With new guidelines on surrogate advertising coming into effect last week, liquor brands are leaving no stone unturned in creating new entities to reach target consumer groups.
Liquor brands such as Diageo and United Breweries are doing their bit to focus on the upwardly mobile population in the metros and mini metros by opening lounges, while other such as Absolut and Brown-Forman are associating with art and music. There are still some others that are going to the extent of creating a field force within organisations for on-premise activities.
Diageo plans to open one club each in metros such as Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore and then take the count to 10 by '07. Santosh Kanekar, marketing director, Diageo India, says: "It's about scaling up the brand equity and we would have done it irrespective of the fact that advertising is banned in India." Diageo has only four such clubs worldwide in Korea and Vietnam, amongst others. "This is more of an India-specific marketing effort," he adds.
These clubs include the Johnnie Walker Club & Lounge and Smirnoff Cafes. A typical Johnnie Walker Club & Lounge would entitle consumers access to brand-associated music, art events and Formula 1 races. The club will host Malt dinners, invite its master blender from Switzerland, screen races and indulge in co-promotional activities with brands such as LVMH.
Diageo is likely to spend 20-30% of its marketing budget in setting up these bars and clubs, and plans to rope in some of the best people in the food and drinks business. Diageo is also planning a big foray into the world of art soon. These lounges could also serve as an attractive venue for brands to venture into sampling exercises, offering loyalty programmes and creating an overall experience zone for the captive audiences present there.
Liquor marketers say that by opening these exclusive cafes, they are cashing in on the increasing demand for cocktails. Anant Iyer, head of the trade marketing team at United Breweries, says: "These lounges will be consumer-centric and extremely sensitive to their choices. Everything will be tastefully done."
"We have a tailor-made strategy in place to work on premium premises and differentiate our brand from the others. In order to do a 360 degree marketing spin, we are using the mobile while the internet could be also a part of the media mix," says Ashwin Malik, COO-North, United Breweries.
Marketing experts feel that liquor and cigarette brands are likely candidates for creating these community branding activities. "Smokers lounges and liquor clubs are becoming a part of the business plan of liquor companies in India as it's relevant for these socially-ostracised categories," says Harish Bijoor, a marketing consultant. He feels that these brand lounges will cater to the top end of the pyramid as the offerings would be niche and unique.
Although some brands like Brown-Forman and Absolut vodka are not going the whole nine yards as far as these lounges go, they are building their brands in other ways. Amrit Kiran Singh, vice-president and area director, Brown-Forman, says: "We are invited to put signages of Jack Daniel's in clubs. In addition, staffers of these clubs wear the logo of JD as it appears to give them a cult feeling."
Other brands such as Absolut vodka are banking big on community building by associating themselves with music, fashion and art.
"Absolut as a brand is hugely active in on-ground activities and on the internet in getting people with similar mindsets together from small and big towns," says Siddharth Banerji, director, Kyndal India, a subsidiary of Whyte & Mackay.