Interview: Marketing is part science part magic in a manner of speaking: Ankush Manchanda, Director – Digital Marketing

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Bacardi

Bacardi holds 82% market share in the standard and above rum segment, 96% in the Super premium Vodka segment, the company’s spokesperson Ankush Manchanda shares insights on how they got here.

With a marketing model based on innovation and disruption and with an approach to seize the audience by creating platforms like Breezer Vivid Shuffle, Dewarists and India’s happiest music festival, Bacardi NH7 Weekender. Manchanda, also answers the one question along with others running through our minds, “Has the brand been successful in creating the required brand image?”

Bacardi Limited, is the largest privately held, family-owned spirits company in the world. Ankush Manchanda, Director – Digital Marketing (Asia, Middle East & Africa), Bacardi Pvt. Ltd, on the occasion of concluding two-decade long journey in India, shares insights on marketing a product whose advertising is banned in the country, the journey so far and the road ahead.

Read on to attain the insights from the representative of a brand leading it’s sector.

How has Bacardi’s two-decade-long journey been in India?

Bacardi India Private Limited has always believed in paving the way and enhancing the drinking experience for our consumers in India. On the back of Bacardi Carta Blanca, a white rum in a brown spirits dominated market, we introduced Indian audiences to an international product of unparalled quality with the true might of a global giant. Since then we have introduced some of the worlds best products with Breezer, Grey Goose, Bombay Sapphire, the Dewar’s portfolio, William Lawson’s scotch and our latest entrant Bacardi Reserva Ocho. It has been a journey filled with milestones and the best we believe is yet to come.

On the communication front, we have steadily grown to own conversations around pop culture- especially music, dance and comedy. This is something we’re scaling each year, be it through our campaigns like Bacardi House Party Sessions or our work with content curators like Varun Thakur and Kaneez Surka.

What have been the challenges given the ban on alcohol advertising in India and what strategy have you used to overcome them?

Strict statutory environments are part of the business reality in many of the markets we operate in across the globe. Our marketing model has always been one based on innovation and disruption. Starting with Bacardi Blast where we took the night club out into the night, our approach has allowed us to connect with our audiences by creating platforms like Breezer Vivid Shuffle, Dewarists and India’s happiest music festival, Bacardi NH7 Weekender. Our through the line strategy is heavily focused on digital delivery of our brand point of view. We employ an approach that relies on working with content creators, allowing us to have meaningful conversations with our consumers instead of spamming them with heavily branded content and ads.

How have you been successful in creating the required brand image in the minds of the consumers adopting alternative advertising methods?

The responses we have received to our campaigns stand testament to their performance. While we have received a number of awards from the Cannes Bronze Lion to our recent win at the Kaleido awards hosted by Brand Equity for Bacardi House Party sessions, the real fruit of our endeavours can be seen in two ways- the manner in which consumers engage with our content and activations as well as in our business performance. Despite the various head winds, we emerged as one of the fastest growing international spirit companies in the country, on the back of having some of the best brands in the world backed by innovative and disruptive campaigns, that speak to our audiences in a culturally relevant way.

What have been the results? Where does Bacardi stand in terms of its respective market share?

We are the market leaders in the Premium Rum, Super Premium Vodka and Ready-to-Drink segments and were instrumental in growing the Premium Gin category in India. As per the International Wines and Spirits Record (IWSR) 2017, Bacardi Ltd. has captured the following market share in India:

Standard and above rum segment – 82% market share
Super premium Vodka segment – 96% market share
Gin premium and above segment – 74% market share
Ready-to-drink (RTD) segment – 93% market share

Please shed some light on how has Bacardi’s advertising journey been? What have been the brand’s innovations and how effective did they stand?

Our first TV spot was in the early 2000’s which brought in the Carribean vibes associated with Bacardi to Indian shores. However, post the regulatory changes introduced in 2005, we have evolved in the way we connect with our consumers. We have shifted budgets towards digital mediums and also invested in PR in recent years.

The overall way we communicate with our consumers has evolved towards a more ‘pull’ focused strategy. Audiences today are more likely to follow Youtubers, musicians, gamers, bloggers.etc. than brands. Our digital campaigns have evolved to take this insight in to account and we work closely with content creators to naturally integrate our brands within their content.

This approach has resulted in the creation of campaigns like Grey Goose Tape cast where we worked with some of the most celebrated lifestyle icons to explore their passions and in doing so brought alive the brand point of view on success. Our work on campaigns like Bacardi Sessions has changed the way record labels operate and helped in the expedious journey of talent such as Ritviz, Ape Echoes, Pull to name a few. We reduced the time taken from when an artist begins his journey to when he hits headline stages from 13 years to 3, creating a real connection with the voices that our audience listens to. Overall our innovative way of reaching out to audiences has resulted in content that has received over 100% increase in organic engagement as opposed to the traditional models of branded content creation and delivery with a 30-50% increase in conversations and brand mentions across the breadth of our brand campaigns in india.

Could you talk about some of Bacardi’s key campaigns to date. And what is your TG like?
We are the market leaders in premium spirits and create culturally relevant experiences and occasions that inspire our new-age consumers and showcase the diversity and quality of our premium portfolio. Our campaigns range from Bacardi Blast, and Dewarists to Grey Goose Tape Cast, Breezer Vivid Shuffle, William Lawson’s ‘Very Pretty Amazing Game’ Show, Bacardi Sessions and the Bacardi NH7 Weekender, celebrating it’s 10th edition this year. Given the breadth of our portfolio, we are constantly looking for newer and more engaging ways to connect with our consumers. Our target group is varied and each of our brands connects with consumers in its own unique way – Bacardi leverages its legacy in music, Bombay Sapphire speaks of a consumer’s creative expression, Breezer encourages the genre of Hip-hop and dance subcultures, while Grey Goose elevates lifestyle.

