It seems like every music artist or celebrity has recently added a liquor brand to their portfolio, but for a few hip hop moguls their alcohol brands have become an extension of their public identity, with astronomical sales. In addition to star power, what sets these brands apart? Marketing executive Aria F. Wright is the silent force behind the scenes who specializes in helping these artists successfully launch a new brand in a predominately white industry. In the US market alone, the 2022 spirits industry has experienced unprecedented growth, racking up $35.8 billion in sales, and Wright wants Black spirit brands to have a piece of the pie.
With over 20 years of experience in both the music and spirits industry, Wright is responsible for successfully marketing top brands including Snoop Dogg’s Indoggo Gin. Her uncanny ability to find an intersection between the two industries can be credited to the start of her career, starting as an intern and working her way up to become the promotions coordinator at Motown Records, where she joined a team designated to promote a roster of artists including Erykah Badu. Wright learned the basics of marketing and how to collaborate with talent from visionaries, including Andre Harrell and Russell Simmons.
After pivoting to wine and spirits, she continued to work with creatives at the intersection of the entertainment and liquor industries. She has also worked with notable brands such as Pernod Ricard USA, BET Network and Moét Hennessy, to name a few, and is currently the US ambassador for Camus, a prestigious fifth-generation family-owned cognac brand.
Below, Wright details her career journey and her mission for fueling Black creativity and entrepreneurship in the spirits industry.
EBONY: Your career started in the music industry, who were some of your mentors or influences during the early years?
Aria F. Wright: My father taught me the fundamentals of music at an early age and even taught me how to play a few instruments. Upon graduation from Temple University, being a musician was one of those things that didn’t “stick," but it made me appreciate the business side. When I started my career, one of my most influential mentors was Sincere Thompson, an SVP at Polygram Records who showed me the ins and outs of the music industry as a business. He ultimately hired me as the promotions coordinator at Motown Records. I was on his team under the tutelage of the late music mogul Andre Harrell. Other influential people in the music industry at the time included Kedar Massenberg, Sylvia Rhone, Russell Simmons and Diddy, to name a few.
Why did you pivot to the spirits industry?
After working at Motown Records for nearly a year, I had the opportunity to assist with activating the tour sponsorship for the Sinbad Soul Beach Music Festival tour that kicked off in Aruba. All they had to say was that Earth, Wind & Fire was headlining the tour, and I was on a plane shortly thereafter to Aruba to kick it off! Toward the end of the tour, the agency we worked for offered me a job as the key account manager for a major spirits brand, and I fell in love with the industry from there.
You’ve played a pivotal role in helping multiple Black artists and celebrities launch their own liquor brands successfully. Which were the most memorable to create?
One of the most memorable was a partnership between Keenan Towns and Snoop Dogg that launched in October 2020 during Covid, after years of research, planning and development of the liquid. It was a true start-up brand, and it reminded me why I love collaborating with other creatives so much. My job was to develop and manage marketing campaigns and work with the regions to implement various sales and marketing initiatives around the country. I hired staff and managed all brand activity in the U.S., including the tour routing and execution of a 35-foot purple tour bus that traveled across the country supporting retail incentives.
How do you incorporate your passion for bringing Black entrepreneurship to the forefront of a predominately white industry, especially when working with a French, family-owned brand like Camus?
Camus is the largest family-owned Cognac house in the world and family entrepreneurship is a key pillar for the brand, which is one of the things that drew me to working with them. To promote the brand’s newest launch—an aromatic blend called Camus XO—I am holding private tasting dinners at two of the top Black-owned restaurants, Tatiana in New York City and Georgia Boy in Atlanta. My goal is to introduce the new spirit while celebrating entrepreneurs of diverse backgrounds, to prove that anyone can achieve their own dreams of ownership.