Kingfisher's liquor business takes flight in the digital domain

Samar Singh Shekhawat, SVP, Marketing, United Breweries elaborates on the company's strategy for the medium and how its innovative campaigns enable the brand to connect with the youth

e4m by Deepa Balasubramanian
Updated: Sep 8, 2014 8:10 AM
Kingfisher's liquor business takes flight in the digital domain

A veteran in building brands, Samar Singh Shekhawat joined United Breweries Limited, as Senior Vice President, Marketing in November 2009. A post graduate in Marketing and Finance from Symbiosis, Pune, Shekhawat started his career with Cadbury’s India in 1989 and has worked with Energiser Batteries, Dabur, Pepsico and Spencer’s Retail. 

In a conversation with exchange4media, he spoke about Kingfisher’s digital marketing strategy, and how the liquor industry could benefit from the medium. Excerpts:

Digital has been an important facet of your marketing strategy of late. Do you see this changing?

We integrate digital seamlessly into everything we do, it is an independent vertical in our marketing structure. Many of our campaigns are conceived with the digital medium as priority, as it affords us a certain liberty to do stuff that would be difficult in mainstream media.  

Most youth today drink and they are digitally connected. So this is an ideal platform to reach out to them. Kingfisher is the number three brand in the world and holds the number one position in India today on Facebook. Our joint venture partner Heineken is number one on FB globally. So, between both Heineken and Kingfisher, we have 80-90 per cent of the digital traffic in this category across the world in any case.

With the amount of effort that is being put in, and the kind of stuff that we are doing, the importance we give it today is only going to increase. And with so many platforms and devices available to us, the effort will gather momentum. 

Which has been your most impactful campaign?

Well, we have had many successful campaigns but what has really worked for us is the Kingfisher Beer Premier League (BPL). BPL is an IPL-style competition with 10 cities represented by their teams during the KFBeerUps. Registration is free and the form is shared on Twitter. We outsource the names of the team and logo and people also take part in various activities such as Beer Pongs, Chugging Challenge and the likes, and each city garners points based on their performance in such activities. Points are added to the Beer Premier League points table; teams have their own national records like the Olympics and people try to break the record.

The beauty of BPL is that, we don’t need to necessarily limit ourselves to one sport. It’s an intra-city digital and on-ground contest which has been extremely successful.

We have noticed Kingfisher has increased its digital spends. How much has it gone up by and which is the medium where you spend most of your marketing monies?

We have doubled our spends on digital every year and social and video content gets the largest share of our marketing spends. We have been growing at 100 per cent every year. We have done a lot of videos because that is where the market is headed. 

From a marketing standpoint, what are the objectives of your digital campaigns and promotions?

The objective is very clearly to provide consumers a seamlessly integrated marketing initiative into digital, to push brand messaging, make consumers a part of the narrative and build a community. 

How has the growth in digital impacted the liquor industry?

I have not come across many brands that have been using digital in a big way. Most of the digital work in the sector is being done by us. At the moment, it is impacting the liquor industry to the extent of getting younger, tech-savvy, more educated consumers on the digital platform. In fact in the next couple of years the number of people using digital would be larger than the number of people watching satellite or cable networks.

How can marketers use digital to retain customers?

Constant engagement with customers, keeping them informed, resolving a complaint quickly, building communities and making consumers feel that they are a part of the brand story, are some of the ways that marketers can use to retain customers. 
What according to you is lacking in the digital media ecosystem?

First of all, most brands and corporates have no clue about how to handle digital. Of course there are organisations that are doing really well on digital, but by and large there is a lack of understanding, which is extended to media agencies as well. However things have been getting better in the last two years. For instance,  look at the way Narendra Modi ran his election campaign on the digital platform.

Also, the entire digital ecosystem is still nascent in India, unlike in developed nations where everything is done on the internet. Digital will never take over cheap labour in true sense as India is rich in building man power.

What can Indian marketers learn from international digital campaigns?

You need to keep your messaging true to what your brand stands for and target the right audience. Technology is a big enabler. The mobile phone explosion is leading digital penetration in India and we are already the number two mobile phone market in the world after China. At the moment, we are fast catching up with China in terms of the mobile phone explosion and in about two to three years,  we will be ahead of them.

ROI is the biggest question when it comes to digital. What is your view on it?

ROI used to be an issue because people didn’t have measurement analytics. Today, we have several organisations that can measure and analyse and give you insight on digital behaviour and responses to campaigns. It is my submission, that the ability to measure your initiatives on digital today are stronger and more scientific than your ability to measure responses from traditional media.


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