The wine industry is often criticised for working inside its own bubble, only ever taking influences and inspiration from within the industry rather than naturally looking outside to other consumer food and drink sectors for ideas and a new perspective. It’s why the appointment of Rodolphe Lameyse as the new chief executive of Vinexpo is potentially so exciting. It is the first time the international exhibition business has gone outside the wine industry for its leader. Here Lameyse talks to The Buyer about how he hopes his experience as a specialist in organising leading trade shows around the world will help bring new ideas, and a fresh strategy for the group at a vital time in its history.
This month’s Vinexpo Bordeaux is arguably going to be the most important since it first started in 1981 as it looks to keep itself relevant and strategically important as a major global wine event against increased competition both in Europe and around the world.
It’s often said in business that the real secret to success is not always your product, brand or service you are offering, but the people in charge of making, selling, and delivering the company’s strategy. You also need good timing and being in the right place at the right time. Which brings us to the appointment Rodolphe Lameyse as the new chief executive of Vinexpo.
If you only work in the international wine trade then you have probably never heard of Rodolphe Lameyse – and that’s exactly how he likes it. In fact he actually sees the fact he is very much a stranger to everyone in the world of wine as being an advantage in his new role. For he comes with no wine baggage at all. No past. And as as Frenchman he also importantly comes with no loyalty or past allegiance to any wine region over another.
It’s not that Lameyse does not like wine. Far from it. It’s just that he’s never earned his living from it. Instead he has spent the majority of his career doing what Vinexpo essentially does and that’s run major international trade exhibitions around the world – and that’s why Vinexpo was so keen to get him and pleased to have as its new leader.
It appears to be the right appointment at the right time as Vinexpo is faced with arguably the most important stage in its history. It’s no secret that ProWein has stolen a march on Vinexpo in recent years as Europe’s major global wine trade fair. It’s time for Vinexpo to reinvent itself in face of this increased competition and make sure it remains strategically relevant for both major wine companies, but also international wine buyers. That’s the challenge for Lameyse and his team.
Which is why Vinexpo has turned to an exhibition leader, rather than a wine figure, for the next stage in its development. An exhibition specialist with over 20 years experience working on major shows as part of the Reed Midem exhibition company. Here we talk to Lameyse about his background, why he wanted to join Vinexpo and the challenges and opportunities he and his team now face.
Tell us about your recent background?
Before joining Vinexpo, I was based in Singapore for six years, most recently managing the Food & Hotel Asia portfolio, Asia’s largest trade show dedicated to the food, beverage and hotel equipment industry, for the Informa group.
The three fundamental areas of my experience – which I believe are vital for Vinexpo at this pivotal moment in its global repositioning and development, are:
- my experience in working in international and competitive environments
- my conference and trade show expertise
- combined with my marketing experience in marketing
I graduated from Kedge Bordeaux (formerly BEM – Bordeaux Management School, originally a French Grande École founded in 1874, managed and financed by the Bordeaux Chamber of Commerce) and hold an MBA from HEC International Business School, Paris.
As head of marketing and client services at Reed Midem in France, I oversaw digital marketing, e-business and the entire customer experience, ranging from visitor recruitment through to the in-show experience.
After that, I was based in Singapore from 2014, right up to just a few days before joining Vinexpo here in Bordeaux. Initially I managed a consulting company in the exhibitions industry, before joining Informa (formerly UBM) as director of Food & Hotel Asia (FHA) events.
So I have more than 20 years’ experience under my belt, helping customers establish and foster their brands’ international penetration, implementing brand repositioning and delivering international expansion strategies. In all my roles, I’ve used my trade show expertise to deliver strong added-value to exhibitors and visitors, aligned with global consumption and distribution patterns.
Why do you think all this experience makes you a suitable new chief executive for Vinexpo?
Vinexpo’s choice of someone outside the wine and spirits industry as chief executive is a very big first for the company. For the first time, Vinexpo has a chief executive whose experience and expertise in marketing and the exhibitions industry directly matches the industry Vinexpo is in, rather than the product that is being ‘exhibited’. This was a deliberate choice on the part of the Vinexpo board, to meet the challenges and demands of an increasingly competitive market-place, and to deliver the growth that Vinexpo’s new global development strategy requires.
What attracted you to the role – and the wine industry?
Devising a new strategy is one thing, ensuring its delivery is the real challenge. This was probably what attracted me the most – because it’s a very big challenge. I want to apply the experience and expertise I bring to the table to deliver the change that is needed, such that the company is aligned with the new strategy and is therefore best placed to deliver growth.
What do you see as the immediate opportunities for Vinexpo both as a trade event and its wider role in the global wine industry?
