In this first d'Vinci podcast, hear how the makers of iconic brands including Robert Mondavi Winery, SVEDKA Vodka and Corona Beer educate internal team members and commercial partners to build brands, expand distribution, and increase sales. Andi Carey the Director of Wine & Spirits Education from Constellation Brands joins host Susan Cort and co-host Angeline Evans to share how their training ensures that everyone is talking about their brands.
At Constellation Brands, the L&D team works seamlessly with the sales enablement team to get the best tools across the sales organization. In this episode, d’Vinci Lead Project Manager/Instructional Designer Angeline Evans talks to Andi Carey, the director of Wine & Spirits Education to learn how the company’s learning academy is impacting sales through training. You’ll hear these points and more:
Learn more about d'Vinci at www.dvinci.com.
Announcer 1: This is Powered by Learning, a podcast designed for learning leaders to hear the latest approaches to creating learning experiences that engage learners and achieve improved performance for individuals and organizations.
Announcer 2: Powered by Learning is brought to you by d'Vinci Interactive. We collaborate with our clients to bring order and clarity to content and technology. Learn more at dvinci.com.
Susan Cort: Hello, and welcome to Powered By Learning. I'm your host Susan Cort. With me today is d'Vinci Lead Project Manager and Instructional Designer, Angeline Evans. Hello, Angeline.
Angeline Evans: Hi, Susan.
Susan Cort: Well, today we're really excited to have Andi Carey, Director, Wine and Spirits Education Content from the Constellation Academy at Constellation Brands. Constellation Brands produces some of the world's most iconic wine, spirits, and beer brands, including Robert Mondavi, Winery, the Prisoner Wine Company, Kim Crawford, High West Whiskey, SVEDKA, Vodka and Corona Beer just to name a few.
Constellation Brands provides brand education and industry learning opportunities for their sales organization, as well as their commercial partners. They want to ensure that everyone that talks about their brands from internal personnel to their wholesalers and retailers, helps build these brands while expanding distribution and ultimately selling these products to consumers. Welcome, Andi.
Andi Carey: Hi, I'm so happy to be with you two today.
Susan Cort: Oh, Angeline and I are so glad you could join us. Start off by telling us a little bit about your background and your role at Constellation Brands.
Andi Carey: Okay, great. As you just said, I'm currently the Director of Wine and Spirits Education Content at Constellation Brands, a member of the Constellation Academy, which I'll talk about in a bit. I've been with the group for- well, I should say, I've been with the organization for nine years, I just celebrated my nine-year anniversary. I've had three roles within Constellation Brands in the past nine years.
I came in on the marketing team. I led the trade marketing team for a couple of years and then joined Constellation Academy just about two years ago. All in all, if I could wrap up my career in two words, I'd like to say that I'm a brand builder.
Ultimately, I think that my role has been to extend the brand's message and parlay a brand's aesthetic across a multitude of consumer touch-points and trade touch-points to essentially bring a brand to life.
Susan Cort: Thank you, Andi. I think describing yourself as a brand builder is really an important one when you’re looking at the communications and the training role that you play, and Angeline and I are really looking forward to learning more about what you're doing together in Constellation Academy.
Angeline Evans: Yes, thank you again for taking the time to chat with us today, and congratulations on your nine years at Constellation. Could you tell us all a little bit more about Constellation Academy?
Andi Carey: Sure, absolutely. Constellation Academy, in its current iteration, is just a couple of years old. However, it's the evolution of a group that was formed many years ago within Constellation Brands, they were the Constellation Academy of Wine. Of course, over the course of time, as Constellation brought more spirits brands into our portfolio, it was important to drop the 'wine' only and become Constellation Academy. We are a really interesting group of individuals. We're small but mighty. Collectively, we have more than a hundred years in this industry.
Angeline Evans: Wow.
Susan Cort: Wow.
Andi Carey: Yes, our backgrounds range from marketing, to education, to sales, and to IT, imagine that.
Susan Cort: Cool.
Angeline Evans: You're all-encompassing.
Andi Carey: What we all bring is industry expertise, personal experience, personal strengths, and a common passion for the category. And we'll probably talk more about this, but we have the great privilege of working in an industry that is just rich with history and story and appeal. Not to say that- facial tissues, lack appeal, but there's something about wine and spirits.
When people talk to me and ask me what I do, they're like, "Ooh, can we get samples?"
Andi Carey: Of course, I always hope that I'm talking to somebody who works for-- I don't know, Louis Vuitton. It's like, "Oh, can I get a sample?" We bring passion and we bring focus.
