NEW DELHI: Diageo, the global drinks company, is focusing its marketing efforts in India on attracting more first-time drinkers and female consumers, a leading executive has said.

With a ban on advertising in India, alcohol brands face a greater challenge in reaching their target audience and Bhavesh Somaya, Marketing and Innovation Director, Diageo India, told [impact] magazine that the business needed to better understand those consumers entering the category for the first time.

Around 20m people reach the legal drinking age every year, with between 35% and 40% actually going on to consume alcohol. "We need to ensure that our brand programmes are continuously recruiting those new consumers into our fold," said Somaya.

He observed a "leaky bucket phenomenon" where no matter how much was poured in a significant amount continued to fall out. "So you need to continuously re-recruit consumers," he said. "Reach builds brand salience, so it is very critical."

As well as youth, women were emerging as a potentially significant market. "That is a target segment we need to keep in mind and ensure that our brands get more bilingual and speak to both sets of audiences, not just be male-centric," Somaya asserted.

Among the strategies being deployed were brand extensions, although Somaya was careful to stress that marketing efforts on brand extensions were completely separate from those on alcohol brands in order to comply with government regulations.

Thus, the Smirnoff Experience in Bangalore involved a mash-up of tech and music, while Vat 69 was a gaming portal aimed at leveraging interest in the whole area of online gaming. And Johnnie Walker, The Journey, had been a multi-cultural themed event in Mumbai to bring alive the paths followed by various creative artists.

"We put consumers at the heart of everything we do," Somaya stated. Diageo brands were focused on "understanding that sweet spot of the consumer context, the cultural context, and what the brand brings to the table"in order to set themselves apart from their rivals.

Data sourced from [impact]; additional content by Warc staff