Also Read: Interview: We look at ourselves as a Viewspaper: Aditya Tandon, Firstpost…

Coming to the digital wave, when did the digital bug bite Bacardi and how has Bacardi adapted to the shifting consumer needs and ever-changing trend cycle?

We started our journey in digital communications about 8 years ago but have evolved rapidly. Consumers today have a much shorter attention span. Research has proven that short format content is on the rise and the numbers being presented aross digital video platforms is starting to rival traditional mediums. We work with some of the most engaging and popular content creators and platforms, that’s how we stay ahead of the curve. There is a competitive advantage in identifying and working with creators who live our brand ethos. We also invest in social listening tools to keep a finger on the pulse of conversations and brand sentiment, allowing us to learn and grow with each step we take.

Bacardi India has been a first-mover in the creation of campaigns and experiences, inspired by alternative cultural trends, resulting in content such as Dewarists and Tapecast. We’ve tapped in to what consumers are listening to with Bacardi Sessions, creating tracks like Udd Gaye by Ritviz that crossed over 11 million organic views on YouTube and went on to feature as #4 on Apple music charts along witg trending on Saavn post initial release.

How has digital marketing boosted brand building for Bacardi?

Digital marketing has helped us stay ahead of the curve. Our content creator led approach has allowed us to engage in a far deeper and more meaningful way with our consumers than traditional media can offer by leveraging the might of content creators who have immense credibility within their areas of expertise. We see the benefit of this in the increase in overall brand mentions within conversation, our consumers are organically having on social media. We also see it in the way our audiences naturally integrate brand hashtags into their own content; showing us that they not only understand the brand’s perspective but that it is one that they resonate with and co-own.

How challenging it is to market to an Indian consumer vis-a- vis other foreign counterparts?

Our strategy to target an Indian consumer is no different from our international audience. They are just as exposed to global cultural movements and content. Today we look at our audience more from a mindset perspective and identify what it is that makes them tick. We firmly believe in using a hyperlocal approach. The content we design for India is different from the content for South Africa which is different from our content in Russia. It’s tailored to suit each markets passion points and their digital consumption patterns. Even though we operate under the same campaigns we work with country specific creators, giving us the agiity to localize content based on our creators’ understanding of what moves their audiences, while still staying true to what the brands are all about.

Has ‘Premiumisation’ helped you in increasing the market share in India? What keeps you binding to this brand image in a mixed economy like India?

Premiumization is a clear trend within spirits, international reports suggest that a majority of millenials are actually consuming lesser that the previous generation but what they are doing is consuming better. They are willing to spend for that truly good experience and would happily forgo quantity over quality. This works in our favour given that we are a premium spirits company with a portfolio of premium brands from Patron to Grey Goose. It is on the back of such brands and the strength in our growing whisky portfolio that we have been able to increase our market share.

‘Marketing to Millenial’ and Social Media go hand in hand. What has been the strategy on that front?

Social media as we know is evolving, and at a rather rapid rate. Right from Orkut and Hi5 to Tik tok today, the social media universe is expanding and the way audiences engage with them has evolved considerably. Our strategy has been to create engaging content with speed and agility without compromising the shareablility of the content. Over 156 years Bacardi has been synonymous with identifying and popularizing new cultural trends. Our strategy has always been to invest in creating sustainable platforms and experiences across brands; creating greater impact and increased emphasis on cultural relevance year on year.

Nowadays, many brands are seen riding the topical wave. Do you think it makes sense for everyone to do it every time?

My favourite piece of topical content was the Oreo ‘Dunk in the Dark’ tweet, which became one of the most buzz-worthy ads of the Super Bowl on Sunday and wasn’t even a commercial. It was spot on, smart, witty and inherent to the product. The biggest challenge with topical content is timing. If you miss the bus then a brilliant piece of content can go unnoticed. Consumers are very sensitive to brands that force their messaging and try to ride the topical wave in an inauthentic way. We are conscious of the occasions that make sense for each of our brands and indulge in creation of topical content only when it seems natural to a brand’s persona. For e.g. Breezer, a brand that believes that we should make the most of life’s colourful and fun moments, worked with a platform like Jordindian to create topical content around the occasion of Holi, while William Lawson’s a brand that has a ‘No Rules’ philosophy and speaks to audiences that are active live sports watchers has built an association with Mumbai Indians during the IPL.

Also, because marketing has been on the plate of every marketer. Sometimes, in spite of the storytelling being bang on, the plot loses the brand connect. What are your thoughts on the selling v/s sentiments routes for selling?

Marketing is part science part magic in a manner of speaking. Different companies have a different approach, some run each initiative through a focus group and while others like ‘Apple’ go with gut. To be able to ascertain the success of content or a campaign you have to make sure you don’t just tick all the boxes but go beyond them. The consumers are smart, they are evolving and will call you out if there’s a disconnect between your brand personality and the point of view you’re communicating. You have to be credible, real and relevant. As responsible marketers we also have a commitment to our audience and our approach to marketing is a combination of working with the right partners and integrating within content in a relevant manner. We trust our creators to know the audience and create content that speak to their minds and hearts in an authentic way.

What will be your focus in 2019 and Bacardi ‘s upcoming properties?

Each of our brands has a clear path over the next 10 years, which we believe are going to be the best yet and along that journey there are clear milestones on what we want to do. For brand Bacardi in the coming years its all about bringing the brand’s philosophy that one should ‘Do What Moves You’ to life through the evolution of the platform ‘Bacardi Sessions’, for William Lawson’s its about creating disruptive activations that establish its core brand philosophy of “No Rules”, and Bombay Sapphire has just rolled out its global campaign on ‘Stir Creativity’ to consumers in India.

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