'We have been bringing avenues of entertainment to consumers in these festive times'

Sameeksha Uniyal, Senior Brand Manager, Brand BACARDÍ, India & South-east Asia, discusses the journey of NH7 Weekender along with their new marketing strategies

e4m by Nafisa Shaheen
Published: Dec 30, 2020 8:44 AM  | 9 min read
Samiksha Uniyal-Bacardi

The 11th edition of the multi-genre, multi-city music festival, Bacardi NH7 Weekender was celebrated virtually on the 5th and 6th of December 2020. The two-day digital edition featured an eclectic lineup of musicians, who came together to perform for their fans. Simultaneously streamed on 3 platforms; the BACARDÍ Stage, The DEWAR’S Stage, and BREEZER Vivid Stage — clocked 16+ hours of music by local and international artists.

With the festival going virtual, Sameeksha Uniyal, Senior Brand Manager, Brand BACARDÍ, India & South-east Asia, spoke to exchange4media about the journey of NH7 Weekender so far along with their new marketing strategies.

Edited Excerpts:-

What was the impact of COVID-19 on the business of Bacardi? What are the key learnings from the past 10 months?

These unprecedented times have impacted almost all businesses, including the alco-bev industry. Among the myriad pivots witnessed during this constantly evolving scenario, the most impactful was the shift in consumer behaviour and preferences. On the back of a significant reduction in social gatherings and celebrations, the ‘homebody economy’ became the new normal making home consumption the new avenue for consumers. At the same time, digital became the mainstay for entertainment, experiences and infotainment. Therefore, with keeping consumer at the heart and agility at the core of BACARDÍ’s strategy, we created innovative experiences and also adapted our existing properties to meet consumers at their newfound platforms, all the while keeping safety as the top priority.

The last few months have been a learning curve and pushed us to reimagine & evolve our brand activations owing to the changing consumer behaviours. At the same time, I have never seen such massive opportunities to drive meaningful conversations with consumers. We have seen that remaining authentic and transparent with consumers is crucial to building trust and lasting consumer relations. Even when it comes to safety, in addition to actually employing such measures, it is imperative to be transparent about the norms, practices, and packaging procedures as consumers are increasingly becoming ‘woke’.

Bacardi NH7 Weekender, one of the largest on-ground music festivals in India went digital this year for its 11th edition. How different was the whole experience? What was the engagement this year?

Hosting large-scale on-ground events is not feasible this year and rightly so. At the same time, BACARDÍ NH7 Weekender is a decade long property that brings artists and fans together in a space where they can express themselves and truly do what moves them. We were absolutely certain that we will bring the happiest music festival to them, especially this year which needed the happy, lighthearted moments and a sense of community. Thus, taking cognizance of the consumers’ appetite for different avenues of entertainment and experiences from the safety of their homes, we decided to bring alive the first-ever virtual edition of BACARDÍ NH7 Weekender. And lo and behold, it was a resounding success with 26+ artists across the globe joining in and over 65,000 people tuning in to the festival. We created the destination with our friends at OML, which was brought alive by PayTM Insider on their platform. The content was specially curated for fans of the festival with all artists working on interesting concepts and sets for their performances, from beaches and mountains to stadiums, stages, and cozy living rooms.

We set out to create touchpoints similar to the on-ground event where people usually catch-up with friends and even artists. We retained the stages for BACARDÍ, DEWAR’S and BREEZER, each one bringing alive its unique vibe and genre like every year. On the digital interface, there was a Private Virtual Party option for people to catch-up with friends and view the gigs together, as well as a global chat option to react and speak to everyone at the festival; even artists joined in on some of the conversations. There was a spotlight feature, where viewers could do what moves them in a 15-second reel. Each of the stages also had interesting bar games for consumers to also learn how to stir some cocktails from their homes. Kits with the merch could be bought on the website and were also included as part of some of the tickets.

Most importantly, it brought alive the Weekender State of Mind and the on-ground vibe virtually enabled more people to join in breaking geographical boundaries. We are so grateful to the artists and audiences for their support for over a decade and their unparalleled love for the festival that made it happen and helped everyone do what moves them from the comfort of their homes. 

What has been the journey of BACARDÍ NH7 Weekender so far?

Known as the happiest music festival, BACARDÍ NH7 Weekender is one of India’s biggest culture festivals that brings together multi-genre music and comedy. It was created owing to our commitment to serving culture bring great music experiences to our consumers The festival brings people together in shared experiences and gives them a chance to listen to and catch-up with their favourite artists, as well as discover new music. It is a coveted immersive experience for consumers and we’re glad to put it together year on year consistently.

