From Flirting to Marriage in Alcobev Sector

Recently I was sitting with General Manager Digital Marketing for Diageo India and our discussion led to brands giving offers in the venue. One thing he mentioned which struck a chord with me, he said, “Madhur, in a pub or restaurants a customer is sitting and trying different drinks it’s all flirting, they may try once but they may not buy it. Buying a whole bottle and keeping it at home is like marriage, you are stuck for the 25 pegs. My aim is convert flirting to marriage”.

Winning a customer today has become a big challenge, technology has empowered them. They are deal hunting, reading social media reviews, sharing feedback, looking for convenience and want to buy at rock bottom prices. In doing so they do leave a huge amount of data trail that brands can use to convert flirting to a relationship.

In Alcobev sector in most countries companies still rely surrogate advertising, on-trade presence and availability on physical menu as key KPIs. A popular restaurant or pub will attract a particular type of clientele. Brands will tie up with select venues where they give offers on particular days. The key KPIs sales and marketing team will be measured on will be number of offers taken, presence of brand products on physical menu and visibility of marketing material.

But today’s customer is not loyal and they are always flirting with new drinks and experiences. Today a Vodka drinker starts with Smirnoff (Diageo) and moves to Absolut (Pernod-Ricard) and in time starts drinking Grey Goose (Bacardi), but a company can’t see when and how this shift is happening. Consumers are interacting with ever growing number of products, through new media channels, unlimited new outlets popping up every day leading to ever increasing marketing budgets.

In alcobev sector a typical customer journey begins with consideration for a beverage type Whiskey, Vodka, Beer etc. It may be influenced by store display, past experience, recommendation or past offer. Next stage generally tends to be flirting where consumers try a range of products in venue. This stage generally depends on offers in venue, share of wallet, peers or friend influence and past like dislike. Evaluation stage is instant and is quickly influenced by taste, peers and friends. Another element that indirectly affects the evaluation is the experience in the venue or outlet. Consumers may continue this flirtation over time and can become an advocate of the drink. The transition from a bar to home takes time and though consumers may buy in bars, making that commitment takes several tries before the commit to buy.

In this complete cycle a marketing manager has little say or influence on the behaviour. Marketing strategies involve putting large chunk of resources into building brand awareness and then expecting consumers will open their wallets at the point of sale. Today what marketers do is identify where consumers are actually spending their time and allocate their resources there, in alcobev sector it will be music festivals, popular joints and popular chains.

Alcobev companies have to make a cultural shift on how to work with consumers to restore the balance between brands and consumers. They have to leverage technology to collect real-time user behaviour which will allow brands to target consumers with relevant offer and experience in real-time at the point of sale to drive improved conversion from experience to purchase while reducing the cost of sales and marketing. Sales and marketing teams in alcobev companies have to work together and use technologies like IoT, Big data analytics, behavioural analytics etc to drive growth.

For Marketing Managers interested in innovation consulting, you can always write to me at

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