine. This is an admirable quality that I’ve adopted into my management style.

Simon also taught me about the power of influence and how to navigate and drive change in a complex, highly matrixed organization. This taught me that everyone, no matter what their role, or where they work, can find ways to change things for the better.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I’ve been blessed to with opportunities to drive change through my work at Campari Group, and I appreciate a company that enables its team to do so. Going back to our recent #SparkChange campaign with SKYY Vodka, this is a great example of how our team drives change. We creatively found a way to engage consumers with SKYY, while also educating them on the amazing work being done by the National Diversity Council. Further, we empowered consumers to join us in our mission by giving them the opportunity to help support the organization. We’re actively continuing to work with the National Diversity Council and we’re excited about that work.

What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. The further I advance in my career, the move I value finding a mentor. My mentor, Simon Lowden at PepsiCo., taught me not only about building brands, but also about finding ways to drive change from within an organization. He’s been an incredible resource for information and advice as well as a great example of the kind mentor I strive to be for my team.
  2. In creating my own teams, I’ve learned that building trust with your team is the foundation for success. The best results come from confident, comfortable teams. An empowered team is more likely to contribute new ideas and creatively collaborate to deliver quality results.
  3. It can be easy to forget, but I try to learn from my mistakes. It’s not about admitting you messed up, it’s about using those experiences to improve. After that presentation to the Pepsi South American team, you can trust I double- and triple-check the pronunciation of everything I’m presenting, no matter how many people are in the room.
  4. I make it a goal to collaborate as often as possible, because I’ve found that the best ideas come from collaboration. When you bring new perspectives into a project, you’re able to see it through everyone else’s eyes and get a clearer picture on how your message is perceived.
  5. Lastly, and this was hard for me to learn, I’ve learned that there’s absolutely no harm in asking for help. I’ve found that, most often colleagues are more than happy to help each other succeed. A win for one is a win for the team.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would like to inspire confidence and empowerment in others, and I think this shows in the work we do here at Campari Group. I feel people are at their best when they feel comfortable and free to express themselves. Whether you’re a young professional, a gay teenager or a new citizen acclimating to a new city — or a mix of all three — you’re at your best when you feel free to express yourself!

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” (Confucius).

This quote is used a lot, but it resonates with me. We spend so much time and energy at work it’s important to find a career that you enjoy and leaves you feeling fulfilled. There’s no better feeling than feeling accomplished.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

I’d really like to sit down with Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She’s made so many contributions to our culture and our country’s history. I’m inspired by her drive-in advocating for what she believed was right in the face of adversity and critics.

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