For various social and societal reasons, the Indian alcohol sector faces a huge amount of restrictions when it comes to marketing via TV & print. This has forced the marketing departments of the various brands to get creative about building brand awareness. The most popular trend seems to be to create a mix CD or to create music nights, others promote mineral water in packaging remarkably similar to the alcoholic brand. Still others went as far as launching a luxury airline, but that didn’t pan out so well.
However, social media is different, or at least, less regulated than main stream mass media. On social media, they can be more open and vocal. They don’t need to promote auxiliary items or services in order to market themselves.
But are they doing enough to leverage the freedom that social media offers?
To find out how the alcohol segment has been faring on social media, I picked the following 10 brands which represented both beers and spirits, and studied their activities for a period of 30 days from 22nd May to 21st June:
- Blender’s Pride
- Johnnie Walker
- McDowell’s No.1
- Grey Goose
- Teacher’s India
A mix of several factors, such as: community size, activity level on social media, prominence amongst the consumer base, media mentions etc. were the reason why the above brands were chosen.
Why am I not surprised to see Kingfisher having the biggest Facebook community in this sector?
Well, it’s the most popular alcohol brand in India so it’s all but natural for its offline popularity to be reflected on social media as well. Its community is a staggering 6 times bigger than its nearest competitor!
Kingfisher, along with whisky brand Signature (both owned by UB Group) which has 1.1m fans, and competing whisky brand Blender’s Paradise which has 750k fans complete the top three communities on Facebook.
In my previous reviews, I observed that certain brands in their respective sectors were being really aggressive in increasing their community size. However, with alcohol brands, it seems that most of them are struggling with growth, with only two brands (both of them international) growing faster than 5%. Given that we’ve seen other sectors with far more fans growing much faster than this I think we’re seeing alcohol brands tread with a little more caution. Another reason could be cultural as many parts of Indian society don’t wish to be publicly associated with alcohol! The average growth rate is around 2.5%, which is very low when compared to other sectors.
In fact, Grey Goose reported a negative growth owing to loss of fans in the period studied. Losing fans isn’t something I would expect from such a luxury brand so I investigated a little bit further. The vodka brand saw extreme growth of 360% from December right up to January 31 when it started losing fans. Although we can’t say for sure, the chart below which shows high growth followed by slow decay is inline with other pages that went on a fan buying campaign. How else can a page go from adding exactly 450-470 fans every day and then abruptly losing fans every day?
On Twitter, Kingfisher is again leading the pack with more than 32k followers. Its Twitter community is 6x (coincidence?) times bigger than its nearest competitor, Foster’s AoC (Art of Chilling if you must know!) which has 5.5k followers.
All the other brands have a tiny presence on Twitter, which I wasn’t expecting since Twitter has a much more relaxed atmosphere. There are plenty of conversations going on about the bars and clubs to visit and the fact that these brands don’t appear to be within the conversation of so many people should be alarming for their respective social media managers.
Note: Following a recent trend for worldwide brands, the Budweiser India Facebook page has been merged with the worldwide Budweiser page. Worldwide, it has more than 9 million fans but in India it has just ~700k fans.
Most of the alcohol brands have shied away from directly promoting their drink on Facebook, possibly as a result of the uncertainty surrounding the marketing of alcohol in India. By erring on the side of caution it means they can stay on the right side of the law (civil and moral) and also forces them to be more creative about their content strategies. That said, they have all managed to blend different facets of their brand within their content strategy so you have different alcohol brands talking about different things:
- Kingfisher – Fun, Party, Music & Good Times
- Budweiser – Sports, primarily Football
- Signature – Fashion and lifestyle
- Blender’s Pride – Fashion
- Teacher’s India – Life, celebration & achievement
- Grey Goose – Fashion & cocktails
- Mc Dowell’s No. 1 – Sports, party & everything that appeals to men.
- Smirnoff – Party, nightlife & fun
- Foster’s – Chilling! (Art of Chilling, remember?)
- Johnnie Walker – Their “Keep Walking” brand communication mixed with lots of self-promotional updates.
