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Gender neutral advertising for a whiskey brand; Diageo alters way how Alcobev is marketed in India

In a first, the company has come out with a campaign for Johnnie Walker that also focuses on women in the male-dominated segment. Through the campaign, which will mainly be digital, the brand wants to connect emotionally with consumers

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Ever seen a whiskey brand communicating to women in a society where single malt is considered as the preferred drink for men? Though in a surrogate form, but Alcobev brands still focus on men.

Diageo, however, has decided to break this trend and give equal focus to women in its campaigns.

“At Diageo, we are consciously trying very hard to make our brand accessible to everybody. It’s not that we are marketing to just men. We are trying to keep it gender neutral. I think, in today’s world, women are equal consumers of every category and brand as men are. We strongly believe that they are equal partners and we don’t create the gender divide,” said Abhishek Shahabadi, VP, Marketing, Diageo.

Shahabadi said that the company has always believed in purposeful advertising for Johnnie Walker as it helps set up an emotional connection with the consumer.

“For JW, inspiring personal progress is something that everybody connects with because the basic insight is that everybody wants their tomorrow to be better than their today and it is relevant to everybody. And what you do with that purpose and what kind of stories you tell will instinctively start connecting with people because they will see a bit of themselves in the story that you are telling,” he said.

Shahabadi said that the digital has made it easy to reach out to consumers, especially for an alcohol beverage company, but gaining the attention of a consumer and setting up an emotional connection isn't as easy.

“Today, it is way easier to reach out to the consumers, but it is very difficult to communicate to them. We have a digitally connected consumer set and a large part of country you can reach out to at a fraction of cost; you can reach from one end to the other in a matter of a day’s time. With the explosion of content, brands are trying to do so many things to be able to clearly, truly communicate and reach out to the consumers and connect with them emotionally. Everybody is churning out content on-the-go every day. It has become that much more difficult to cut through,” said Shahabadi.

With changing consumer behaviour, they are now not only expecting a functional solution from the product but are also looking for an emotional solution in the communication. “The affluent consumers have travelled the world; have a huge amount of expectations; they see the best of the world and their expectations what they see back home are equally high. In order to maintain good experience, engagement and standards, is something that the brands at the top 10 need to continuously work towards,” said Shahabadi.

For its massy range of products, the brand follows a completely different media strategy.

“For mass consumers, you cannot have a fancy idea and not have a plan which doesn’t deliver a scale. So for mass products, you have to think of ideas that cut across millions of consumers and things that have much wider appeal and are legally understood,” he added.

The campaign

The company has launched its first-ever brand film called ‘Mission Mars’ for the premium whiskey brand Johnnie Walker. In the film, Diageo celebrates India’s journey to mars. Since Johnnie Walker’s tagline isKeep Walking, in order to carry that legacy ahead, its new brand film raises a toast to India’s first expedition to mars.

Sharing the marketing objective behind its new film, Shahabadi said, “The marketing objective behind this campaign is to create and see Johnnie Walker and its narrative in culture, using a story of India’s progress that emotionally connects with every Indian. As a result of this, what we want is the equity of the trademark in the country.” He said the contribution of women has also been brought to light.

Imran Khan, director of the brand film, said, “The Mangalyaan project is something that I have been following very closely and I knew the instant this opportunity came to me that there would be nobody better to tell this story. It has been absolutely fulfilling to be able to narrate the story of the greatest achievement our unsung heroes, a story according to me filled with pride that needed to be told and celebrated.”

The film:

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