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Content creators have helped Bacardi engage with consumers better: Anshuman Goenka

Bacardi has had a long association with music. The brand has leveraged music since its entry in India 20 years ago, forming a strong brand identity for its rum portfolio. Over the years, the brand has built up marquee properties such as Bacardi Blast in the early 2000s, to NH7 Weekender and Bacardi House Party Sessions.

On the occasion of World Music Day, Adgully spoke to Anshuman Goenka, Head of Marketing, Bacardi India, on their brand building strategy that revolves around differentiated music IPs and how leveraging music has helped Bacardi become an iconic brand.

How did Bacardi’s music journey begin?
In 1999, when we launched the Bacardí Blast campaign, we pioneered the idea of open-air music experiences by literally taking the concept of nightclubs out in the open. In its 20-odd years in India, Bacardí has gone from being famous for hosting parties way beyond it’s time (read Bacardí Blast) to celebrating a decade of India’s first multi-stage, multi-artist music festival – Bacardí NH7 Weekender.

Along with OML, we created Bacardí NH7 Weekender to bring the best of music – independent artists, local and international, to perform in India, a few days of pure music bliss. Having worked with Indie artists over the course of 10 years, we slowly came to understand the gaps these talented artists face, leading to the culmination of Bacardí House Party Sessions. A platform for independent artists to create, develop and promote their music with the benefit of unlimited resources and mentorship.

Why leverage music as a marketing strategy?
Music travels beyond boundaries and increasingly, brands are starting to latch on to this emerging trend because it allows them to communicate to a wider target audience. For Bacardí, music has always been a means for us to give back to our audiences. Our approach has consistently been to engage with the music community and our consumers. From our experience, we have realised that music opens avenues for brands to own a space and host global platforms that resonate with consumers more deeply.

Why this focus on independent music?
Bacardí advocates the sentiment of ‘do what moves you’, and the idea is not to just find fresh talent, but to fuel these aspirations of the artists and be a part of their every milestone. With this platform, Bacardí is passionately nurturing the musicians of tomorrow, bringing their unique sounds to every house party scene. That’s where we feel that we have bridged the gaps just nudging the undeniable talent that already exists in our country. We identify artists who we feel have a unique sound, followed by a dedicated team that works with them to create, curate and promote their music. We also give them an opportunity to work with and learn from the best in the industry. This year, we had mentors like Amit Trivedi, Benny Dayal and Mohini Dey on board, who help the artists craft their music better.

How has Bacardi been creating a platform for young musicians?
Most young, independent musicians have no support system to create their music. They work out of home studios to create tracks and then release them via social media with almost no traction or marketing. At a time when deals with record labels can be quite unstable, the presence of a brand like Bacardí, with its monetary and media reach to give artists studio time, mentorship and a strong distribution channel, acts as the silver lining around a heavy cloud. Bacardí House Party Sessions is unique in the way that it helps emerging artists scale their careers allowing them to break through in a much shorter timeframe. Bacardí supports the artist right from the moment the music is penned, to the point where people sing along to their songs and this approach is how we aim to act as an enabler of a community that requires resources, recognition and mentorship.

How does Bacardí leverage its associations digitally?
Bacardí works with a diverse set of artists like comedians, dancers and musicians, functioning on a unique content-creator model, wherein we allow them to curate content that moves them, without fear of interference from the brand. Digitally, this approach works well with audiences who identify with our campaigns much more, when the artist is the hero of the story. It ensures that our content is organic and more relevant, especially for millennial viewers.

Bacardí House Party Sessions itself took off entirely through a digital approach, going on-ground through the Bacardí Sessions stage at Bacardí NH7 Weekender, where winning artists from BHPS went on to headline acts and perform alongside the global BHPS artists. Ritviz, who created hits like ‘Udd Gaye’ and ‘Jeet’, went on to headline at Bacardí NH7 Weekender within a year of his BHPS track launching. While digital helped us maximise the impact online, taking these artists on-ground helped us engage with the segment that prefers this music live. A combination of both these channels, is what we believe will truly build a sustainable ecosystem of brand consumer engagement.

Given the strict restrictions on advertising for alco-beverage, how are you creating a brand connect and engagement?
Our first TV spot was in the early 2000’s, a Caribbean-themed vibe associated with Bacardí, a brand new to India at that time. However, post the regulatory changes introduced in 2005, the brand now connects with consumers in different ways. We moved towards digital mediums and PR as strategic mediums for our efforts.

The overall way we communicate with our consumers has evolved towards a more ‘pull’ focused strategy. Audiences today are more likely to follow YouTubers, musicians, gamers, bloggers, artists, etc., than brands. Our digital campaigns take this insight into account and we work closely with content creators to naturally integrate our brands within their content. Our work on campaigns like Bacardí Sessions has changed the way record labels operate and helped in the journey of talent such as Ritviz, Ape Echoes, Pull, to name a few. We reduced the time taken from when an artist begins his journey to when he hits headline stages from 13 years to 3 years, creating a real connection with the voices that our audience listens to.

This content creator, digital-led approach has allowed us to engage in a more meaningful way with our consumers than traditional media can offer by leveraging the might of content creators or artists who have immense credibility within their areas of expertise. We see the benefit of this in the increase in overall brand mentions within conversations.  We also see it in the way our audiences naturally integrate brand hashtags into their own content; showing us that they not only understand the brand’s perspective, but that it is one that they resonate with and co-own.

What is Bacardí’s market share in India?
As per IWSR 2017, we are the leaders in the rum category in India with 81 per cent of the market share and have grown from $407 million to $458 million RSV in the last year (22 per cent increase in value on a 3-year CAGR and 24 per cent increase in value on a 5-year CAGR). Bacardí rum is also the largest international spirits brand in India by volume – 1.4 million cases.

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