How Indian alcobev brands can get innovative at marketing
By Saurabh Uboweja
There has been a constant debate about the way alcoholic beverages are advertised in our country. Many brands have, over the years, used music CDs, sodas or water as surrogates to market their beverages. They have been somewhat successful in ensuring brand recall, but not as much in establishing brand salience.
Recently, ASCI banned surrogate advertisements of 12 companies for violating its regulations; many others are under the scanner for actively advertising during the IPL on OTT platforms and print media. According to ASCI, these advertisements were found to be in violation of the ASCI code, as advertisers failed to convince the Consumer Complaints Council that these were genuine brand extensions, or that they did not have direct or indirect cues of the category whose advertising is restricted or prohibited.
The stringent guidelines and policies have made it very difficult for alcoholic beverage brands to market their brands in a way that provides the user with a holistic brand experience. For instance, surrogate advertising doesn’t help in demonstrating the product experience nor does it communicate the value proposition of the actual product.
Packing a punch
Alcoholic beverage brands must strive to think and act differently, starting with understanding who their target audience is, what they like, and how they respond. Analysing the changing customer dynamics helps brands innovate. Brand identity and innovative packaging have the potential to trigger word-of-mouth marketing.
Absolut Vodka, for example, has been adding a twist to its traditional blue font and silver cap bottles by tailoring its design to suit different occasions and address different issues. The Andy Warhol Absolut bottle and the pride-coloured Absolut Vodka bottle are examples of the successful initiatives taken by the company. Fans of the brand see this as an opportunity to purchase more of the same product, just for the sake of collecting different packaging. This also helps promote the brand through word-of-mouth.
According to Nielsen’s Global Trust Advertising report, 92% of the consumers around the world trust recommendations from friends and family more than other forms of advertising. Simply put, you are likely to try Absolut Vodka’s pride-coloured bottle if your friend recommends it, rather than viewing a post on the same on the company’s Instagram page.
One of the most prominent examples of brand identity playing a role in word-of-mouth marketing is that of Bira, the beer brand. About six years ago, Bira entered a space dominated by beer bigshots like United Breweries, Anheuser-Busch InBev and Carlsberg, and yet managed to carve a space for itself amongst the millennials in metropolitan areas. The young population was curious to try this funky looking craft beer brand that had quickly become the talk of the town. Its new-age mascot has become an easily recognisable icon at any restaurant or bar.
Music and entertainment correlate with higher consumption of alcoholic beverages, but require creative leverage. Music CDs used to be a rage when it came to surrogate marketing. Now, many companies sponsor events like music festivals to engage with their customer base on the ground.
By collaborating with singer-songwriter Ritviz for the song Udd Gaye, Bacardi took surrogate marketing to another level. Without displaying or directing attention to its core product, Bacardi marked its presence in a minimalistic way. The music was catchy, and the song went viral. Similarly, by partnering with TVF to produce a web series called Pitchers, Kingfisher made the most of the digital space.
Homegrown wine producer Sula not only offers a vineyard experience at its site, but has also been hosting a successful music festival called Sula Fest since the last 14 years. Even in the presence of other indigenous wine producers, Sula has been able to capture over 65% of the domestic wine market.
The author is managing partner, BOD Consulting