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NEW DELHI : In a market where advertising of alcoholic beverages is not permitted, the power of authentic social media content is driving Moët Hennessy India to sell its luxury brands such as Dom Pérignon, Moët and Chandon, Hennessy, Glenmorangie and Belvedere. In an interview, Smriti Sekhsaria, marketing head of Moët Hennessy India, part of the French conglomerate LVMH, said it is both a challenge and an opportunity. Edited excerpts: 

How has your work changed since you moved from Starbucks to Moët Hennessy India? 

I spent eight years with Starbucks India and did a variety of different roles for them, from digital to loyalty, technology and omnichannel. What I did there and do here is (address) the liquid “share" of the stomach, so it has been moving from a morning drink to an evening one. The role here is focused on marketing, which has a much larger context in alcohol, where a majority of the work (as a luxury brand) is about getting the right content out there, talking about the legacy and the innovation that the brand has, using digital in a very sharp manner so that we are directly able to reach consumers in a (media) dark category like alcohol, which is not easy to do. And for a luxury brand, the challenge is a little more. It’s very different space from Starbucks. As a luxury spirits brand, the rules of marketing are akin to a piece of clothing, makeup product or leather goods and creating the desire. 

Companies said premiumization was a trend they had started seeing before the pandemic. Is that still continuing? 

So, broadly speaking, if we look at our 2015 to 2019 numbers on premiumization in spirits, because that’s most telling, given that there’s such a large spirit consuming market, the story was already in lead double digits. But then, during the pandemic, because of lack of travel and airport purchases, which are otherwise very large for Indians, reduced. We saw that jumpstart and move to the mid-20s (in percentage growth) for premium home purchases. I think it’s too early to tell if the trend has petered out. However, the need for premiumization is quite ready for consumers, but where they buy and where we see the numbers going is a different question. 

With traditional media out of bounds for advertising alcohol, how do you promote your brands? 

We look at where the consumer of luxury products consuming content today is. On the devices, whether it is media or social media. The primary channels of yesterday, such as TV, print and radio, are now becoming secondary channels to an extent. Lifestyle media has gone digital, and they have been very clear about what they expect, which helps marketers like me, even in a prohibitive space. The focus is on digital, of course, and the kind of content that we’re putting out…and how we harmonize the balance between the brand values and the influencer content. When we look at an influencer’s page, the content that’s being created shouldn’t stand out like a sore thumb. 

There are brands that use surrogates and extensions. We are a luxury player, so the extensions aren’t true to our brand. 

How do you ensure digital influencers create brand value? 

We have to look beyond numbers since we are not a direct-to-consumer product. One can’t click on Glenmorangie and say “shop". So truly authentic content, which is relevant. 

So, with Chandon, which is our sparkling wine, we launched a campaign around Rosé. This is a category which is growing the fastest among wines. We are seeing this consumption happen from metro and non-metros both globally and in India. We did a recent campaign called Rosé-o-clock. This helped the engagement go from 30% to 40% over a one-and-a-half-year period. We did that by taking a few influencers like chefs and artists and showing them consuming Rosé in their environment. 

That is where we saw our engagement and our reach numbers, organically going to 2x and 3x, respectively. So that’s the power of authentic content, and that is a challenge and an opportunity as well.

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