However, not everyone is active. Most of them are content with just one update a day. Only Kingfisher, Signature & Johnnie Walker are updating their pages regularly.
(Total updates in a month)
My personal opinion is that brands need to publish at least two updates a day to ensure good reach and visibility as people are surfing Facebook at different times. Publishing just once a day is ineffective and lazy if you are serious about social media.
Even on Twitter, where chatter is the loudest, these brands are doing less than 100 tweets a month. Again, Kingfisher stands out from the rest with 254 tweets. In fact, Kingfisher replies to more tweets than the total tweets of other brands, that’s evidence of a Twitter strategy that has been thought about and being well executed.
Once again, I have to report that in an industry report that there is nothing much to speak of for brands on YouTube. Most of the alcoholic brands are inactive or simply publishing their TVCs – inline with most industry sectors in India. That said, I do like how Kingfisher has come up with a weekly webisode of unearthing singing talent from across the country. Even Grey Goose was uploading some engaging content but it seems they’re not continuing with it any more.
With a consumer strategy that is lazy, to say the least, you can’t expect much engagement. Brands are barely managing to get even a thousand likes for their updates, despite having lakhs of fans. Compared to other sectors, alcohol brands are some way behind.
However, once again, Kingfisher stands tall in this metric as well, and manages to get, on an average, 4k likes and 200 comments on each of its post.
Kingfisher’s brilliant engagement aside, the stand out here for me is Johnnie Walker. The fact that its Facebook community, which is 1/20th the size of Kingfisher’s, sees almost half its engagement is a great feat to achieve. Its updates are also the most shared of the entire lot. Is this the brand perception rubbing off? Johnnie Walker is one of the most expensive brands on this list, and we all know about our soft spot for someone returning with a bottle of blue label ;-)
A look at the usage of Facebook apps of these brands presents a very sorry picture though. Even with a million strong community, they are not able to get decent engagement through apps.
Smirnoff, with a measly 150 monthly active users, boasts of the maximum app engagement. Does that imply that apps are not an effective way to engage users? On the contrary, brands in other sectors are doing a fine job of integrating apps in to part of a bigger campaign. The key is to not put up and app and hope that people come, the fact is that very few fans even visit the brand page so they’re never likely to see the new apps that have been added. When a link is included in an update for a fan to check out an app to win or do something, then engagement goes up.
The sentiments are primarily positive on Facebook. Well, there’s a surprise! This is the alcohol segment we are talking about. Everyone is happy here!
According to the chart below, which looks at the fan posts on the wall of the brands, Blender’s Pride and Johnnie Walker has the happiest community.
Sentiment for Budweiser & Grey Goose cannot be determined as they both don’t let their fans post on walls. Ideally, they shouldn’t have switched off the ability to post on their wall, no matter how scared they are of negative comments – after all, eight out of 10 brands have the confidence to do this. Social media is a conversation platform, and not just a platform to broadcast your views. You must provide an open channel for your consumers to talk with you and if you do turn off the ability to post on the wall there is the danger that fans will simply post their negative comments on the brand posts.
Sentiment for Twitter? Well, there’s hardly any activity there so it’s pointless to even have a look at it. Once again, Twitter is a two way conversation, I’m disturbed to see how little these brands want to interact and become part of a community that for most people, have nothing but great things to say.
To be honest, I expected quite a lot from Alcohol brands. I expected them to be more open, to be more conversant and engaging. There is so much goodwill towards these brands from their consumers, I mean, they must be in one of the easiest to please retail categories ever. Open the bottle, get a buzz. What could go wrong? Perhaps these brands would do well to check out their respective international pages which generate far more engagement.
Since TV & print doesn’t let them speak much, I believed they would leverage digital to a great extent. But all I see is half-hearted attempts and a lazy marketing strategy.
Only Kingfisher and Johnnie Walker are doing something worthwhile. In fact, Kingfisher has set a very high benchmark for its competitors.
In the coming months, I would love to see them being more active on Facebook and start taking Twitter more seriously.
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