We expect content creators and platforms to walk the talk with us, says Gurpreet Singh of UB Group

In the past, UB has created a lot of good content for its various alcobev brands but has taken a break for a while. In an interaction with BuzzInContent, Singh, Head of Marketing, talks about their content strategy, why the brand has taken a pause from its channel and future plans in podcasts

Akanksha Nagar
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Gurpreet Singh

Over the years, Kingfisher Ultra from the house of United Breweries has experimented and created a good chunk of content in the form of web series, short and long films.

The brand, which has delivered series such as Mr. Das, What’s Your Status and Rise, engaging almost its 980K subscribers through its channel ‘Cheers’, has taken a pause for the last nine months.

Gurpreet Singh, Head of Marketing, United Breweries, told BuzzInContent.com that the brand in a flurry had put out a fair amount of good content but the brand story through the content wasn’t seamless and directed as expected.

“We realised that while the content was great, perhaps the communication of what the brand stories were within it were not as integral and, therefore, we thought of taking a pause and reassessing this whole exercise. Our assessment showed that we were creating very good content that people were happy to watch and we were getting a good engagement score and numbers. Perhaps, the brand stories narrated were not seamless and direct,” he said.

Singh, while discussing the future plans for its YouTube channel, also said that it is better for any brand to reach out to external talented agencies while curating any content rather than creating it in-house. 

Talking about UB’s plans for exploring podcasts, Singh gave an overview of the content strategy of the company and how music and sports are helping brands build a stronger bond with the audiences.


How do you think your content marketing has kept the company’s desire among customers high even with the advent of global brands and also with the sudden rise of the Indian brands like Bira?

Our competition has always been fierce. It's just that the face of the competition, the nature of the competition has changed. Earlier, a lot of the competition was from regional and domestic brands but in the last 10-15 years, the competition is largely from international brands. As far as content is concerned, I believe that the bulk of beer consumption actually comes from the younger audiences and, therefore, targeting young consumers is key for beer manufacturers. A lot of the consumers in the age bracket of 21 to 35 consume media on digital platforms or in the form of sporting events or on the move. We target them through ads that are not advertising but in the form of content. It never is an ad shout-out but a lot many times, a short story of 30 seconds as well. So, from 30-second content to even an hour’s content, that is what we create for this segment to keep them engaged in one form or another to make it a two-way conversation.

UB Group owns a YouTube channel called Cheers. It is the channel behind some of the viral content like Rise, Mr. Das, What’s Your Status and others. We haven’t seen much action from the channel for nine months now. Has the focus shifted from publishing content or is there some other reason? Why stop leveraging a platform that has a subscriber base of 9.8 lakh. 

We had started our channel on an experimental basis for the first two years and created a lot of content around it. We were not 100% sure and clear what it would do for us.  We thought rather than forcing the digital audience to watch a 30-second ad, which in many platforms has the option of skipping, why not give him a 20-minute content programme. The audiences desire to see such content and visibility of the brand is far greater than even the 30-second ad. That was the starting point, and thus we created a lot of content and for about 18 months, in a flurry, we put out a fair amount of content. Then we stepped back and thought of assessing what the content was doing for the brand. We realised that while the content was great, perhaps the brand stories within it were not as integral and therefore we thought of taking a pause and reassessing this whole exercise. Our assessment showed we were creating very good content that people were happy to watch and we were getting a good engagement score and numbers. But perhaps, the brand stories narrated were not seamless and direct.

Today, we are still reviewing that and planning a few content stories for the channel very soon. It would be around Kingfisher Ultra short stories to narrate some inspirational stories, and we hope to launch this summer only.

UB is mostly seen creating content for the digital medium. Why not explore mediums like TV, radio, podcasts and print? TV offers reach, radio is classic and can also offer real-time engagement, podcasts are upcoming, while print calls for quality attention of the consumers. 

