The future belongs to those ready for it

King Kaka at the Cannes Festival. [Courtesy]

Last week, I was fortunate enough to be a part of the 72nd Cannes Film Festival held in Cannes, France.

I met many people I’ve admired over the years, including the acclaimed director of The Revenant, Alejandro González Iñárritu, Javier Bardem, the star of Loving Pablo and independent filmmaker Jim Jamusch.

And, of course, I became the first Kenyan musician to grace the event’s main red carpet, and got that photo moment that everyone’s been talking about with superstar musician Selena Gomez.

I have experienced many different cultures since last year, and have had the opportunity to travel quite a bit, which has given me a different view of how businesses operate across the world.

But my biggest lesson came when I landed in a small town in France called Cognac.

I am curious by nature, so I’m always asking questions. I landed in the city of Bordeaux at around 6pm before travelling to Cognac. And just to highlight how small the town is, there’s no major airport and they just constructed a five-star hotel, which had amazing service.

The next morning, since I’m the brand ambassador for Rémy Martin, a French conglomerate that largely produces and sells cognac, I got a tour of the firm’s club, vines and cellars.

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Why am I telling you this story? Because I was motivated by how they protect their future.

In every business, it’s important to protect tomorrow. Since 1724, Rémy Martin has been nurturing outstanding talent and masters of winegrowing, distilling and blending, like André Giraud, Pierrette Trichet or the current cellar master Baptiste Loiseau.

He and his tasting committee are the guardians of the house’s heritage. I had the privilege of meeting Baptiste, a very intelligent and passionate fellow. He focused on a few things that I could relate to, as can every entrepreneur. 

1. The new market

Since their product has been there since 1724, I asked Baptiste how they make sure Rémy Martin is facing the new market and doesn’t fade out.

The reason companies like Kodak or Blockbuster died is they either didn’t study the wave or they ignored the market evolution.

When film was going online, the owners of Netflix challenged the system by introducing pay-per-view. Blockbuster had the chance to digitise and enjoy the global market that Netflix is now swimming in.

However, it was already a household name, and sometimes it takes ‘a business eye’ to spot the opportunity. Netflix approached Blockbuster with a buyout deal in 2000, but were given a ‘no’.

Risk is the biggest part of moving into the new generation’s market. The beauty with Netflix was that you could watch a show anywhere without having to go back home in the evening to finish your favourite series.

And just like that, they created and dominated a new market.

You have to carry with you aspects of your product to your new fanbase, which solidifies the ground and distinctively sells you. So in business, be aware of market changes and be ready to adapt.

2. Originality

The reason people go back to consuming what they love is the same reason they fell in love with the product in the first place. Even in relationships, they say be who you were, and if you change, do it for the better.

The niche market is very important, so when you’re coming up with a product, think of originality.

Remember the consumer is always looking for different products, so pick an audience and work towards building loyalty, which converts to revenue.  

3. The vision and story

What made me fall in love with the Rémy Martin brand, which has just introduced a new bottle that’s linked to an app to enhance the customer experience, is the story behind it.

We also fall in love with celebrities and end up buying their merchandise or attending their concerts because we know their back stories and are inspired by them.

What this love will get your product is organic marketing. I’ll organically talk about an experience I had with a product with a friend, and they’re more likely to purchase it because we tend to enjoy something more when we know the story behind it.

That’s why there is a wave of advertising that uses stories to sell products. It’s relatable. Know your product’s story.

The writer is an award-winning artiste and entrepreneur.

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