Sun, July 21, 2024

‘It is always the consumer who lies at the heart of any branding or marketing activity’

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Thomas Mayr, Marketing Director, Asia of Campari Group was recently in Kathmandu to launch Skyy Vodka. The brand has been launched in Nepal in partnership with Jawalakhel Group of Industries, which will be handling the bottling and distribution aspects of the product in the country. Mayr started his career with P&G right after university. He also did stints in China and Singapore for both haircare and beauty care products. It was around four years back that Mayr decided to shift to the spirits industry and joined Campari. “I am originally from Italy and working with Campari is like going back home because it is an Italian company. Working in this industry has been a fascinating experience because every other day there are new trends coming up globally. As a marketing passionate, there is so much to talk about when it comes to our brands,” he says. Business 360 caught up with Mayr during his visit to Kathmandu. Excerpts of a conversation with him: What are the aspects that one needs to look into while branding and marketing a product? It is always the consumer who lies at the heart of any branding or marketing activity of any product or service. One must never forget that they have to at any given time be focused on the consumer because the customer is the king. That is one thing I learnt from my very first job. The other aspect that one has to understand and which is paramount is to understand the needs of the consumer, the un-met needs to be precise. We have to look at how we as a brand can help consumers with their needs. And we have to ensure that we cater to the right consumer with the right brand, moreover, if you have a substantial brand portfolio. In that way you will not only build value for the consumer but subsequently, you will build value for the company too. So, it always starts with meeting the consumer needs.

Campari has launched Skyy Vodka in Nepal. Why Skyy Vodka?

We have a portfolio of over 50 brands in the Campari Group. Why Skyy? Well, Skyy is a premium vodka from America that was born in San Francisco in 1992. We spoke to our partner, Jawalakhel Group of Industries, and we felt that Skyy Vodka is a great brand that is perfectly suited for Nepal because it is a brand that will help premium-ise the vodka category in the country. It is about providing an American vodka experience to Nepali consumers with its beautiful new packaging. I will not be exaggerating when I say Skyy is a great vodka. It is very smooth, it is very pure, and the first few consumer feedback have been fantastic in Nepal. We thought it would help to premium-ise the vodka category of Nepal. We think Nepali consumers have that need, that un-met need that I talked about earlier. It is an American brand in the premium category and we have a great partner here who I am certain will help us to market and distribute the product across all the different regions of Nepal. We have launched the brand in Kathmandu and I would say it is just the beginning of our journey in Nepal. We have great hopes from the market here and we have set targets for Nepal but I will not be able to talk numbers because it is against the policy of our group.

Besides Skyy Vodka are there any other products you plan to launch in Nepal in the near future?

We are looking into that aspect but to be honest we have just launched Skyy Vodka so it is early days for us. We, at Campari, prefer to do one thing at a time and do it well. From what I have seen in the last couple of days there is an exciting trend in the vodka category in Nepal and we want to be a part of it. Globally too, the white spirits category is not a big category. So, we will be slowly looking at other opportunities but it is too early now to say what brand from our portfolio we will be launching as you know we have a very big portfolio of brands. We are a leading company in spirits, bitters and aperitifs globally with a great Italian portfolio. We also have a very fast-growing brown spirits portfolio with single malts from Scotland. We do have blended Scotch and bourbon from the United States and not to forget our cognac. These are categories that are very popular across the world. So, we look into expanding our portfolio in Nepal. At the moment, we are still exploring. For now, we really want to focus on Skyy as we know there are a lot of opportunities here.

How did the Covid pandemic affect the liquor industry globally and Campari specifically? Any key lessons from the pandemic?

No one expected the pandemic to be so severe and to last so long. Everybody was taken aback by this. It did hurt literally all the businesses globally but it was a great period of learning for us. I remember in March 2020, I was with my team and we had to quickly decide on what we were going to stop, what we were going to continue, and what we were going to start. We completely scrapped our marketing plans and started from scratch based on the very unique situation that we were in. What we learnt was that the consumer wants to experience your products regardless of the channel through which it is delivered, that was probably the number one lesson for us. During the pandemic, all the premises were closed but the consumer was still longing to experience the brands. What we need to realise is that no matter what happens, life moves on and celebrating and toasting life together is our company motto. Having celebratory moments, intimate moments with your close ones, sharing a cocktail or a spirit with a friend or partner will continue to be very important in people’s lives. So, we thought about how we could bring that experience to the homes of our consumers. We thought of how we could educate consumers at home on how to create that same perfect cocktail with our portfolio that they were used to drinking on premise. During the Covid, we witnessed very fast growth in our off-premise business. We used a lot of educational tools, we used QR codes on neck tags to explain how to make cocktails at home. We doubled down our investment in social media to target our consumers. In that process, the so-called home-tending which is bartending at home skyrocketed. What we also noticed in that period was that people were at home and were consuming fewer spirits but wanted to discover premium brands. That actually helped us as people started discovering more spirits. Since people were going out less which means spending less outside the demand for premium spirits went up. People had so much of free time at home, they would go online and educate themselves on how to create a cocktail or which whiskey was right for their palette. After the pandemic, it is great to see the on-premise business back because we still believe that brands are built on premise. That’s what Campari believes in. However, the home-tending concept that was born then is still continuing. People have discovered how to do it at home so they still like to once in a while treat themselves or invite people over. So, now it is much more of an omni channel. You may be learning online but you still go to the bars and you know exactly what you order or you are going off-premise and looking online on how to create a cocktail at home. So, the Covid has really blurred the lines between the channels. As long as the experience is there the consumer is well taken care of. Obviously, we are very happy that we are out of the pandemic but now we have learnt a lot about the different omni channels.

