Aria F. Wright On CAMUS Cognac U.S. Brand Ambassadorship & Women Leading The Charge
Aria F. Wright photo by Soul B.
The spirits industry has historically been a men’s playhouse, but recently more women are fearlessly breaking antiquated barriers and making the space a more inclusive one. Aria F. Wright, who has over 20 years in the spirits industry, continues to set an equitable example with her newly bestowed role.
Wright is now the key U.S. Brand Ambassador and spokesperson for CAMUS Cognac, the largest family-owned Cognac house in the world with a luxurious selection of aromatic blends. Based in France, the brand is now expanding its reach stateside. The partnership is the perfect match: both are family-oriented, incredibly motivated and want to shift the idea of cognac solely being a drink that men can indulge in.
“As I was trying to figure out different pieces of the puzzle, I bumped into a friend of mine while I was doing some print work walking down the street. He was in the spirits industry and asked me to go on tour with him forr the Soul Beach Music Festival,” Wright recalls of her transition from working in entertainment to working in spirits. “While I was there, I pretty much took everything into my own hands. I think I made an impression on the company that we were working for because by the time I got back, they offered me a role as a New York Key account manager. That was my first time cutting my teeth into luxury spirits, and I've been there ever since.”
Below, Wright discusses her vision for her CAMUS ambassadorship, the importance of family and the exciting plans to come this year.
Extra dark and intense oak barrels. Courtesy of CAMUS Cognac
What is it about CAMUS that you thought was such a good fit for you?
CAMUS is actually the world's largest family-owned cognac house, and they craft the world's most aromatic cognacs. When I tried the product for the first time, I saw the difference in the taste. When I started doing a little bit more research, I realized that this brand was really not joking about being family-owned. They're still run successfully by a fifth-generation descendant of the original winemaker. Their family is all about passion, ambition, perfectionism and sincerity. These are all values that drew me to CAMUS.
Since 1863, they have been passing on this legacy which is now five generations of keeping their values at the core of what they do. It was essential for me to learn all about the CAMUS brand because, as I developed in the role, I wanted to continue to speak to those stories and be able to talk about that as one of the things that really makes us special.
You mentioned CAMUS being very family-oriented, and you’re also a mother. Did you see the parallels between family and passing on legacy when you were first in talks with the brand?
100 percent. I actually have a son, who I'm proud to say is graduating exactly one month from today from Howard University [EDITOR’S NOTE: This interview took place in April]. It’s so exciting and I just absolutely love seeing him grow into the person that he is. It's so great because he actually works in the spirits industry, but on a different side, more on the consumer-facing side. He works at the biggest nightclub restaurant cabaret in Washington, D.C. while he's in school, and still maintains a 3.6 GPA. It's really inspiring to see that, and I think that I passed on my legacy by instilling hard work and value in him and helping him become passionate about what he does. We talk a lot about the state of the business and the crazy ups and downs. Just last month, he told me that he thinks he wants to pursue a career in this industry. So, it's just been really exciting to see the parallels. I definitely am learning more and more; I've only been in the role since October 2022. I've seen so much growth, smart thinking and dedication to really making sure that CAMUS is established in the US and just as established in the US as it is around other parts of the world.
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Are there any tips that you've given to your son about the spirits industry?
Yes, my main goal for him is to understand the power of his network. In this business, relationships are golden. The access that they provide, the opportunities that they provide, the network of people that you can meet who are like-minded, who think like you and who are striving for the same things is amazing. I tell him that he's in the right place at this moment in his career, which really begins in college because he's establishing great and long-lasting relationships with people from Howard University. They’re partnerships and friendships that will last for the rest of his life. I tried to really stress the importance of that and hard work. I put him through school, so his job was to make sure that he had everything else.
Of course, I have you if you fall short somewhere, but I definitely want you to understand that this is real life. Everyone's not going to have as strong of a network as you do. He chose a marketing major and I thought that was impressive because he didn't even tell me first, he told one of my friends. I just think that some of the things that I've said over the years have stuck, while others have not so much, but it definitely is a great thing to be able to witness. It’s also great to be able to instill some of those core values that I have with the brand that I work [with].
I like that. How have your previous roles in music and television helped or advanced you when it comes to the spirits industry?
I've worked in so many great areas, and each role that I've been in has helped me. Sometimes I've been on an island by myself, and I just have to figure out how to get off. I say that jokingly because the role that you sign up for is not necessarily the role that it ends up being. I've been fortunate enough to be in a position where I was writing programs at the national scope while I was in a local position. Being in New York, you get the melting pot, so you never know who you're going to be faced up against in a consumer setting. You have to be able to wear multiple hats, speak different languages and have different areas that you can pull from to really show that you understand different cultures.
