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Marketing Liquor Brands

Marketing Liquor Brands
I always wonder about the way liquor is being marketed in India. I have been to Europe for quite a time, and have seen the way liquor is being marketed and sold there. The liquor industry in Asia is quite different than in Europe or America. That too in countries like India, we are still conservative with liquor marketing due to some cultural barriers.
All this create an impact on the way liquor is being marketed in India. Lets have a look at some of the reasons, which I believe needs to be considered while creating a marketing strategies:
Traditional Barrier: Strong cultural ties and joint family cultural impacts a lot on consumers buying habits. Except some of the modern families influenced by western culture, our parents still do not bring drinks to the home, they avoid smoking in front of kids or avoid buying such stuffs when they are doing shopping with families. Furthermore Liquor is never being considered as a thing to appreciate, it’s always been associated with the bad habits.
No retail channel: European countries liquor is sold through a retail channel, whereas in India companies are not allowed to sell it without consent to appropriate authorities. We used to have beer in our college canteen in Bulgaria, whereas here in India, we cannot even have it with some of the largest retailers. Only places where we can have it is in Bars, pubs, clubs or some restaurants. So the impulse buying do not holds true in Indian context.
Government Policies (Advertisement Restrictions): We still have stringent norms about advertising the liquor or related products on Cable or Satellite driven channels. In June 2002, the Information and Broadcasting (I&B;) Ministry of India ordered leading television (TV) broadcasters to ban the telecast of two surrogate ads[1] of liquor brands, McDowell’s No. 1 and Gilbey’s Green Label. The Ministry also put some other brands – Smirnoff Vodka, Hayward’s 5000, Royal Challenge Whiskey and Kingfisher beer – on a ‘watch list.’ The government’s guidelines stated that ‘advertisements which lead to sale, consumption and promotion of liquor should not be allowed.
Buying decision: Let me ask a straight question to all the readers (off-course the drinkers only); what actually impact your buying decision? Is it Advertisements, Retail presence (Impulse buying), percentage Level of Alcohol, Friends referral of a brand or the brand recall (even though you do not remember any advertisement pertaining to that liquor brand?) When I discussed the same with some of my other friends, I found that either the reference or the brand recall was most influencing in buying decision. Whereas no one bothers to see the bottle to decide whether it has more or less concentration of alcohol.

Lets Discuss for a while on Advertising Liquor:

Attributes to be related: Liquor brands are being attached to attributes like glamour, success, achievement, performance and bravery (Haywards 5000). So the message going out is that drinking quietly equals bravery, success etc.
Degree of Influence: I believe that advertising helps a person switch brands or introduce a new category. It does not convert a non-drinker to a drinker. Bacardi, Smirnoff, Fosters, Haywards 5000 and Kingfisher are among those some of the brands which are built by advertising in India. Yet, there are iconic brands like Old Monk that do not seem to be advertised at all. 

Ways of Advertising: Since the impulse consumption (i.e. the opportunity to buy) is low in India, so it’s a different ball game for Indian advertisers. They have to focus on advertising channel which are out of bounds of stringent regulation of airing such ads on TV channels or even on print media. So, Except very few brands, most of the liquor brands use the medium of Surrogate Advertising. If we ask someone What is Wills Lifestyle? What is Royal Challenge Golf? What is Kingfisher? Answers might be an apparel brand or an airlines name etc. This is the way, these companies are building a brand. It creates a brand recall. Further more most of the companies have entered into mineral water category which can be highly marketed or promoted, which in-turn helps in creating a strong brand recall for the liquor brands. I will soon write an extension of this blog to define ‘Surrogate Advertising’ with some more refreshing examples from Liquor brands.

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