Our biggest focus is on premiumisation through innovation: Bhavesh Somaya

Somaya, Marketing & Innovation Director, Diageo India talks about the significance of experiential marketing and associating with social influencers to drive consumer choice towards premiumisation

e4m by Aditi Raval
Updated: Dec 10, 2014 8:34 AM
Our biggest focus is on premiumisation through innovation: Bhavesh Somaya

Bhavesh Somaya, Marketing & Innovation Director at Diageo India talks about Diageo’s agenda of driving premiumisation through innovative experiential marketing strategies, creating unique consumer experiences and promoting power brands Smirnoff Vodka, Johnnie Walker, VAT 69, and Reserve in India.

What is the marketing strategy in alcoholic ready to drink market for India?

The RTD category is still nascent in India compared to other Alcobev offerings. Positioned in the right manner it has the potential to reframe the spirits category by recruiting consumers at pace from beer. We believe it is the right time to introduce an exciting offering in this category to meet demands of new-gen consumers who keep exploring new alternative options to enhance their party experiences and are seeking exciting, easy formats of spirits Vs beer.

ICE is one of the largest selling RTDs across the globe and we are offering the Indian consumer two novel options with refreshing tastes to kick-start their parties. Smirnoff ICE is what we call a magic mix with a unique formulation with added flavors and perfect carbonation. It’s the 1st vodka premix in India that comes from an established trademark such as Smirnoff.

The main strategy is to drive sampling of our new offering at scale in the right environment across music festivals, night clubs, pubs and hangouts. We have launched in Goa and Karnataka with decided investment in both on-trade and off-trade activations. Based on our key learnings from this “pilot” programme, we will further roll out Smirnoff Ice across the country very soon.

What is on the cards for diversifying Diageo portfolio in India in terms of future launches?

Any future launches that we are planning, need to be in the service of recruiting new consumers or premiumizing consumer choice.

What are the marketing innovations specifically for generating more demand for Diageo portfolio?

Diageo has adopted several marketing innovations for generating more demand for the Diageo portfolio. One of the most important and effective marketing innovations are experiential events where we bring alive our brand philosophies by creating global immersive experiences for our consumers. Our On trade and Off trade activations are another important vehicle where we create disruption and differentiation for our brands. It allows us to communicate in innovative ways at the point of purchase or consumption. Digital engagement through original content is another platform critical to ensure that our brands are having regular conversations with consumers.

What are the focus areas for marketing with regard to boosting premiumisation in India?

Premiumization is now a well-established trend, that over the years has got marketers thinking how best they can ride it and makes the most of it.

One of the biggest focus areas to leverage this is through Innovation. Be it higher-end variants within a brand franchise or associations with global luxury brands like Dunhill and Porsche design to make limited edition products, compelling innovations have always been the best way to capture the imagination of consumers wanting to upgrade.

The other focus area is rich consumer experiences, especially those crafted around key occasions. Today consumers are seeking experiences before products and when linked to key occasions, the emotional benefit to the consumer becomes stronger.

Johnnie Walker Blue Label is the pinnacle of Johnnie Walker and by bringing to life the rarity of the variant through occasions such as Father's Day we have created appetite for this 450 dollar a bottle blend.

Besides the above, the theme of offering consumers new ways of consuming products and giving them nothing less than the international experience is vital in fueling the step up. In our industry it's all about fine drinks experiences and Diageo has invested tremendously in building a platform that elevates the art and craft of the bartender so as to provide consumers with drinks of the same standard as the hottest bars in the world. Education is key to delivering this - both of the consumer and the community that creates these experiences.

Lastly and this is something that has been done over the years but if done well can in fact aid premiumization is associating brands with influencers - these could be celebrities who live the ethos of the brand or simply social influencers who walk the talk of the brand and who bring to life the essence of the brand. To quote an example P Diddy associating with Ciroc in North America has made it the fastest growing luxury vodka in the world!

What is the role of experiential marketing and social media in your overall marketing strategy? How do you leverage these mediums?

For lifestyle brands one of the most important elements is “experiential marketing”. As these are mostly perception/imagery driven hence unlike other categories where marketers bring to life product benefit and RTB, in case of lifestyle brands it’s more about getting consumers to live, interact and engage with the brand experience. We take a similar approach for our portfolio, getting to experience the brand philosophy and purpose is crucial which can be done through experiential marketing as well as social media.

Experiential Platforms: We are increasingly concentrating on Participation Platforms where we encourage consumers to participate and experience the brand in its true spirit. For example, Johnnie Walker the Journey is a confluence of global art and culture gave the Indian audiences a chance to share inspiring stories and a wealth of cultural knowledge at the same time be inspired by the international talent that gets showcased in this amazing festival.

Smirnoff Experience is set to redefine the festival going experience and showcase the best of music, visual art and technology. From trend-defining international artists, big-names in Indian EDM scene, to incredible visual art; the festival brought together dreamers, creators and believers over engaging and inspiring activities.

This experience also manifests itself when consumers go to Gen-Y hangouts and get exposed to our exciting “Group Serve Formats” and in the party experiences at home through “House Party” initiatives.

We have made strong investments in experiential marketing which provide our consumers with experiences and help establish a deeper connect with the brand.

Social Media engagement: We believe in having two-way engaging conversations with our consumers through social media particularly Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. We engage consumers through great content, news on product launches, our events and communicate our brand’s philosophy through engaging stories about brand’s heritage and personality.

For example on Smirnoff we have one of the largest FB communities with great engagement. And we have created engagement opportunities across mediums like Twitter and Instagram which are the high affiliation points for Gen-Y consumer.

7. What brands of Diageo are being promoted as power brands in India and specific marketing approach for each of them?

Smirnoff vodka, Johnnie Walker, VAT69 scotch and the Reserve portfolio are being promoted as power brands in India.

For Smirnoff trademark the approach is to establish it as the preferred choice for partying among new-gen LDA+ consumers. Our big platform idea is based around consumer experiences & nightlife.

Vat 69 is focusing on recruitment from premium whisky into the world of scotch. The big platform idea is based around ‘exhort men to succeed by doing things differently’.

Johnnie Walker is focusing on premiumisation in the Indian market and inspiring consumers to “Keep walking” on their personal journey of progress. The approach is to position each of our variants in a manner than fulfils a specific task where JW Red Label recruits consumers into the trademark, JW Black Label drives brand love and JW Blue Label halos the trademark being the ultimate rare icon of luxury.

Reserve is focused on building channel partnerships, exploding the weddings & banquets opportunity, creating bespoke luxury experiences and using a social diffusion influencer based strategy to drive discontinuous growth in the category.

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