The largest privately held spirits company in the world, Bacardi Ltd has a brand portfolio comprising of over 200 brands and labels, including Bacardi rum, Grey Goose vodka, Patron tequila, Dewars’s Blended Scotch whisky, Bombay Sapphire gin, Martini vermouth and sparkling wines, Cazadores 100% blue agave tequila, and other leading and emerging brands such as William Lawson’s Scotch whisky, St-Germain elderflower liquor, and Eristoff vodka. Founded more than 160 years ago in Santiago de Cuba, Bacardi Ltd presently is an employer of over 8,000, has operating production facilities in 10 countries, and sells its brands in more than 170 countries. Bacardi Ltd refers to the Bacardi group of companies, including Bacardi International Ltd.

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By 2030, 26% of the Indian consumers are predicted to move towards high quality brands, with 24% spending on newer categories of alcohol, according to the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER). Keeping into account the consumer preferences, Dewar’s has introduced Dewar’s 8-Year-Old Japanese Smooth Mizunara Oak Cask Finish Scotch Whisky in India. It is a part of the brand’s successful Cask-Finish Innovation Series.

In conversation with Adgully, Zeenah Vilcassim, Director – Marketing, Bacardi in India, said, “One of the key changes we have introduced to the overall marketing strategy at Bacardi in India this year is our commitment to localisation rooted in understanding the nuances of the Indian consumer.” Excerpts of the interview:

How is Bacardi leveraging consumer insights in order to build its brand positioning?

At Bacardi in India, we always keep consumers at the heart of everything we do. We want to be where our consumers are and our commitment to adding value to their experiences is our north star metric. By keeping a constant pulse on what motivates and drives our consumers, we uncover key trends in their preferences. This understanding of consumer insights helps us connect with them in more relevant and meaningful ways. For example, the Bacardi NH7 Weekender, which is now back with its 13th edition, has not only seen tremendous success as the go-to festival for music enthusiasts, but also brings to life the Bacardi positioning, which is all about inspiring people to do what moves them while also creating new opportunities for us to connect with their friends at the festival they love.

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This has been possible because we seek to understand what the consumer wants, and we are committed to making that experience better for them. It’s this perception that helps us truly differentiate ourselves in this competitive category landscape.

What have been the marketing strategies adopted by Bacardi this year?

While we are always focused on leveraging the full marketing mix – working within the regulatory landscape – one of the key changes we have introduced to the overall marketing strategy at Bacardi in India this year is our commitment to localisation rooted in understanding the nuances of the Indian consumer. India is a diverse market full of different people, different cultures, and different consumers – and when you speak to these differences through your campaigns, you are able to stay truly relevant for consumers.

Over the past two years, we have invested heavily in market research in India which has been successful in spotlighting things that do and don’t work for different markets within the country. This year, the idea is to still stay true to our global brand strategies whilst also connecting with our consumers in locally relevant ways that resonate with them.

What are its plans to grow the product portfolio in India?

Product innovation is critical when it comes to engaging with our consumers. With a diverse global portfolio of over 200 brands, out of which 28 are in India, we will always look to introduce products and brands that add value to the Indian consumer, who is on the lookout for a better drinking experience. In the past few months, we have introduced a range of brown spirits in India with the launch of Indian-made whisky Legacy, Dewar’s Japanese Smooth, and Good Man brandy. With our eyes set on establishing Bacardi in India as a serious competitor in the brown liquor space in the coming five years, one can expect more competitive and exciting innovation in this category as well.

How is Bacardi curating experiences in line with consumer aspirations?

We at Bacardi in India always aim to add value to experiences that our consumers want, regardless of where they are. What makes this challenging, but also exciting is that consumer aspirations are transient in nature, so when the world of consumers changes, we make sure that we change with it. This implies that we must adapt our experiences as per the changing consumer preferences. A prime example of this agility and creativity that we stand for was the lockdown during which we brought engaging experiences to the homes of our consumers by pulling off a 4,000-attendee virtual event for the launch of Casa Bacardi in 2019 and committing to a fully virtual experience with BVS Season 5 during the pandemic.

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This year, we have adapted yet again by bringing festivals like the Breezer Vivid Shuffle Season 6 and the 13th edition of the Bacardi NH7 Weekender on-ground for the first time post-pandemic.

In the coming years, we will continue to embrace adaptability, agility, and creativity to bring our consumers closer to experiences that they enjoy and care about.

How is the brand focusing more on premiumisation?

Premiumisation presents a massive opportunity in India, with 26% of Indian drinks consumers expected to move to higher brands by 2030. Today, consumers want to drink less, but better and are open to new experiences – and as the market leader in premium spirits, we are thrilled about the opportunity to excite our consumers through the diversity and quality of our premium portfolio.

Our global portfolio currently houses over 200 brands, out of which 28 are in India. As the premiumisation trend strengthens across the country, we will have the opportunity to introduce relevant brands to the discerning Indian consumer on the lookout for a better drinking experience. Given our focus on premiumisation, we also have recently introduced a range of spirits in the category in India like Dewar’s Double Double, Dewar’s Japanese Smooth, Bacardi Ocho, and more.

How is Whisky as a focus segment for Bacardi in India? How has consumer behaviour towards whisky changed over the years and how is it going to change further?

Being the No 1 market globally for whisky by volume, India presents an exciting growth opportunity for us. While we are the market leaders of white spirits in India, the consumer trends indicate that the dark spirits segment is primed for its next stage of evolution in the alcohol space – this is what piqued our interest in the category and also why Bacardi in India is looking to expand on its already robust portfolio of dark spirits.

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Today, all major players in the category are still playing on traditional whisky tropes and lack differentiation – everything from packaging to communication is standardised. With the plan to establish Bacardi in India as a serious player in the whisky space, we have launched a host of dark spirits in the market recently – Legacy, our first Indian-made whisky; Dewar’s Japanese Smooth, a combination of the finest elements of the whisky-making traditions and cultures of Scotland and Japan in a bottle; and Good Man, our first-ever in-house brandy in India; in addition to our existing portfolio of William Lawson’s and Dewar’s. With these trends and the overall growth of whisky as a category in India, we are set to be known as a strong player in the brown spirits space as well.

How did the pandemic impact Bacardi’s growth?

The pandemic completely transformed the space in which consumers operate. As more people warmed up to spending and engaging online, businesses were compelled to pivot towards a virtual world of work too. At the same time, more time spent at home accelerated three big trends that were already gaining traction – convenience, comfort, and curiosity – which, in turn, accelerated demand for convenient, easy-to-consume products that could be accessed at home. These discerning preferences shaped by the pandemic have prompted us to look at our existing properties and re-invent them for the ‘new future’, which is certainly hybrid.

With the target to deliver 5x business results in India by 2030, we have aligned ourselves with all these trends to overcome the pandemic-led slowdown. As a result, we have been witnessing exponential growth in the country. With a focus on innovations that engage consumers on ground and digitally for at-home occasions, we will continue to be relevant to our consumers through a vibrant mix of channels and continue on our growth trajectory in India for years to come.
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