Like everything else in the lockdown, even the alcohol industry evolved and changed. From rise in home deliveries to DIY cocktail kits, there is so much new at the consumer end. But how did the industry and the brands evolve? What has been the backstory and how will this narrative unfold in 2021?
Kartik Mohindra, Chief Marketing Officer, Pernod Ricard India gives us the answers.
How has the pandemic changed the Indian alcohol industry?
My biggest learning has been in the way we’ve risen to the challenge – business and personal – to completely transform the way we live and work. COVID challenged the way we think, connect and carry out day to day activities. Our capability to make amends within compressed time frames was key to getting on-course and winning in the marketplace.
With all the chaos going around, we did not forget that before marketers, we are humans and coronavirus outbreak is first and foremost a human tragedy. Employees’ health and safety was one of our biggest concerns and our ways of working were completely redefined keeping in mind the safety, mental health and wellness. Empathy and innovation helped us sail through.
Secondly, uncertainty will continue to impact all businesses. In fact, this crisis is challenging the human capacity in every sector and Pernod Ricard India Foundation is committed to ‘Leave No One Behind’ and support our stakeholders and our communities to tackle the pandemic
Third, ‘Opportunity in Crisis’: Low availability has always been a moot point for the Indian alcobev industry with only 75,000 stores in India. We have always been the proponents of ‘Right number of outlets and the right environment’. In times of COVID, one must ensure the right environment for consumers to buy products of their choice, safely and quickly. And this crisis presented a great opportunity for policy advocacy on home delivery.
We believe that online sales and delivery will be highly transformational in the near term and in the future. The online sales and delivery system have been changing the fortunes of many industries. COVID -19 has redefined our thinking in many aspects, including categories, which have never evaluated this medium seriously. COVID-19 presents an opportunity to decrease the physical distance between retail and customer and makes the transaction shorter, faster and far safer in these times. We have been working with state governments to help them explore alternative transformational distribution through online ordering and fulfillment options, which will be important in these times.
How has Pernod Ricard India’s marketing plan changed and evolved since the lockdown?
The pandemic has dictated the need for re-evaluating our traditional marketing approach, redefining the ways we reach out to and engage with our consumers and stakeholders. Currently, the situation demands us to be present for our consumers, stakeholders and communities. Therefore, it is imperative that marketing becomes more responsible and is focussed on purpose-led communication.
“Millennial consumers are even more aware of their choices and seek a deeper engagement with their brands of choice.”
We are aware that consumers are progressively seeking experiences that empower them to make new discoveries within their passions and interests, which translates to online engagement and home-tainment now. The consumer today is evolving rapidly and so are their media-consumption habits – adoption of OTT, e-sports, digital, etc. Hence, our ways of doing business are witnessing a radical change. Being future–ready is paramount and to that effect, we have been strong proponents of digital transformation, focused on comprehensive connectivity in a restricted industry.
What changes have you seen in the consumer behaviour since the lockdown and thereafter?
There is a steady rise in the time spent by consumers on social and digital platforms. The rise of traditional social and external events being streamed online with social interaction is a big thing right now! Instagram and Facebook live views have doubled since March. Whatsapp, Instagram and Messenger (messaging apps) have witnessed usage increased by 40% among 18 to 34-year-old. (Source; Kantar, Social baker and Tech Crunch studies). We have experienced consumer incidence/usage growing by approx. 20% on OTT, online gaming platforms as more and more consumers gravitate to digital to keep themselves engaged in this period.
It’s too early to assess the degree to which it will affect consumers’ choices. We will continue to focus on ‘drinking better quality’, as post–COVID will remain strongly inclined towards quality + experiences, and consumers will increasingly lean towards responsible consumption, seeking brands that are responsible and respectful.
Moreover, we expect E–commerce gaining further traction and penetration. The heterogeneity in consumer preferences will continue to lead to changes in demand and willingness to spend; subsequently making the marketing initiatives and methods dauntingly complex.
What is in store for your consumers in the near future and what is your business and marketing plan for 2021?
We at Pernod Ricard will always try to keep up with the evolving consumer’s attitude, while taking a strategic approach towards social media and digital promotions, specifically to target millennials. We will leverage our strengths in consumer marketing through digital media and continue to align our marketing expertise in this direction and connect our leading brands with the consumers today.
Our future marketing campaigns are more aligned to the consumer, based on the insights we develop through the present changes in consumer behaviour, to alienate any opportunity of misrepresentation. At present, we are focusing our resources on various purpose-led communications and Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives. Our marketing will recommence once it is “Business-as-usual” and with the restoration of consumer sentiment.
Pernod Ricard India has always focused on providing quality products with a premium experience. Millennial consumers are even more aware of their choices and seek a deeper engagement with their brands of choice. This insight enabled us to develop a completely new product – 100 Pipers 8YO Blended Malt Whisky.
Every luxury sector has an overarching marketing narrative. What is it for the Indian spirits industry today and why?
Whisky once induced visions of grey-haired men sipping the brown gleamy liquid in a dark room. It is ironical and interesting that over the years the same spirit has emerged as the overwhelming favourite and is no more confined to Scotland. India has witnessed an explosive growth in luxury spirits. Indian premium whiskies too are spreading their wings beyond national boundaries and are already being savoured in several countries. With brands like Blenders Pride, 100 Pipers, Jameson, Chivas Regal, Royal Salute, our constant endeavour is to offer brands with purpose and values of authenticity, legacy and craftsmanship.
As different consumption patterns emerge, more than ever before, luxury consumers in India share common ground: they want to be inspired. Consumers are progressively seeking craftsmanship, heritage, etc. and experiences that empower them to make new discoveries within their passions and interests. Be it ‘made to measure’ suit or limited-edition collection, luxury is something that is aspirational and motivational to achieve. It’s a unique bespoke experience that leaves an indelible impression on the consumer.