Heather Bergstein

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Luxury and Liquor: A Conversation with Heather Bergstein

Heather Bergstein

I attended the latest Graduate Studies Speaker Series event at LIM, where I had the opportunity to hear from Heather Bergstein, a veteran of the ecommerce marketing world and the current Head of E-Commerce at luxury spirit brand Remy Cointreau USA.

Any regular Thursday, I would have been starting my Fashion Branding and Promotion class promptly at 6:30 p.m. But it was worth pushing this start-time to hear Ms. Bergstein’s incredible presentation and expertise; not only did the crowd of graduate students receive a healthy lesson in “Liquor Industry 101,” but the conversation also facilitated a healthy follow-up debate in class.

Ms. Bergstein began the night by elaborating on her background, including her time in marketing at L'Oréal and her freelance work with brands like Ralph Lauren and LVMH. She credits her success to having embedded herself into digital industries early on, which allowed her to consistently be a “digital expert” on brand-focused teams.

Her subsequent description of the liquor industry’s history was informative, not to mention enthralling. We learned about the history of prohibition, the lack of transparency the liquor industry has into the consumer journey, and the challenging regulations that digital-first brands, like Drizly, look to tackle.

Her insights into the current luxury liquor market showed us many similarities between the liquor and fashion industries, allowing us to find parallels with our own studies. “Consumers are really focused on what their lifestyle looks like,” Ms. Bergstein said. “And [they] are concerned with what brands fit in their lifestyle.” As someone who comes from a heavy direct-to-consumer background, I found her points about experiential sales—e.g. the white glove service offered with purchase of Remy Cointreau’s premium liquor—and brand storytelling especially relevant and interesting.

By the end of the presentation, we were left to ponder (à la Carrie Bradshaw) a question that plagues brand experts and professionals like Ms. Bergstein: How can a company in a dated and highly regulated industry navigate an increasingly digital, ecommerce-focused world?

Ms. Bergstein believes the answer lies with two methods: investing in brand content, and driving rare, high-touch experiences. I left the presentation agreeing, and excited to follow the progress of similar industries more closely.