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Abhishek Shahabadi

Even though brands use all mediums for content marketing, they are skewed towards digital as a preferred platform because it is flexible and democratic when compared to television or radio.

“Television is inflexible. It’s far more rigid in terms of slot availability, partnership and mechanism because it takes a lot of time, cost and planning to run a campaign,” said Abhishek Shahabadi, Vice-President and Portfolio Head of Luxury and Premium Brands, Diageo, in an interview with BuzzInContent.com.

Barred from direct advertising in India, the alcobev brands have been focusing on content marketing through their extension brands. Shahabadi said, “We believe we have converted the liability into an asset. Most of our branding and marketing approach is led by our extensions. Our marketing initiative is to identify our role in consumers’ lives.”
A content initiative of Diageo is a lifestyle portal, Liveinstyle.com, with content on cocktails, fashion, travel and everything about stylish living. “Content buckets are oriented towards brands but the face of the platform is consumer-centric,” Shahabadi said.

Excerpts:

While most of the content marketing initiatives across categories are aimed at building trust among consumers, it is considered as visibility exercise for the alcobev category which can’t go for direct advertising in India. How would you react to this?

We respect the thought of not advertising directly for the alcobev category. We cannot show bottles or talk about alcohol but we have the right to advertise our trademarks like Johnnie Walker or McDowell’s No. 1 and their multiple set of extensions.

We believe we have converted our liability into an asset. Most of our branding and marketing approach is led by our extensions. Our marketing initiative is to identify our role in a consumer’s life. All our brands serve a purpose in the consumer’s life, which is understanding what our consumer is seeking and to help a consumer celebrate life.

We have derived themes for our brands, for Johnnie Walker: Inspires your personal progress; for McDowell’s No. 1: Celebrate the bonds of true brotherhood; Vat 69: Celebrate the authentic you; for Black Dog: Unwinding and relaxing to power ahead and for Black and White: Sharing experiences. That’s how we approach advertising in India.

What are the key content marketing initiatives that Diageo has undertaken?

We have Black Dog Easy Evenings that set the platform for enriching experiences in comedy, music, to help you pause, step back and relax.

Similarly for McDowell’s No. 1 Soda, we asked Salim Sulaiman to create regional language songs with sonic asset as the base. We created a song in six regional languages – Kannada, Marathi, Punjabi, Hindi, Rajasthani, Assamese and Bengali, which got more than 25 million views that helped bring the culture together. There was no mention of McDowell’s but sonic asset as base of the song helped people connect with the brand.
How do you measure ROI on your content marketing initiatives?

We don’t have direct metrics to say how it contributes to overall sales growth because we are advertising via our extensions. We do measure how it is impacting the health of our trademark but never link it directly with our sales growth.

What percentage of your budget goes to content marketing?

We don’t have a content marketing budget. We spend a certain amount on creating experiences for consumers. Our categories are experience-based categories. It has never been an investment to create content.

Which is your digital agency/content generator that helps build content for you?

We have an in-house team where we are connected to a universe of influencers. We are associated with people to ideate for the brands and drive initiatives. We have an ecosystem of partners with whom we tap into. No particular agency for content requirements. We believe content is all about variety and it gets better with creativity. So, would like to tap into the river of creativity in the country and not stuck to someone specific.

What is your approach to choose content for Liveinstyle.com?

Liveinstyle.com is a lifestyle platform with over two million registered users. The platform is all about lifestyle, where brands fit in with respect to the categories. As per the preferences of the user, our brands are embedded in a relevant manner in the content pieces. Content buckets are oriented towards brands but the face of the platform is consumer centric.

Where does Diageo stand in content marketing space vis-à-vis other players in your category?

We have a far more structured approach, more consumer-centric approach to content and are far ahead of any other players in terms of thinking and execution of the content marketing approach.

We see content marketing initiatives across all platforms. Still, why is it that it is skewed towards digital as a main medium?

We have done content initiatives across mediums. Television is inflexible. It’s far more rigid in terms of slot availability, partnership and mechanism because it takes a lot of time, cost and planning to run a campaign. We have been doing couple of initiatives on radio but it takes a lot of content that needs to be churned out every now and then, being a real time content platform.

Digital is a democratic medium. It caters to an equally large audience. With time, communication ecosystem has evolved, so the content on digital is easy to disseminate and manage.