There are multitude of rules and regulations surrounding the sales and promotion of alcohol which makes it difficult for alcohol brands to promote itself. However, Kingfisher while adhering to these rules and regulation is doing a commendable job in the digital space backed up by a strong Social Media Strategy.

In this interview, Mr. Samar Singh Sheikhawat, Senior VP of Marketing, United Breweries Ltd, talks in detail about Kingfisher’s social media strategies and how they are leveraging various platforms. Read on:

Samar Singh Sheikhawat

How is your approach towards Social Media? What are the objectives you are looking to achieve with your presence on various social media channels?

Social media is a part of digital marketing3. We treat digital as a lead medium in our marketing actually; it’s not a support medium. We have invested in it financially; we invested in it infrastructurally.

We’ve doubled our digital and social media budgets every year, for the last three years. We have a separate digital marketing agency for our digital work, and it works across brand groups. So internally we are geared to handle it that way.

And externally, we treat it as lead medium. We would like to drive engagements, we have great content going; what it is key in it, is this whole offline online integration. You know, everything that is done offline resonates and finds presence online as well. And there are certain online initiatives that are actually done only on digital and they do not necessarily happen in the real world. So it is a very seamlessly integrated approach that we have. And our aim is clearly to be the most, shall I say, to be the ‘buzziest’ brand in the world.

We have a joint venture with Heineken. And Heineken is the world’s number one beer brand on Facebook. Kingfisher is world’s number three. So between Heineken and Kingfisher, we have close to 90 percent of the entire digital traffic on beer in the world. So that’s a key initiative for us, and of course, we have mobile apps, we have the website etcetera as well; largely to promote engagements through compelling content and a relevance to the brand positioning and the marketing activation platforms that we use.

What are some of the best ways to keep the community engaged with the brand on Facebook?

The best way to keep the community engaged is to come up with creative ways to provide them with an opportunity to get closer to the brand. And with fresh updates on brand activity, etc., we constantly come up with content and ideas and make sure that our fans and followers can share and enjoy the experience of being part of the Kingfisher world.

For instance, we’ve seen holding contests on Facebook is a great way to engage and keep fans going. We get great feedback and it excites people to get associated with Kingfisher. We post a lot of appealing pictures; we post new generated content, we tweet, and we retweet some of our followers’ tweets. We have invited consumers and fans of ours to create beer commandments and then we print T-shirts of that and we take it and we give them credit.

We show behind-the-scenes activities, exclusive updates, promotions mentioning who contributed it, etc. So that gave out higher engagement rates. You know, if I’m writing in to Kingfisher and they retweeted and use my content and give me credit, etc., I feel happy as well. So we’ve understood the way media works and we utilize that and really building relevant, compelling, engaging content is really what works.

How has your experience been with Facebook Advertisement? There have been reports that most of the Ad Clicks are coming from Fake profiles. Have you observed anything suspicious with your ad campaign?

That’s true; in fact I’ve met someone in Singapore who heads Facebook for South East Asia and she was saying that recently Facebook deleted something like between 70-80 million fake profiles.

Now fortunately for us, we really haven’t got affected by that because we believe that the content we have, our fans etc are genuine, because we have engaging, relevant, compelling content.

We have used Facebook advertisements etc and our experience has been satisfactory. There really isn’t much by way of fake profiles that seems to have affected us.

You have an impressive YouTube channel which is quite a rarity amongst Indian brands. How effective has YouTube been for Kingfisher?

It’s been very, very satisfying because increasingly, the content on social media, of course, is going to be driven by videos. And I’m told various studies say that in 2, 3 years about 80 percent of all content will be videos. So bearing that in mind we’ve created some very interesting properties.

We have something called Brewdolph, who is the good times reindeer. It’s a take on Rudolph and Brewdolph is a fictional reindeer who brings beer to the needy. So there’s been a lot of work around Brewdolph on YouTube. Then, we’ve created something called the Kingfisher Blue Mile.

We have a brand called Kingfisher Blue, which is positioned on the outdoor adventure activation platform. And we have something called The Blue Mile which is a road trip taken 5-6 people who tweet and blog, and they do they river rafting and rappelling, and rock climbing, etcetera. And the Blue Mile is a property that we’re going to have at least two, three times a year and that works very well on YouTube.

They have compelling and engaging video content that is coming out of many of these activations. And therefore YouTube is really the appropriate medium for that. So yes, we are fairly engaged with YouTube as well.

You are also associated with fun hashtags such as #BeerCommandments and #BeerMovies. Does taking part in hashtags for fun carry any benefit? How does it help your brand in terms of sales?

Kingfisher is known as the King of Good Times and all these engagements benefit us mainly in spreading the good times. We drive word-based engagements through hashtags and it helps in spreading the fun.

I think hashtags are really the best way to get people engaged because they create virtual wordplay and people share their fun thoughts. I’ll give you three examples. We came up with something called #BeerCommandments and #BeerMovies and that trended for 2 days.

We’ve also got #KF6Pack which was for presenting your Valentine a six pack of Kingfisher Beer. That hashtag trended and it was #1 in India for most of the day. It was #3 even till late at night. There are invaluable benefits in terms of doing these fun hashtags.

[Part 2 of the interview shall be published tomorrow]

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A digital marketing guy since 2008, I have helped several startups, SMBs and brands. Mad about analytics, data, social media and idli-sambhar. An engineer who fell in love with digital at the first sight. Follow my thoughts on Twitter at: @RakeshTheKumar
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