We bring commitment, and Constellation Academy is actually an entity within the Sales Enablement Team at Constellation Brands, and what does that mean? That means that we are not necessarily support staff, but we are partners with our sales organization, enabling them to get the tools to do their jobs best.
Angeline Evans: How does the work you're doing then really align with the overarching vision and strategy of Constellation Brands?
Andi Carey: Constellation Brands is completely committed to the development of their employees, so individual development is a priority. Education is a big priority. General education, industry education, things that allow us to better ourselves, there are a tremendous amount of leadership skills initiatives, and we have recently standing up Business Resource Groups where like-minded people come together for their own enrichment and growth in the company.
Constellation Brands is committed to us as employees and the education part of Constellation Academy falls right into that. Constellation Brands creates distinctive brands and products that deliver exceptional consumer experiences. Part of that is letting folks know everything that is distinctive about those brands. The things that are unique about those products, all that comes through an education lens.
Angeline Evans: As learning and development professionals, we sometimes have a really narrow view of what is meant by a brand. Can you talk to us about how the concept of brand is viewed inside of Constellation because you really have all of these iconic brands amongst your organization?
Andi Carey: Sure. I can talk about what brand means to Constellation Brands. I can, more importantly, talk about what brands mean to me. First and foremost, I'm a believer that Constellation Brands and any other organization, we own products, we own glass, we own labels, we own shippers, we own juice, we own the things that go in the bottle. But I believe that brands are owned by our consumers, because brands live in the hearts and minds of our consumers.
They have an affinity toward the product, they are drawn to the packaging, but they're inspired by the messaging because we craft all of that marketing messaging to tap into consumer insights and consumer desires and needs. When it comes to a brand, I believe that consumers own brands. I own my favorite brands, you own your favorite brands because they reside in your home. They live on your shelf, and ultimately, they become part of.
Angeline Evans: That is so true and such an interesting way to look at that.
Susan Cort: Definitely, that's a great point.
Angeline Evans: I love that. With that in mind, how important is it for everyone within your organization to know the big picture when it comes to the iconic brands you produce, so about these brands?
Andi Carey: It is paramount that everybody speaks the same language, that everything that we put forth, either consumer-facing or commercial-facing, has the same aesthetic of the brand. No matter where you go if it's opening up your phone and seeing some digital advertising or walking into the store and seeing some merchandising material or having a conversation with the bartender or a waiter at tableside, and they're talking about our brands, they need to talk the same language that the consumer has been exposed to all across their journey.
Taking that into an education space, it is paramount that the sales organization is comfortable with the words that have been selected. Comfortable with the brand story, comfortable in parlaying the brand essence to the people that they're making presentations to, to their commercial partners, to retailers. So they, in turn, can pick up those sound-bites, can pick up those brand stories, and carry them forward.
Again, ultimately, it starts with consumer insight. It goes through a bunch of different filters, it ends up perhaps in different media, but it all ends up where it needs to, which is the consumer making a choice about a brand that they are interested in, that they try and that ultimately that they come to love and call their own.
Angeline Evans: Wow, so it's really about empowering your audience to be ambassadors for the brand, then for your consumers.
Andi Carey: Absolutely, that's the perfect word for it, yes.
Angeline Evans: Wow. If we look at the specific courses you're creating, how critical is it then that the brand essence is embedded into those learning experiences, and in what ways do you do that?
Andi Carey: Now, that's tremendously important. It's funny because as we go through the development of all the Constellation Academy education material, there were two brands we are trying to build. First and foremost is Constellation Academy.
As I said, we're a relatively new group or a repackaged group in the organization, so I really want to work with my peers to create an entity that the sales organization knows and trusts. They see our Constellation Academy logo and the overarching design of the material that we put out and they're like, "Oh right, that's the team of experts in communication and education in the organization and they tell me what I need to know."
So important that we establish ourselves and build ourselves out as a brand, but then more importantly, is the need to express all of our individual brands in their individual way. As you know Angeline, because we've worked so closely over the course of more than a year now in building out some pretty impressive material, we try to be really consistent with the formatting of the education material.
There's a theme that we follow. I'm really big on the template. Information goes here, information goes here, information goes here, but the way we package it up to ensure that it looks like the brand that we're talking about. That a Kim Crawford brand module is delivering the same type of content in roughly the same order as the Ruffino brand module, but Kim Crawford looks like Kim Crawford and Ruffino looks like it's Ruffino. Therefore that continues to reinforce the overarching look and feel and the essence and the personality, if you will, of each brand.
