Bengaluru: United Spirits Ltd’s (USL) largest brand, McDowell’s No. 1, will drive its overall sales growth even as the company continues to renovate and innovate its power brands.

India’s largest liquor firm, which redesigned the McDowell’s logo in December 2015, is now ramping up its marketing via its luxury soda brand and plans to reach 50 million people through its latest “No. 1 Yaari" campaign, a top executive said. Although such campaigns promote the soda and not the spirits portfolio, they indirectly aid liquor sales as well.

“McDowell’s No. 1 is one of India’s biggest beverage alcohol brands and is at the helm of driving (spirits) category growth. With almost 10 million people turning into legal drinking age every year, the brand will continue driving growth backed with strategic renovations and innovations," USL’s marketing head Amrit Thomas said.

McDowell’s is a 53-million-cases per year brand that straddles the whisky, brandy and rum categories and caters to 25 million consumers. The brand’s whisky variants excluding its Platinum variety grew 7% in volume terms in 2016-17.

USL has been working to repackage, rebrand or redesign several of its power brands since 2015, and McDowell’s was one of the first to undergo the process. The company also launched a new variant under the brand called Silk, a smooth whisky targeted at beer drinkers, this February.

It then decided to delve deeper into regional culture to market the brand, and co-produced a show under the No. 1 Yaari tagline with Telugu actor Rana Daggubati in June.

“In the south, regional media is very important. And the south is India’s largest market for liquor. Karnataka alone is 20% of the market and Andhra Pradesh and Telangana are also very large. And even though Kerala is more regulated, its per capita consumption is the highest in the country," said Abneesh Roy, senior vice-president at Edelweiss Securities.

USL is now targeting other regions via its latest campaign—a platform that will involve various artists collaborating to produce music videos using the brand’s tagline and purpose. It released five videos last week in Hindi, Punjabi, Rajasthani, Marathi and Kannada and each of those have already generated over a million views on YouTube.

“McDowell’s is growing ahead of the industry and USL’s prestige-and-above business segment; so clearly, the re-launch is working. It should now accelerate and come back to close to double-digit volume growth in the coming quarters," Edelweiss’ Roy said.

USL’s renovation and innovation strategy and its ramped-up marketing campaigns have also helped the company claw back some market share from its biggest rival in India, French distiller Pernod Ricard SA, according to Roy.

“There has been a certain cadence and rhythm to our renovation approach. We’ve done our phase one but the journey never stops and we will begin working on phase two, and then phase three and phase four," USL’s Thomas said.

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