Some of the roles that I've worked in for some of the largest, most prominent and recognized luxury spirits brands in the world have really helped me to be on the cutting edge of creating new programs, be able to listen to the consumer and be a part of what the consumer really is embodying. Whether that's a nightlife party scene, the lounge scene, or even the craftsman cocktails scene, I’m able to maneuver in all of those spaces. All of these experiences have lent themselves to me being able to talk to the masses and be able to scale our business.
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Going back to CAMUS, what do your role or any goals that you have in mind entail for this partnership?
I love that question. I am so excited about my new role as the U.S. Ambassador for CAMUS. I'm really looking forward to bringing in that new energy. These are things that CAMUS has not done. I'm not sure if I said this yet, but we haven't even been in the US for 20 years. The progress that we've made over the past year has been incredible. I'm really looking forward to bringing more excitement, more ideas, more energy and being able to work with amazing agencies. I just hired a new PR agency and a new social media agency. I just made a deal with the new artists for our next limited-edition bottle. The PR agency and the social media agency are all new to the brand; they've never actually been in positions to hire or never priority hire. So, the past two months that we've been working with Anna Miya Management have been amazing. We've gotten so much coverage, we've really increased our footprint above the line and the below-the-line scene. We've also been able to increase our profile with some of the coveted media partners and create these partnerships that really will help the brand to thrive.
The social media agency just got hired last week, so we’re definitely looking forward to wiping the slate clean and hearing some of the brilliant ideas that have come out of our team. They’re really working to revamp our website, social media and how we approach e-commerce. We also have a new e-commerce site that was just launched last month. So all great, exciting experiences that will really help when they're working nicely together to create new energy around the brand. It’ll help to bring in new consumers and create a diverse set of communications within each of these subsets so that we can really drive sales in the U.S.
With my job, I’ve gotten more familiar with the spirits industry. With all the conversations and interviews that I've had, it's all been women, which I love. I think now we're reframing the mindset that women also play an integral role.
I absolutely love, love, love it. One of the things that is most exciting about this role is the fact that I am able to pick up where I left off with another brand. Most spirits, cognac brands, whiskey brands and even gin brands will target men. It's kind of an old boys network or a men's society where women are kind of the afterthought. In this role, it's my job to spotlight the craftsmanship, while sharing stories of what successful generational family entrepreneurial entrepreneurship looks like and how to inspire our consumers. Most of our consumers are women, so I think that the brand really embodies the strength and the magic of what women have to bring to the table.
There are so many great stories about women, just as you mentioned, who are in leadership positions. So, I've really been impressed by how CAMUS has continued that dedication to building a more equitable organization with several women in influential leadership positions across the company. That's not just within the U.S., it's abroad. For example, the master blender, the vineyard manager, the global brand manager, the global commercial manager, are all women. Then when you round that off with my role as the U.S. brand ambassador, it just really helps to create a strong story. I believe that the brand embraces that. It really stands behind its word of being a trendsetter with so many women at the helm of the business. I hope to tell these stories and inspire other brands.
As I mentioned, it was an afterthought at some of the other companies. This is definitely not an afterthought. I always say this is the Year of the Woman. Even our new limited edition artist is a woman. It just really speaks volumes when a company that's relatively new to people in the US comes out the gate saying we have strong women at the helm.
You mentioned a bit about your goals for this ambassadorship. Is there anything that you could discuss that's more timely that readers could look forward to?
Absolutely. We're launching a few new things this year. New packaging, new product line extensions and we're remixing some liquids. We have those things on the horizon, and I'm sure you'll learn about them as we continue to really develop this relationship. Of course, you'll get an invitation to all these launches.
One of our pillars is the arts. We will be really helping the brand etch its way into the artistic communities. Art can be in any form, as you know, and we've done a lot in the fashion space. So, where art meets fashion, where art meets entrepreneurship, where art meets luxury, those are some of the things that we're rolling out. We’re looking at New York Fashion Week for the next round in September. We are also looking at our bottle release for the limited edition 2023 artists in October, as well as some other really cool things that we're doing with PR and with making sure that the consumer understands who we are. Then we get an opportunity to sample them. We just started working with a new distributor, so that will increase some distribution points for us which I'm also super excited about.
My role is really talking about how the company has built a successful model with family entrepreneurship. The brand is very fortunate to have entrepreneurs all around them, so those stories are just low-hanging fruit for me. I can look all around and tell really amazing stories about some of the women who are my peers, some of the women that I look up to and some of the entrepreneurs who happen to be women that I look up to as well.