Angeline Evans: Yes. Talking a little bit about the brand modules we're creating, they really make a strong impact in the brand stories, and I think that's one of the first things that we talk about in these modules. Could you share a little bit about how that story really works to inspire the audience?
Andi Carey: Oh my God. Wine and spirits, we have the great privilege or the great luxury of being brands that are built-in story. Not to dismiss the importance of other brands out there, but in wine and spirits, we are just rich in lore and story and passion and legacy, and frankly, art. The creation of wine and the production of spirits is an art form, it's a craft, and the people who make it are craftsmen and artisans. Therefore telling a brand story is critical. It makes the difference.
Sauvignon Blanc is Sauvignon Blanc, right? What goes into a bottle of Kim Crawford, the story of the brand founder, the interesting stories about New Zealand and the New Zealand landscape. The advertising and the new communications platform that the brand has recently launched that really taps into the insights and desires of the consumer, that makes for some good storytelling.
Angeline Evans: Absolutely. I'm constantly reminded of the Robert Mondavi story, and it immediately makes you want to just go out and buy a bottle and try a glass and feel like you're drinking a part of that story, honestly.
Susan Cort: I agree with you, Angeline. Just having watched some of these modules, you do get a sense of understanding of not just Constellation Brands, but these individual products and you feel a connection to them as a consumer. If that's being conveyed to the people who are distributing this and selling it, it's definitely being conveyed then to the end-user like us. And that makes us want to feel like those brand ambassadors you were talking about.
Andi Carey: Absolutely. When you bring up Robert Mondavi, and he's one of, to me, one of our most wonderful stories of history. Mr. Mondavi pretty much put Napa Valley on the map. He's known for that, and known for the art of winemaking, but more importantly known for knowing what consumers want. And so there are multiple tiers of wines that bear the name Robert Mondavi in a certain instance, and it's super important to be able to tell three separate stories of wines that ladder back to this great master, but maintain the integrity of each individual brands, each individual label.
To your point, Susan, as a brand ambassador, you want to feel attached to things. I want to be part of history. So first I need to know the history so that I can claim my space in the history and then therefore the future of these brands.
Susan Cort: Absolutely.
Angeline Evans: Let's switch gears and talk about how you're educating non-employees, so your wholesalers and your retailers. What types of efforts are you making with them and why?
Andi Carey: Frankly, we're making the same efforts that we are with our internal sales organization. Again, I referred to them before in an earlier segment, I call them our partners, because they are. Because of the way our business is structured, our distributor network are in fact, our partners, and then ultimately the retailer, the restaurateur, the sommelier, the bartender and server, they're all our partners in selling these beautiful wines and spirits to the consumer.
I don't view them much differently than I view our own internal sales organization. There are bits and pieces that we don't put to the general audience, the population at large. There are some things that should be kept amongst family, if you will, some precious data or some commercial strategies that are meant for our ears only, but beyond that, the story is the same, because the consistency of the story is what's important.
Again, a brand ambassador is just that, anybody who represents our brands in an outbound manner is a brand ambassador. They should be armed with the same information, the consistently same information, and they should be delighted by the story that we're telling and the information that we're sharing.
Angeline Evans: Right. So even though they're not employees, they still deliver, they still receive the same type of learning experiences in the format that you're delivering them to your internal audience?
Andi Carey: Absolutely. They have access too. In fact, the reason that we built a brand-new learning management system, our most recent Constellation Academy LMS, was to enable us to invite in non-employees to access the education in the very same environment. So not only are the brand modules representative of Constellation Academy, but the space in which they learn is, and they all have same experience.
Again, certain things that are kept for just us, but for the most part, the experience is the same. One of the things I'm really excited about is the most recent uptick in key account participants and staff at stores and wait-staff, in bars and restaurants. They're starting to come in and learn with us at a higher rate. It was something that was nice to have, but not a must-have at the very beginning, but now it's becoming a tremendous value add that we offer to those accounts.
Angeline Evans: What do you think shifted that they became more engaged now?
Andi Carey: Because our sales organization and our distributor partners have spoken so highly about the education, they've experienced it firsthand. They spent a year in the LMS, and we've had some incredible numbers. I will say before I got on the chat with you, I looked up and realized that in terms of our internal sales organization, we have 96% compliance with taking these modules, which is an outstanding number.
Angeline Evans: Wow.
Andi Carey: And I venture to guess that the 4% that haven't engaged yet are probably my own team. We'll have to talk about that at another time. Mostly me, honestly, I feel like I can't take the courses because I wrote the courses. I'll definitely get a hundred on all the tests.