Right now, the Vinexpo brand is reinventing itself in a tough, competitive international climate. We are just at the beginning of this very exciting new phase. Historically, Vinexpo has grown thanks to the quality of the offer available at each of its shows, the relevance of its content and the return on investment it generates. What we have to do now is continue to expand the geographical and strategic remit of those shows.
In France we are already doing this with the launch of Vinexpo Paris in January 2020, and of course internationally, as we are doing with Shanghai this year in October. Those are the immediate opportunities. In a wider sense, we need to continue to improve our customer-led solutions that the shows embody in order to consolidate our role as the global leader for all players in the international wine & spirits sector.
There is clearly a great deal of competition for Vinexpo from other major global events. How do you think Vinexpo needs to meet those challenges, any initial ideas on what we can expect?
I agree! There is unquestionably significant competition from other major global events in our industry. What we need to do to meet those challenges is adapt and change – fast. Let’s take the new-date upcoming Vinexpo Bordeaux show. What we’ll see there is a foretaste of what we are already implementing worldwide, focusing on sustaining the difference of the Bordeaux show to say, Vinexpo Hong Kong, or in the near future the new Vinexpo Paris with its focus on spirits. What we are doing is segregating the content according to each show, wherever it is in the world, making it uniquely qualified in serving the needs of the exhibitors, producers and visitors who, ultimately, make it what it is.
Additionally, there is what I call ‘the quality of discovery’ experience that makes each Vinexpo show – whichever one it is – unique. No other wine and spirits trade exhibition allows the time to develop business properly than we do: it is the way we do business, we enjoy the way we do business and it is the reason why producers, exhibitors and visitors return regularly to repeat the experience.
This discovery experience is something I really want to develop as the common ground of each Vinexpo show, wherever it is in the world.
You have a lot of experience with Food & Hotel Asia. What lessons did you learn there that you think will be valuable for Vinexpo?
It’s probably more the overview of the large portfolio of food events across Asia and south East Asia and what it takes for a big event to remain relevant and have the edge on the competition. Not only your clients are raising the incremental number of trade fairs but are more and more challenging on their ROI expectation.
With so many more immediate and direct ways for businesses to communicate, how do you think major international trade shows need to adapt to remain relevant?
Well, I can only speak for Vinexpo. It is a period of great change for the industry, everyone recognises this. Times change, markets change, business changes. Vinexpo absolutely recognises this. So to remain relevant, we have to adapt and change – which we will do by:
- Consolidating our ‘local but global’ development strategy
- Building on the unique value of Vinexpo’s brand equity as it applies to each of our shows across the world
- Embedding the DNA of Vinexpo –excellence– in everything we do.
Do you have any initial ideas on how Vinexpo can build on its recent strategy of not just being a trade show but also organising events like Explorer for buyers to network and as a market trends provider with your work with IWSR?
I personally believe that the highly competitive environment, a challenging context here in Bordeaux forces Vinexpo to adapt and be bold in its new approach.
The market is no more waiting for Vinexpo only, they have many alternatives and many ‘direct-to-market events’. Vinexpo needs to expand its footprint and its capability to bring our clients and partners closer to their client needs. But it’s also about disrupting the traditional meeting point between producers and buyers. Vinexpo Explorer is definitely a perfect example; we aim at Vinexpo to pursue this route of revisiting how best to bring together these people. Digital leverage, for example, is in our plan.”
Does Vinexpo need to have a stronger digital/online presence?
There is no need to be stronger with a digital presence if it does not serve a business purpose of our clients. We can work on how we get the brand, Vinexpo, best known but if there is no value either for our trade visitors or our exhibitors, it’s a waste of time and money. We are working on digital plans to offer our participants real value in using our services and offer. So stay tuned on that.
What other added value elements does Vinexpo need to offer?
What I intend to build on and improve goes beyond the show, whether it is Bordeaux, Hong Kong, Shanghai, New York or Paris. Linking them all together to create the ‘DNA’ of Vinexpo which is all about delivering excellence. What this means is that Vinexpo goes beyond the show, as a brand. The depth and breadth of Vinexpo’s brand equity means that our audience – producers, exhibitors and visitors – can trust the relevance and quality of our content to reflect each market’s differing requirements.
Relevance and quality of content are measurable indicators of added value, which we must ensure are unsurpassed at each of our shows.
What are your own wine and spirits preferences?
That’s a very good but very difficult and tricky question! I cannot share my tastes because I wish to remain neutral. But our Vinexpo Wine cellar is full of fantastic fragrances from vastly different regions Obviously, we have nice Bordeaux wines, but not only Bordeaux.
What are you looking forward to about living back in France and in Bordeaux?
I am very excited to be back after 20 years in Bordeaux. The city has changed completely and I could not recognise it. It’s a new adventure for my family too – after almost six years in Asia – to get re-acclimatised to France.
- Find our more about the plans and events taking place at Vinexpo Bordeaux at its main website here.