‘Balance between in-home and out-of-home consumption of liquor will shift substantially’

Abhishek Shahabadi, Vice President & Portfolio Head, Scotch & Premium whites, Diageo India, talks about changing drinking patterns for consumers, reading consumer insights and more

e4m by Ritika Raj
Updated: Nov 30, 2021 9:23 AM
Abhishek Shahabadi

While the country gradually recovers from the after-effects of two devastating Covid-19 waves, on the back of ongoing vaccinations, consumers are now trying to get back to pre-pandemic ways of socializing and celebrating. Diageo’s scotch whisky brand Johnnie Walker has recently launched a new campaign #RevibeTheNight with the objective to re-energize the country’s after-hour culture through its  As part of the campaign, the brand brings together beloved music artists like Divine, Ritviz, Lisa Mishra, Taba Chake along with popular indie bands like When Chai Met Toast and Mad Boy Mink among other to perform live across iconic community spaces in India. Abhishek Shahabadi, Vice President & Portfolio Head, Scotch & Premium whites, Diageo India talks about the insights behind the campaign, reviving after-hour culture, changes in consumer drinking patterns, marketing strategy and more.

Please tell us about the insight and inspiration behind your new campaign 'Johnnie Walker #RevibeTheNight'.

Prior to the lockdown, after-hour culture bloomed in India at celebrated community hubs. They eventually became a safe haven for individuals and was driven by the culture of live music and enthralling performances that created their very own vibe. With normalcy gradually returning, we saw that the need is resoundingly consistent to relive those nights. In line with Johnnie Walker’s ethos to forge forward towards community progress, we wanted to re-energize after hours through musical acts that drive business and conversation around the brand. Through #ReVibeTheNight, Johnnie Walker aims to reconnect with this community bringing them music curated by artists who have a history of captivating crowds with their one-of-a-kind live experiences. The campaign aims to achieve this through re-creating the after-hour culture at these iconic spaces across key markets in the country.

What are the objectives and metrics that you have set for this campaign? As a global brand, how are you ensuring that the brand ethos remains intact and consistent?

With the #RevibeTheNight campaign – Johnnie Walker unfolds a new chapter in India to inspire people to keep on walking and regenerate socializing as a community albeit responsibly, as the world gradually reopens after a difficult 18 months.

The after-hour culture is more than just a nightlife space in India. Audiences want to return to their safe havens, rebuild their bonds, relive experiences and gain new perspectives which enables them to move forward towards a larger life goal. Johnnie Walker’s #RevibeTheNight is a step in this direction, to become a social connector for these communities to re-discover this vibe and spend time with music after the hustle of their day’s work. By collaborating with the country’s trending music sensations, we aim to create a collective experience that transcends all boundaries for people to re-establish their connect with this culture.

Diageo is collaborating with many artists and brands that resonate with the youth. What are the synergies in play and how do aim to leverage them?

When we penned down the key requisites for artists to lead the campaign, the names that fluidly came to mind were Divine, Ritviz and Lisa Mishra, among many others. These three artists have built their own spaces within the industry, having enthralled crowds across barriers, and are considered trailblazers within the country. Divine is the true-to-heart, rap artist who has not only carved out a niche for himself in the Indian rap industry but has also paved a way for others to follow. Ritviz is an extremely popular name today, who having popularized a new style of Indian Classical music has created his own niche avatar of a distinct and infectious sound the country is currently vibing to. Lisa Mishra, a rare find with her own story of growth as she rose from being a viral internet sensation to one of the leading and successful singers in the country. All three artists resonate with the brand ethos of moving forward and their success story of achievement echoes with the Johnnie Walker brand philosophy and spirit.

During the pandemic, India's liquor market has undergone a premiumization. How has that panned out for you? As a luxury brand, do you see avenues that you would want to capitalize on?

There is a clear trend of premiumization between categories and even within individual brands. With the increase in affluence in the younger demography, the consumers are upgrading to more premium offerings are choosing premium brands that provide a great experience of socializing and celebrating. This trend is driven by consumers’ need to upgrade their status and reflect their differentiated personality through such choices.

Within our scotch portfolio, we have recently announced the complete brand renovation of our most iconic brand – Black Dog. The brand promises an exquisite blend of some of the finest whiskies of Scotland for the next generation of achievers and whisky enthusiasts.

Can you share some insights on how drinking in India has changed post-pandemic?

As in-home drinking increases through the last years, there has been a reinvention of the home bar with consumers becoming more involved with the category to try out new ways of drinking better. People are eager to now get back to indulging their taste buds with drinking experiences that excite and delight. Casual drinking occasions have significantly increased for the premium segments as consumers were able to preimmunize to their favourite brands in their regular catchups. This trend will likely continue and fuel the growth of premium drinks.

What has been growth in home consumption and growth in women drinkers and their preference?

Home consumption accounted for most of the consumption during the pandemic months and even now, the incidence of home consumption hasn’t reverted to pre-pandemic levels. People have found a way to entertain and enjoy themselves at home and this is something that will shift the balance between in-home and out-of-home consumption substantially. Consumption amongst women has also seen an uptrend during this period led by the discovery of new and more accessible ways of having spirits especially whisky.

Please tell us about your marketing approach and strategies to amplify the campaign.

The campaign has gone live and will be on across two months as Johnnie Walker’s city takeovers in India come alive through #RevibeTheNight. We have activated hotspots across metro cities and tier 2 markets by artists who have a history of captivating crowds with their one-of-a-kind live experiences. While the gigs have gone live, we have also planned for a digital campaign kickstarting a Reel Challenge on Instagram focusing on the bespoke serve for the campaign– the Johnnie Walker Red & Ginger. The video showcases Ritviz and Lisa Mishra vibing to a hook-step, on the new soundtrack created for the campaign while they whip up a refreshing Red & Ginger highball. The challenge has also been thrown open to audiences to hop on to the trend created by some of the popular faces across influencers on Instagram.

In addition to this digital leg, the on-ground performance will also be supported by culture forward showcases and pop-ups hosted by new-age designers, flow artists, skateboarders etc. to bring alive elements of #RevibeTheNight with Johnnie Walker. The campaign utilizes various formats across diverse platforms including various digital and social assets that are being mobilized to drive maximum reach.

Considering that the event is taking place in times of an ongoing pandemic, what steps are you undertaking to ensure safety?

As responsible marketers, Diageo India and Johnnie Walker will ensure the safe execution of all on-ground performances. #RevibeTheNight has been scheduled at a time when the country has moved into the opening phase and consumers across key metros have been doubly vaccinated. For the campaign, the brand ensured that the capacity at all venues and outlets is within the safety limit. Brand’s endeavour is to responsibly provide the experience of #RevibeTheNight to audiences keeping safety and protocols at the helm.

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