Angeline Evans: Right. You've been testing them.
Andi Carey: Exactly. I've done my due diligence in creating them. I joke about that, but seriously, 96% compliance with our internal organization is pretty amazing.
Angeline Evans: Wow.
Susan Cort: Fantastic.
Andi Carey: To me, one of the best things I ever heard was like a sales rep saying, "This is the best information we have ever seen." Now, I have to admit, while I agree it's the best format of the information that they've ever seen, none of the information is unique to me and my team. We curate information that has been prepared by the marketing team.
We have poured through tons and tons of PowerPoint presentations and other bits and bobs of information, and if curated, the best, most succinct story and information about the brands, and package it up as we've discussed in this beautiful manner. So Sales is like, "This is the greatest thing we've ever seen". I'm like, "Well, you've seen it a hundred times, just in different forms".
They're a big advocate of the work, though, and as you know, Angeline, we've just recently taken the brand education modules and converted them into PowerPoint presentations, so that they can take the best of what they've learned and include them into sales presentations.
Angeline Evans: Wow. So they can even carry all of that content with them and become the educators themselves?
Andi Carey: Absolutely. That's why suddenly there's an uptick on interest on the account side, on bars and restaurants and retailers saying, "Hey, we've heard some good things about this." We created an avenue by which they can come in and self-register, they identify the account that they're with and they are able to take courses. They tend to focus a little bit more on the industry education courses, but then as a curiosity, they'll delve into our brand courses as well, and they get the story and that's become-- Again, it's a great value add, and we're increasing our engagement on the LMS.
Angeline Evans: For sure, and as I'm hearing you talk, it's kind of, yes, your team might not be uniquely creating some of this content for the brand modules, but that's a learning and development professional superpower. Is you grab the right information and you present it in a format that's going to be inspiring your audience, motivating them, and helping them to retain the information because, ultimately, you need to get them excited about it so they want to learn.
Andi Carey: Absolutely. Yes, every day I put on my cape. Yep.
Angeline Evans: Let's talk a little bit about the industry education side. How does the industry education that you guys do at Constellation Academy impact the Constellation Brand? Like your internal organization's brand, because really that's your education that you're delivering and making sure everyone's knowledgeable on this topic.
Andi Carey: Right, right. There's a line-- I've just looked over at a piece of paper that I printed out in preparation for this call that I haven't been reading, so I'll fess up to that, but there's a line here that jumps off at me. "Everything we do is meant to inspire and preserve the passion of the wine and spirits culture." I made reference to that earlier, but that's just it.
It starts with this industry. It starts with feeling comfortable talking about wine. As much as it is-- We have the great luxury of being such a provocative and attractive type of industry, there comes with it a little intimidation when you start. Like, "Ooh, wine. I'll never be able to talk about that. I don't even know how to open a bottle. I don't even know how to read a label. What am I supposed to do?"
That's not just the consumer talking, those are people who are starting out in their career in this industry. Industry education is a huge part of the learning management system. We have an entire section dedicated to industry education. As you know, Angeline, we just recently created the Foundation of Spirits [inaudible 00:23:08] module, which was a huge pet project because I come from the spirits world primarily, I didn't get into wine or to the wine side of the business until nine years ago when I joined Constellation.
Being able to talk about spirits, the entire category of distilled spirits, to look back at the history, which is rich and interesting to talk about the different types. Like what's the difference between whiskey and scotch? There is a difference and you've got to read about it. What's the difference between gin and vodka? They look awfully close, what's the difference?
The ability to help the wait-staff and the server and the guy who is working behind the counter at the retail store answer these questions, giving them insights into the category at large is important. It's truly important. And so I love that side of the projects we've been working on as well. It's not just the brands, but it is the category at large.
Angeline Evans: Absolutely. It really builds confidence in those learners and builds credibility then in your organization because they are able to talk smart about this information.
Andi Carey: Absolutely. They do look to Constellation Brands to be an authority, like we are. We are an authority. We have some of the most beautiful, iconic brand names to talk about, but we also have an incredibly smart, incredibly savvy sales organization. Our marketing organization is chockfull of really great individuals who have spent their careers honing in on their craft.
Angeline Evans: Well, Andi, I want to thank you so much for sharing these insights with us. Truly, I just love working with you and I'm so excited that we had this opportunity to share with every one of the incredible training and education you're doing at Constellation. Before we wrap up, can you tell us what's next for Constellation Academy?
Andi Carey: Oh, yes. What's next? So much more!