As a brand, we have to make choices on which one works the best in terms of impact and in terms of cost. TV, of course, for our non-alcoholic beverages works best for costs per contact and therefore we use that along with digital. As far as beer is concerned, we use a lot of digital because it is targeted marketing and there is no wastage as I am targeting only those who consume beer. On TV, there's a lot of wastage because it is not targeted and this can work for non-alcoholic beverages.

On TV and digital, it is about building brand preference and radio works best for a tactical approach. If there is an event happening for us, it works best for us to announce it on radio because it is an immediate action-oriented. We are also very interested in experimenting with podcasts as we haven't experimented much with that space. It is the right time for us to keep a budget for this as well.

How much of UB’s total marketing budget is allocated to content marketing and branded content? Would we see it grow this year, and how? Where would we see UB investing its money on the content front?

We are increasing our digital budget this year from 25% to 30%. And accordingly, we will plan our content marketing strategies for our various brands. We are in discussions on creating some short stories around the multi-faceted approach of Kingfisher Ultra around May or June. Besides that, we are constantly creating short format content pieces on social media.

How would you differentiate your content strategy from others in the alcobev category in India? 

Anybody else in the beer business has not much experimented with content or created content on their own, except for us. As far as Kingfisher Ultra is concerned, we are very active on social media. We have created a lot of visual identity for the brand. We might have taken a pause for a while, but we will be back soon. 

What is a more effective strategy: To have an in-house team working on content or outsourcing of content initiatives to agencies, creators and platforms? What works in your case? How big is the content team at UB Group?

Initially when we stepped in this space, we largely worked with our in-house team. But today, now that we have a little bit more structured and focused approach to content, the next piece of content that we will put out there will be co-created with some in-house inputs and a lot of inputs coming from external agencies. And if a brand plans to have a wider web of content, there are so many talented storytellers, copywriters and digital agencies which are creating sufficient good quality content. Thus, it will be foolish of any organisation creating all content in-house any longer. One has to reach out to as many agencies as possible.

We have a very small content team. Technically, a team of just three people, which includes the digital head and two other people to assist.

What are the things in mind when you decide to work with content platforms and creators? What are your expectations from them when they approach you with pitches?

We give a broad guideline to any such platform or creator to walk the talk with us. Since we have created so much content in the past and studied it closely, we have a good idea what will work for us and what not. So, if content creators have storylines that fall within our guidelines, we present it to our digital team and go ahead with a project if they find it of good quality.

We all know content marketing holds a massive opportunity in these times when the consumers have started avoiding advertising until unless it is unique. Still, we haven’t seen big brands being built based on only content in India, unlike the countries where brands like Red Bull and Airbnb are winning the content marketing game all over the world. Do you agree with this, and what are the possible reasons?

In India, if we look at the overall beverage category, consumption of TV still accounts for 700 million plus and all digital put together is somewhere 200-250 million. So, brands are trying to reach out to a larger group of people at a lower cost and thus, TV becomes the dependency for this country. Along with this, brands have a certain social strategy as conversations there are very high. As maximum consumers are still watching TV, brands in India cannot yet play in a very niche segment.  Brands like RedBull have niche products for a niche segment and for them to go for TV doesn’t make sense.

Most of the alcobev brands are riding on music. Is it paying back the desired dividend or is it just a trend? Many call it a safe bet with a little chance of going wrong and that’s what attracts alcobev brands. How would you respond to this?

For younger audiences, concerts are places to build memories which are majorly built on food and beer. And if any brand can partake in that experience and memory, they will build a bond with the consumer stronger than anything else. We always balance how much we are participating in these experiential programmes and creating experiences with them. Younger consumers bond good with music and sports and, therefore, a lot many brands either are sports- or music-oriented and such associations might not work for other category brands like FMCGs. At Sunburn, we have created enough visibility and experiences that it has become an integral part of the overall Sunburn experience.

Gurpreet Singh UB Group