Diageo to bet big on digital, invest in experience-led platforms this festive season

The company is also closely looking at associating with cricket properties, says Amarpreet Anand, EVP and Portfolio Head, Diageo India. He talks about its last year's ad spends that were put on hold on major social media platforms due to growing toxicity and its self-regulatory mechanism of advertising across platforms

Akanksha Nagar
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Diageo to bet big on digital, invest in experience-led platforms this festive season

Amarpreet Anand

Amid the pandemic, consumers have been looking up to brands that offer them greater value. This is one of the many reasons why Amarpreet Anand, EVP and Portfolio Head, Diageo India, believes that despite the negative impact on the liquor industry’s overall growth, Diageo’s market share has improved.

Since the company is optimistic about the potential of its business and portfolio, it has kept its advertising spends at a very competitive level.

In an interaction with, Anand said Diageo will continue to aggressively spend on digital and social media while looking at investing behind experience-led platforms and cricket properties this festive season.

 “We have kept our spends at a very competitive level. In fact, on strategic choices, across brands we have invested much more than what we used to do historically. We have used the current situation to invest more for consumers, and invest more on our strategic choices to grow out of the problem, rather than cut away into a bit of a slippery slope. And that is why we have gained market share, and reputation. We have invested ahead of curve across our focus brands this year. And that has gained momentum in our key battles. So as an organisation, we will continue to invest aggressively,” he said.

In terms of media platforms and choices, the company had last year moved significant amounts of money on digital and social media platforms. He said it will continue to invest on digital and social in an aggressive way this year too, and during the festive season it will look at experience-led platforms if the Covid-19 situation doesn't escalate.

He said, “This year we have a fairly exciting cricket calendar as well and we're looking at it very closely to see the best way of investing.”

Last year, starting July till September end, Diageo had paused paid advertising globally on major social media platforms and discussed with media partners how they will deal with unacceptable content. This had happened amid the widespread boycott of Facebook.

Asked how it looks at social media platforms in India given the current debate surrounding Twitter, Anand said, “When Diageo globally went into a social media pause, we partnered with Diageo Global to implement the pause across some of these platforms in India too. And there were very fruitful conversations between Diageo and some of these platforms at a global level in terms of how we make these platforms safe and progressive. We went back in terms of our advertising across these platforms only once the teams were convinced. We played in line with how Diageo globally played on that particular front. There are no double standards around that. We are in sync with that belief system espoused there.”

He said the company has a detailed view of particular programmes, digital platforms and websites on which its content is supposed to be visible and there is a very clear self-regulatory guideline within Diageo. The Diageo Marketing Code, he said, is a self-regulatory mechanism in terms of what kind of advertising it needs to do, can do or cannot do.

“There is a robust framework that we follow of the whole idea of marketing across both India and globally and Diageo is a fairly progressive marketer,” he added.

In these challenging times, most brands are struggling to stay relevant with its communication. Talking about how Diageo is staying afloat and on top of people’s minds, Anand said the brand found its responsibility to lift the spirit of consumers.

“McDowell's No.1 is all about ‘yaari’ and it was a responsibility for us to almost help lift the spirit of our consumers and audience while talking about friendship. For the Royal Challenge, we ran a campaign with RCB about celebrating some real Covid-19 warriors. During this phase, we took the role of a responsible brand in terms of what can be empathetic toward consumers to bring a smile on their faces, to thank people who are doing a great job. And when you keep that kind of a mindset around the work, consumers do reward you for really understanding what they're feeling,” he said.

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The brand, having understood the fundamental behaviour shifts in the last one year, has been trying to offer greater value to its customers.

“We understood that people are not going out and are consuming at home. No big movies were happening and a lot of content was being watched on digital and social. There was a lot of value consciousness. We saw that consumers wanted greater value from big brands because of the tightness in terms of economic disposition and overall incomes. So during this phase, we gave greater value to consumers,” he said.

So it invested a lot more in its products in terms of overall quality of blends and packaging. This, according to him, was rewarded by customers, which helped the company to gain market share.

“During the pandemic, our growth also slowed down like most of the industry because stores were closed and there was uncertainty, and liquor consumption dropped for a certain period of time. But overall as a category, and more importantly at Diageo, we recovered very strongly. I won't say we are back to pre-Covid levels but we are slowly getting there. We have recovered very well. From a market share perspective, we have really done very well. Our overall engagement within the business is at an all-time high. During this time, we wanted to emerge strongly about our contribution to society not only for our channel partners but also in terms of contribution to state governments and NGOs in terms of support for Covid-related medical care,” he added.

From a category perspective, the top end of its category—the Scotch business—has grown at an accelerated pace versus historical levels. Therefore, he said, the consumer at the top end hasn't been impacted so significantly due to the pandemic. McDowell’s No. 1 actually outpaced the category, growing 2x greater on the back of its transformation.

Going forward, he expects this festive season to bring a good cheer to both consumers as well as to the company. 

He said the growth momentum of the overall liquor category is seemingly coming back. He expects all players to be bullish about the opportunity and growth prospects.

The category will invest with new brands and heightened investment this year, which should augur well for the growth as well as the increase in advertising spends.

“We are seeing the introduction of newer brands in the market and are expecting advertising budgets to increase. We are renovating a few brands that have been put in the market,” he said.

Amarpreet Anand Diageo