The last decade has been an incredible journey, where every year the Weekender clan looks forward to and prepares for the weekend, and we are so grateful to all our partners for the undying love and support. Even this year, in these trying times, everyone came through for the experience and made it memorable. At BACARDÍ, we pride ourselves on being leaders in creating culturally relevant experiences, and this overwhelming response to BACARDÍ NH7 Weekender inspires us to continue co-curating new formats and experiences.

What has been the marketing strategy from the brand to navigate through these uncertain times? How has the brand managed to cope up with the changing consumer sentiments in recent times?

Our strategy has been to continue our commitment to the brand and company’s marketing principles of keeping consumers at the heart of everything we do and agility in building experiences and solutions. This year more than ever, it has been and continues to be important to listen to the consumers, anticipate their needs, and remain agile in meeting them through disruptive solutions.

With consumers shifting to digital platforms for all activities ranging from data consumption to virtual experiences and e-learning, we built digital-first experiences. We kicked off with virtual cocktail masterclasses by our brand ambassadors across social media to satiate the consumers’ desire to learn new skills in a fun, interesting way. We also launched the digital leg of BACARDÍ NH7 Weekender with #HappyAtHome sessions attended by nearly 6 million consumers.

People have also been looking at recreating pre-COVID experiences, and as a brand, we continuously worked towards helping them create moments and experiences in light of these evolving consumer needs. Be it the virtual edition of BACARDÍ NH7 Weekender or even the Casa BACARDÍ experience, which was hosted on-ground last year. In this digital Casa BACARDÍ @Home edition, we brought home the Caribbean vibes of the brand for consumers to do what moves them through performances, dancehall workshops, mixology sessions, and more.

In all these consumer touchpoints, we’ve remained authentic and only participated or furthered pop-culture conversations where the brand has earned the right to participate. We married the brand’s passion points across campaigns with those of the consumers.

What broad trends did the Alco-beverage industry witness?

The alco-bev industry witnessed several changes from a consumer and trade point of view. The initial phase saw the opening up of e-commerce as the on-trade venues were closed. Consumers’ spending patterns also changed with a significant reduction in discretionary expenditure and rising inclination towards purchasing from established and trusted brands.

As marketers, the larger trends that impacted us were the shift to at-home consumption and increased appetite for digital platforms. Keeping safety at the forefront, consumers brought the outside inside for consumption, experiences, celebrations and entertainment. There has been an unprecedented surge in select at-home gatherings and virtual parties, cocktail hours, experiences, and more.

How has influencer marketing performed for the brand? What are the major matrices that the brand considers while onboarding a nano/mini/micro/mega influencer?

At BACARDÍ, we have consciously focused on building digital content and immersive experiences for consumers through the years, and this year, the experiences were taken to virtual platforms as well. In this journey, we’ve partnered with content creators, curators, and artists across the board, all of whom are very influential for their particular streams and passion points as well as highly relatable for their audiences. Just as we as a brand only participate in conversations where we’re a right fit, we look for content partners who are an organic fit to the conversation and cultural touchpoint, making the content very true and engaging.

Earlier this year, BACARDÍ launched a unique, virtual #PassTheBeat movement where 15 major artists and performers from India, the Philippines, and South Africa, passed the beat from country to country, for 9 hours of non-stop live music. Similarly, we invited select 24 influencers from the spaces of youth culture for the Casa BACARDÍ Staycation at Abode Bombay on Halloween. The thematic staycation brought to life this year’s biggest spookfest with a mixology session on Halloween-themed cocktails, immersive room set-ups, and more. We have recently launched the global campaign Conga.Feat.You where consumers have the chance to do what moves them and be featured in the remake of this global hit. And influencers across the globe will be leading the way to encourage consumers to participate. We have also announced season 4 of BACARDÍ Sessions with Vidya Vox and Nucleya to continue our commitment to indie artists. Winners will get a chance to collaborate with these artists and also be mentored by them.

How did the festive season perform for Bacardi?

We started off the festive season with our first ever Casa BACARDÍ Staycation for Halloween. Then proceeded toward hosting BACARDÍ NH7 Weekender virtually and now, we’ve brought Conga.Feat.You and BACARDÍ Sessions. Overall, we’ve been bringing avenues of entertainment and innovative experiences to the consumers in these festive times.

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