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The cutting-edge content strategy of alcohol companies has set high benchmarks for brands across categories. While many brands are jumping onto the content marketing bandwagon in recent times, alcohol brands have for years mastered the art of engaging with consumers.

But with the Covid-19 pandemic disrupting everything and the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) becoming super strict about surrogate advertising guidelines, alcohol brands have upped their digital content marketing game to keep the consumer engagement momentum going.

Sidhant Bhutani

Sidhant Bhutani, Marketing Head, Simba Craft Beer, said, “In such a situation, the digital platform has emerged as a boon for the alco-bev industry, introducing opportunities that were formerly unavailable to this sector. Brands are utilising their digital assets through content marketing to engage with their consumer base on a real-time basis by sharing fun, engaging, and informative and relevant content via live sessions, videos, pictures and timely updates.”

He said, “The past year has brought with it several challenges that disrupted all existing business plans, forcing brands and businesses across industries to relook, realign and restructure themselves to adapt to the new normal. This year too will be a year of endless innovation, focused on meeting the ever-evolving consumer base with an immersive brand experience.”

Anupam Bokey

According to Anupam Bokey, Chief Marketing Officer, Allied Blenders & Distillers, digital and social media content have become a strong contender even from a cost per reach basis. He said that the category requirements and restrictive distribution prompts alcohol brands to use more social and digital media content tactics to avoid wastage.

Bokey explained, “TV is typically used for mass reach. Unlike FMCG, one has to adhere to norms around the drinking age limit in the alcobev category. Also, not all alcohol brands are present across the country. This leads to the wastage if alcohol brands advertise on TV to reach the masses. To avoid waste, brands in the category resort to more geo-targeted media vehicles: digital and social. Typically TV might be the lowest cost reach, but the audience in the alcobev is smaller than FMCG. It is not that a low cost from a reach point of view.”

The above theory doesn’t mean that alcohol brands should completely ignore TV advertising. Bokey said one can advertise on TV while fulfilling the surrogate advertising norms set by ASCI. He said a brand doesn’t always have to communicate around the functionalities of the brand but also engage with consumers. Content marketing is used to engage with the consumers and drive some meaningful purpose. “Both TV and digital content have their roles. TV drives salience, OTS. Content is used for engagement,” he said.

While the alcobev category has always relied on content marketing, going forward, it is bound to increase spends on the digital content side.

Bokey of ABD believes that for alcobev brands, advertising is also content as they are not allowed to show the product. He said, “Currently around 20% spent of media is spent on digital and social. It will go up as high as 40% this year. We will see this growing significantly higher because if you don’t have a national presence for every brand, then it is more effective to use geo-targeted media vehicles.”

Simba’s Bhutani said, “The ongoing health crisis and its impact on the consumer buying behaviour and online sales have led to a rapid digital transformation, encouraging several brands to amplify spends on digital marketing to engage with potential consumers beyond the product and reinforce their brand values. This year, we will mostly be about driving meaningful content through long-term influencer engagement, cross-brand promotions and like-minded partnerships on digital.”

The trends that will lead the content game for the alcobev category are influencer-led content, content collaboration on OTT, brand integration across TV content properties, music and comedy.

Bokey said, “We are creating specific content buckets for each of our brands. Each of our brands has a proposition, and around that, we create content buckets. For Sterling Reserve B7 and B10, we have created content pillars around music and comedy, which are the Sterling Reserve Music Project with Universal Music and Sterling Reserve Comedy Project done with Comedy Central. Some of the content pillars for other brands are under development

Simba has created its IP ‘Roar from Home series’ – a set of cool virtual gigs with independent music artists. Simba has also collaborated with like-minded home-grown brands to foray into new categories with the launch of beer-infused chocolates, sauces, and candles.

Bhutani added, “To promote our foray into new categories, we leveraged influencer marketing and digital activations, especially on social media, allowing us to tap into the right set of audience, cultivate brand advocates and boost in its customer base.”