'Speak Up! You Have a Seat at the Table Because You Earned It': Bacardi's Laila Mignoni
Laila Mignoni, the Director of Creative Excellence at BACARDI, is based in Bermuda and New York City. Throughout her career, she has delivered award-winning campaigns for some of the most iconic global brands across Retail, Automotive and Luxury. She graduated with Honors from La Sorbonne University in Paris with a Masters in Arts -- she’s a brand builder and digital native expert. Laila moved from agency side to BACARDI Global Brands in 2014 where she ran MARTINI global communications from London. Recently she has shifted to manage BACARDI rums, launching the brand’s new platform ‘Do What Moves You’ across channels.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I’ve worked in the industry for more than 15 years, leading creative for some of the world’s most iconic brands including Martini, Volkswagen, adidas and Stella McCartney. I didn’t immediately think that I wanted to be on the marketing side, I got a Masters in Arts from La Sorbonne in Paris and moved to London to work for an NGO and then started in advertising at DDB London.
It wasn’t until later in my career that I saw the impact -- the true business impact -- good creative could have for a company. I always knew it was about building brand connections, but it wasn’t until I saw it translate into recall and then to sales, that I really could see my impact on the business world. From there, I found a company that would allow me to invest in myself -- BACARDI -- where I was able to complete the Executive Leadership Program at Harvard Business School.
Creative storytelling through marketing has changed drastically throughout my career. In the last five years alone, the depth and breadth of what we can do has increased exponentially. I love that my role as the Global Director of Creative Excellence at BACARDI has allowed me to stretch the brand to new heights.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting?
While not funny, I did learn from this experience! I once made the mistake about airing my frustration and grievances to a team member out on email, when it really should be talked out in person. I find that in tough situations, it’s always best to take a moment away from the situation (or the person) and then come back for a face-to-face discussion.
While it is important to put feedback down in writing, most of the time, I find that a personal connection helps both parties feel like they have a chance to be heard and find a solution together to move forward.
What do you think makes your company stand out?
The spirits world is an extremely male-dominated industry, especially at the leadership level. It’s always been just that much more challenging to compete against my peers, so last year, when we announced the Bacardi Women in Leadership Initiative, I was thrilled.
The initiative and annual summit dive deep into topics such as representation, accountability and innovation in all facets of the hospitality world. I’ve been lucky in my career that I’ve always had mentors and managers that build me up -- and I’m excited to give back to my peers and continue to champion other women in the industry.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now?
Just this month, BACARDI launched our latest summer campaign, called “Pass the Beat,” in partnership with global music superstars, Major Lazer and Anitta. We realized the artists’ latest summer smash hit, “Make It Hot,” and it’s the first time in our brand’s history that we worked with artists on a creative piece that served both as our TV spot and the foundation of their official music video. As BACARDI’s Director of Creative Excellence, I’ve always strived to brainstorm collaborations that will ladder back up to our “Do What Moves You” creative platform. As the global leader in rum, we want to make people move. Our “Pass the Beat” campaign is an homage to that -- it’s all about the process through which artists inspire other artists, passing on and moving their energy and creativity from one to another. I hope that when you hear the song or see the commercial, you’re immediately inspired to move -- both physically and emotionally -- and be the best, truest version of yourself.
What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?
Speak up! You have a seat at the table because you earned it and people want to hear your opinion. Whether it’s cosigning another colleague’s point of view, or raising a drastically different perspective, I always encourage people on my team to find their voice. Know that your team is built of many different people for a reason, use that to your advantage. No successful campaign or brand ever got anywhere by only listening to one person in the room.
Experience, experience, experience: I’ve worked both on the agency-side and in-house and lived in many different parts of the world. I would encourage female leaders to have their team embrace and experience as many different parts of the industry as they can. You can’t just “learn” how to be creative -- you absorb it from working with different people, different brands and in different parts of the world.
Lastly, we don’t have to blend, nor conform we can be who are 100% of the time.
What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?
Pause the technology: with large teams and in big meetings and, it’s easy to get distracted by your phone and laptop. I always ask the group to put away their technology and focus on the task at hand. This tactic always encourages higher engagement and more focused discussions. Unless it’s urgent, that text can wait!
Build sub-committees, then mix it up, but always come back together: sometimes it’s easier to divide and conquer! In big meetings, I love encouraging mini breakout sessions where each group will tackle a challenge, then we’ll mix-up the groups and tackle a new challenge. At the end, we always come back together. This always encourages camaraderie and better thinking.
Action items: I never leave a big meeting without outlining next steps for each team member. After a long meeting, team members can feel overwhelmed, so it’s always nice to walk away with concrete, actionable items.
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?
Speaking of Women in Leadership, someone who has been instrumental in my career growth is Bacardi’s head of Human Resources, Scott Northcutt. He has always been a great supporter and mentor and has pushed me when I really needed it the most. Finding someone who champions continuous education and gives employees a forum/space to shine is key -- Scott hs really unlocked a lot of potential for female leaders at Bacardi!
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
BACARDI’s creative platform is “Do What Moves You” -- the notion that everything we do as a brand should move the consumer, whether that’s physically (dancing!) or emotionally (inspire you!). As the Global Director of Creative Excellence, it’s my job to ensure that every campaign, partner, collaboration and event we partake in evokes this message.
One of the most rewarding campaigns I’ve worked on since “Do What Moves You” was initiated was called Music Liberates Music. When we launched Music Liberates Music, our goal was to give rising artists time in the studio to record and work on their music. To be able to raise-up musicians and give them a platform to share their work with the world was beyond rewarding. To this day, we still invite those artists to come back and perform at BACARDI events and one of our winners worked with us on ‘Pass the Beat’ campaign.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
1. Be fearless: this was a call to action from our CEO a couple years ago and since then, it has been engrained in my every day work ethic. As a global creative, I want to come up with ideas that may be scary at first -- after all, the bigger the risk, the bigger the return. And if you fail, fix it and try again.
2. Power in relationships: whether it’s internal networking or networking with others outside of your business, connections are key. Even more so, build long-term relationships. The payoff is always bigger.
3. Invest in yourself: find a company that allows you to invest in yourself. Thanks to Bacardi, I was able to complete the Executive Leadership Program at Harvard Business School and move my family to both Bermuda and the U.S. Take any and all opportunities to better yourself.
4. Pay it forward: mentorship has been key throughout my career and I owe some of my own successes to other strong women and men in the industry.
5. Enjoy the ride: be yourself and bring a level of lightness when moments are tense. This elevates the whole dynamic and builds connection with everyone on your team. I’m so grateful for what I do, the people I work with and the places I go, that finding time to truly enjoy the moment is powerful.
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?
Someone told me once that more email you send, the more you get, so I would initiate a movement to reduce all email inboxes by 80%! I want to see people talking more, collaborating in person and connecting through true face time. Finding human connections with the people you work with is so important, and I believe this would reduce a lot of stress level and allow people to enjoy the ride so much more.