How Diageo is making content its strategic pillar

In a freewheeling conversation with, Diageo India's Content, Influencer Marketing and Brand Advocacy Head Khushboo Benani talks about the content strategy of Diageo's brands

Akansha Srivastava
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Alcobev major Diageo India, which owns brands such as McDowell’s No.1, Johnnie Walker and Signature among others, believes that content should be a strategic pillar of brands that want to connect with the youth.

Khushboo Benani

“If you are just doing it because it is something new and in the culture, and you want to give it a shot, it won’t drive impact,” said Khushboo Benani, Content and Brand Advocacy Head, Diageo India.

Diageo India runs popular music content platform such as No.1 Yaari Jam under its brand McDowell’s No.1 Soda that launched an original song – ‘Apni Yaari’ with music band ‘Sanam’ earlier this month on Friendship Day.

No.1 Yaari Jam is the YouTube channel where the brand publishes its original content and acts as a publisher on digital. The ‘Apni Yaari’ music video with ‘Sanam’ has already crossed 16 million views by now on YouTube.

Benani believes media spends on a music asset should be concentrated on a single platform. “The best platform to distribute music video content is YouTube and then you can work with platforms like Saavn or Gaana, which are music distribution platforms. Music is not a genre that would work better on platforms like Instagram and Twitter. One can’t cut music into 10-second formats and put on Facebook and try to effectively divert traffic from Facebook to YouTube. These platforms don’t talk easily to each other, where you can divert music,” she said.

Talking about the brand’s TV content strategy going forward, Benani said, “This year we are looking at partnering some of the bigger television properties that are linked to music where we will have brand associations. We won’t be creating a TV show but integrating the brand on what it is going to be about. On digital, we will continue making original music content.”

“We as a brand would market around the consumers' passion points in a 360-degree manner. At some point we will create original content, at other places will do brand associations,” she added.

At the same time, Diageo is looking at partnering with platforms offering differentiated content and proposition for its range of brands. “We are getting some interesting proposals from OTT platforms. We are also exploring options to work with music apps in the future.”

Identification of a right content partner takes a certain amount of intuition along with data analysis in terms of considering the creator’s audience profile based on the kind of content they are creating, the size of the audiences, age group of the audience and the demographics of them. Benani said, “It’s not completely scientific right now. It’s data+creative intuition.”

At a time when a lot of branded music content is being produced by brands across genres, Benani believes that consistency of association with the passion point is the key if you want to break the clutter.

“Music is a phenomenally engaging content space. In India, music consumption is an everyday habit and hence it is a more engaging passion point than even cricket. That also means the amount of music available between songs, covers, independent artist is huge and there is a clutter. But if a brand ends up doing music content like a one-off association and then gets out then you are not going to break through the clutter. The only way you can break through the clutter is to engage with music in a consistent fashion,” she said.

For content marketing to work, one needs to be consistent in the long run with content and this could be as expensive as traditional advertising. And if the content is not that cost-effective, why should one go for it over the advertising?

Elaborating, Benani replied, “The basic principle of content marketing is to engage and not interrupt. With advertising, one has to interrupt. The moment your content is really relatable, the engagement goes up, people will start sharing it organically, which will usually not happen in advertising. The chances of content to be relatable are much higher.”

She cautioned that only caring about how your brand shows up in the music property and not actually co-creating the kind of sound you want with the artists will not work for branded content. “When we partnered with Sanam, we wanted to create something with the existing sound of Sanam. If we try and push Sanam to do music which is not their space, it is not going to work. The best way is to work with the artists in the genre they appeal to their fan base. You can’t ask Sanam to create a rap.”

Too much branding is another negative factor that takes interest away from a content piece. If you make something with too much branding then its ability to work organically goes away. But you also need to have the right balance where your brands find prominence and right visibility. According to Benani, finding that balance is the most difficult challenge for content professionals today.

Talking about the primary objective of all the content initiatives by Diageo’s brands, Benani said that they look at talkability and engagement. “We believe in building brands with purpose and the job of content is to create a connection with consumers, she said.

When asked what works better between video and audio for a brand, Benani said, “For a brand, video works much better. Until unless a brand has a sonic identity which is very strong. For example, the sonic identity of James Bond. Just by listening to its sonic identity, the consumer can connect to the brand. Another example is Intel Insight. Till the time sonic identity is not made at scale, video is better for branded content.”