One of the first things that's next is going back and taking a look at the modules that have been created and refreshing them. By that, I mean we include a lot of selling data. We include a lot of data in category data, selling data. That data changes, sometimes by the minute, but at the very least, over the course of a year, the numbers change, and our numbers continue to obviously improve. It's important to go back in and refresh those brand modules to keep them current. I think that's a really big, important thing to point out. Is that the stories don't change, the history doesn't change, but the data changes and so that's something that's going to be a forever ongoing project.
In addition to that, we are always launching new brands, either extensions to existing brands, new varietals, some packaging reformat. It's important to keep that information in the LMS fresh and updated. Over the course of time, there may be some new to world brands that need to be-- Absolutely, we need to provide some education on that because if it's new to world, it doesn't have much history. Therefore, the story and the insights behind it and the creation of, are truly important to share with our organization.
Then, of course, we are starting to look at larger strategic initiatives as an avenue of education. As the company goes through some changes, it may be important to share why those changes are happening and to use education as a means to communicate that in addition to corporate communications and all the other ways that information is shared is just the icing on the cake. The importance of keeping our sales organization engaged and involved and informed is critical, and so we've got a lot of stuff. We've got a long future together.
Angeline Evans: You're telling me. That's a lot there, I'm so excited.
Susan Cort: That is a lot. Thank you so much, Andi. You can definitely tell the passion that you have for this kind of communications and training, and it definitely comes through in everything that you and your team do. We're just delighted to have spent this time with you to learn a little bit more about Constellation Brands and what you're doing at Constellation Academy. Thank you.
Andi Carey: Thank you so much.
Susan Cort: Angeline, Andi shared so many great insights with us. What are some of your takeaways from our discussion with her?
Angeline Evans: She did, I just loved hearing from her. She has such a passion for what she does and she really just inspires everyone she works with. I mean, she certainly inspires me. It was great to talk with her.
I think the biggest takeaway is really that the story matters. The way she talked about how brands become a part of who we are, and we need to empower whomever we're training or talking to about those brands to really be ambassadors for them and finding a way to connect with that audience and help them become a part of the story is really just a huge part of building brands.
Also, I really loved how she talked about the importance of curating the right content. Finding that right content and making sure we're presenting it to the learning audience in a way that connects with them and makes it easy to digest and really engages them.
Susan Cort: I love how she referred to herself and her team as brand builders. Talk a little bit about how you embed a client's brand in learning experiences that you design at d'Vinci and maybe share what some of the best practices are in doing that.
Angeline Evans: Absolutely. We do a few things to make sure we're capturing the client's brand in our learning solutions. First and foremost, our team of creative content designers will review and leverage the client's brand standards and they then create a template or a style guide for the solution we're creating. Whether that's an e-learning program, a classroom training, an educational website video, even a performance support tool. They make sure visually we're aligning with the brand, through our colors, fonts, graphical treatments, and image selections.
Honestly Susan, they take it to the next level. They're so talented and I'm constantly amazed at how they can bring a client's brand to life in e-learning and really in all the types of learning experiences we create.
Then from an instructional design and writing standpoint, we really study the tone of voice of a client's brand to make sure we're embodying the spirit of it. We do this through reviewing a formal tone of voice document, if one exists, and we consider the client's mission, vision, and goals.
We also take time to closely analyze who the learner is and their perceptions, so how they perceive the organization and how they perceive themselves within it. So what role do they play? Lastly, we look at what motivates them or their reason to believe that what they're learning is important, which ultimately influences the writing style. I think all of these things really come together to play a part in helping to shape a learning experience that's not only cohesive but in alignment with the brand.
Susan Cort: We're definitely looking forward to seeing more of what you and your team do with the Constellation Academy team. It was really great having you with us today, and we're looking forward to having you back on the Powered by Learning Podcast, and of course, many, many thanks to Andi Carey of Constellation Brands for joining us today. Didn't she do a great job, Angeline?
Angeline Evans: She did, she did, and thanks Susan, for letting me join in today.
Susan Cort: Oh anytime, thank you. You can learn more about Constellation Brands at cbbrands.com. If you have any questions about what we talked about today, you can also reach out to us on d'Vinci's social channels, through our website dvinci.com, or by emailing us at email@example.com.
Announcer 2: Powered by Learning is brought to you by d'Vinci Interactive. For more than 25 years, d'Vinci has provided custom learning solutions to government agencies, corporations, medical education and certification organizations, and educational content providers. We collaborate with our clients to bring order and clarity to content and technology. Learn more at dvinci.com.