What Does It Take to Become an Influencer for a Luxury Brand?

You need to be 15 minutes ahead of everybody else

Champagne at noon, a private room in a five star hotel, a cursive nameplate and 12 seats around a table. This, I’m pretty sure, is what luxury looks like—and it’s a far cry from the microwaved leftovers I’d otherwise be enjoying at my cubicle. At the head of the table, sits Hennessy president Bernard Peillon, and filling the rest of the seats are a few Canadian media, and handful of content creators who have just begun working alongside the heritage cognac brand. When I speak with Peillon after the decadent (and boozy) three course lunch, I want to find out exactly what I need to do to enjoy more meals like this.

Hennessy is just one of the brands in the expansive LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy) portfolio, the self-proclaimed “world leader in luxury.” As the president of a pillar in the luxury market, Peillon has a clear vision of what it takes for someone to maintain and promote Hennessy’s precise sense of excellence. They won’t just let anyone represent their brand, but at the same time, they tap an extremely diverse set of collaborators. Over the past year alone, Hennessy has worked with American rapper A$AP Ferg, Portuguese artist VhilsMexican boxer Canelo Álvarez and fashion brand Opening Ceremony.

You don’t need to be a pro-athlete or a recording artist, but there are a few hard-to-come-by qualities you will need if you want to work for or on behalf of a luxury brand. Here’s what Hennessy president Bernard Peillon is looking for.

In your opinion, what skills are required for someone to work with a luxury brand like Hennessy?

When they recruit new talent to join us—which we do on a regular basis and I meet every single candidate—I’m first looking for a sense of aesthetics. Is the person cultured? Are they interested in the arts? Does he or she know anything about history? It’s to be more educated than the average; to reach a level of sophistication or refinement where you’re able to enjoy, appreciate and be discerning in the aesthetics.

And of course, you need to have other qualities: like sense of excellence, for example. Luxury products, by definition, have to be absolutely perfect. And so, we are meticulous in the way we do things. I don’t take less than the best, so I want the absolute best for everything. This way, we’re setting a standard in the way we present our brand, so that it is at the highest level. This is what luxury is.

Influencers and content creators are playing a growing role is brand marketing strategies—Hennessy included. If you were to paint a picture, or even write a job description, for the kind of person you want posing with a Hennessy bottle on Instagram, what would that look like? 

It’s so diverse. And for each Hennessy bottle—whether it’s X.O, V.S, Paradis—it’s very different. For example, I have six kids. Each one of them is at a different stage of their life, and they each have very different personalities. Under the Hennessy name, there are different personalities, each at different stages of life. Therefore, I need to be extremely respectful in that way I let those personalities express themselves. And that’s why I’m referring to children: good parents are going to allow each of their children to grow, while allowing them to express their individual personalities. And after that, what we have to do, is make sure we belong to the same family.

What I’m expecting from each person working on behalf of these brands is to be at the highest level in terms of excellence, execution and creativity, in whatever their area of focus is. Essentially, all of the things I described earlier about hiring staff.

What advice would you have for the people out there interested in collaborating with your brand?

I have a motto that I’ve used in the many years I’ve been running Hennessy: I need you to be 15 minutes ahead of everybody else. Which means I’m asking you never to replicate what surrounds you. You need to learn from what surrounds you, but in terms of creativity and initiative, you need to be ahead of your time. I don’t see any reason why I would take something that is a replica or inspired by something that’s been done before. And I think this is the right attitude for a team. I’m motivating people to be their best, and I’m providing them an environment where they’re able to create.

So this is the standard for everyone working with or on behalf of Hennessy. But, there can be very different people executing this. There could be someone who loves contemporary art, someone who loves rap, someone who loves cuisine…

But is there a thread that ties all of these people together? That, despite having varied interests and life experiences, makes them the same?

Elegance. Because it starts with the cognac we create, and if there’s one word that our master blender uses systematically when we taste together, it’s elegance. He adds a few other words to that as well, but if there’s one thing that describes the Hennessy style, it’s elegance.