Dave Bigioni gets into the spirit of things with Foxglove

Despite launching in the early days of the pandemic (or perhaps because of it) Valley of Mother of God Gin has enjoyed three strong years of growth, and has now added some marketing might to help take the brand to a new level.

Dave Bigioni, who became well-known as the marketer behind some of Molson’s brand-building home runs of the past decade (think “Molson Beer Fridge”), has joined the gin brand’s parent company Foxglove Spirits as vice-president of marketing and sales.

“The timing of bringing Dave in to spearhead our marketing and sales team is strategic,” said Malcolm Roberts, co-founder of Foxglove Spirits, who spent nearly 30 years in advertising before launching his the company in 2017. “We want the best in talent on board as we continue expansion across Canada and into export markets.”

After leaving Molson in 2017, Bigioni spent nearly three years helping cannabis company Canopy Growth prepare for  legalization of cannabis. Since leaving Canopy in mid-2020, he has been running his own consulting practice, Brave Strategy Inc., working mostly with startups to help build their brands, visual identities and go-to market strategies, but he eventually realized he missed being part of a team full-time.

“I spent the last year -and-a-half saying ‘What do I want to be and where do I want to be?’ And beverage alcohol was a big part of my career,” he said.

“Is spirits different than beer? Sure,” he said. But there are also similarities in terms of working with groups and businesses needed to help establish the presence and trial that leads to the word-of-mouth that is so essential in spirits marketing.

“I already have a list of people that I’ve worked with, at Molson and Canopy, and I will be knocking on their doors,” he said.

Roberts and his life and business partner Shelly Perry started the business in 2017, and their premium gin made it into Ontario’s LCBO in spring 2020. With sales outpacing expectations, Valley of Mother of God has recently expanded to British Columbia and Alberta.

Bigioni said he tracked the progress of Valley of Mother of God since its launch, and was impressed with how much attention went into the branding—“It’s one of the most thoughtfully put together brands that I’ve ever seen,” he said—as well as the product. He ordered a bottle through his LCBO, and it exceeded his expectations.

Roberts and Perry have enjoyed incredible success, and done so “practically without any advertising,” he pointed out. “You’re talking about a grassroots business that has got here. And I think that’s a testament to the strength of the product.”

But now they are moving into “aggressive growth mode,” said Bigioni. That means understanding the resources and tactics needed to move into different markets and with different products, all while maintaining high standards for both the product and the brand.

“I think the detail in all of that is what’s going to be really at the core of the brand,” he said. “Because when you’re talking about luxury brands, you need to be at the very top.”

Will growth mode mean more advertising in the future? “It will be over time, but that advertising is not going to show up in a TV show,” he said.

Spirits advertising isn’t generally about big splashy ad campaigns, he said. “It is being in the right places at the right time with the right audience. It’s going to exist in the environment that people live in. It’s going to be grounded, and it’s going to be authentic.”

David Brown