What do you think the growth will be like globally for the spirits industry?

I really don’t have a crystal ball to make concrete predictions but what we see is that people are aspiring for imported spirits like somebody from Nepal may want to try out an American brand. People are more open to trying out international brands. All this is happening due to the pop culture. Consumers want to try out drinks that they see in movies or when they are online on some or the other social media. The trend of people moving from local brands to international brands is growing and will continue to do so. In terms of categories, the beauty of our industry is that different markets have different preferences. Even within the same market there are different regions which have different choices. We could take India as an example where in the north, it is all about brown spirits but as you go down to Mumbai it becomes more of a gin country. Nepal has a very good mix of brown as well as white spirits. There is one interesting trend in the United States, which is the biggest market in the world, where tequila has overtaken American whiskey. Consumption of tequila in America is growing really fast. Similarly, consumption of mezcal (mescal), which is a distilled alcoholic beverage made from any type of agave, is also growing fast. These spirits are not so big in Asia where people still prefer brown spirits but gin is growing pretty fast. Over the last couple of years, cognac has seen a renaissance in many markets. Another example could be rum which has been a very small market historically in Asia but at the super premium level it is growing fast. So, there are a lot of changes taking place in the way people consume the categories that they are consuming. People are exploring more these days. The explorer mindset was probably accelerated by the pandemic. People did a lot of research at home and they are more willing to go beyond what they used to drink previously. Another trend that is gaining ground is consumers have started making healthier choices as they have become more conscious about calorie count. For instance, in the US vodka used to be consumed late at night in the clubs but now people see it as more of a lifestyle choice. Consumers are drinking vodka with soda during the day too because it is one of the lowest calorie drink you can have. There are a lot of fascinating trends but at the end of the day I would advise people to drink responsibly.

From among the various brands in your portfolio which category looks promising for the Campari Group?

I would say tequila is on fire, especially in North America and Europe. It is a spirit that has become more refined than it used to be earlier and you can have it neat or you could have it mixed. It is a drink that is very much in trend in the US and the US usually tends to be the trend-setting market. We have espanol which is one of the leading tequilas in the world in our portfolio. What we have also witnessed is that people are moving from blended to single malt Scotch. We have Glen Grant in our portfolio, which is one of the most revered single malts and we are very proud of this brand. We are expanding it in Asia. The market in Asia is dominated by brown spirits, however people are moving up to single malts and that is continuing to accelerate. Another interesting trend I have been noticing is that previously the ‘age’ statement used to be very much the signal for quality and status of a drink. But now the consumer has learnt so much about single malts that ‘age’ statement is no longer the only signal. Now consumers are going into other details like the cask finish or in what type of cask the liquid was in. People are also looking at whether the drink is a limited release, whether it is available in other countries too. It is good that consumers are not only looking at the ‘age’ statement but other aspects of quality and prestige. Meanwhile, cocktails and mixology also have seen a renaissance. People have rediscovered classic cocktails. Negroni is doing fantastically well and it is the number one classic cocktail in the world. Campari has continued to support the growth of mixology. It is a very passionate industry for bartenders as it is like creating an art piece and providing an experience to consumers who are finally back on premise. I have met some great bartenders here. In Kathmandu, there is great talent and I am very confident that mixology will grow very fast in Nepal although it is very small at the moment. That is my prediction as the youth is always looking for new cocktail experiences. Social media sharing has accelerated that because people are always looking to share interesting things with their friends and this will give a boost to the mixology trend. What is fascinating in our industry is there are always new trends coming. The consumer is more educated today and is able to make choices that suit them. Whether it is in Nepal or Singapore most people have access to a smartphone, so the democratisation of spirits and the choices that you can make will continue to grow. People shifting to more premium brands will also continue to grow as most consumers these days want to have less but better experiences. READ ALSO:  
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JUNE 2024

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