Arati Rao
Jan 27, 2012

Q&A: Samar Singh Sheikhawat

An interview with the senior vice president, marketing, United Breweries Limited, in which he talks about the Kingfisher brands (including the new one Kingfisher Red), the upcoming IPL, the Heineken India campaign, and how the company looks at digital as a vertical by itself

Q&A: Samar Singh Sheikhawat

How is Kingfisher doing currently with so many offerings in the market now?

Kingfisher has been a dominant brand both in the strong and mild categories. The beer market in the country is 80 per cent strong and 20 per cent mild beer. We have brands that lead in every price point and geography. UB has published a share of 53 per cent for the last quarter. The quality of competition has improved – there are foreign brands with good packaging.

The challenge for Kingfisher is to remain relevant and fresh to this new young demographic that has a wider variety now than they had in the past. Our activation platforms of sports, music, food and fashion have been on overdrive.

Which sport gets the maximum investment? Is it still cricket?

IPL would be our single largest activation for the whole year; in terms of sports activation, the Force India racing team would be the second-largest.

What are the points of interest for 2012, that we’re going to see marketing spends on?

It would be pretty much the same as last year – IPL, Force India, NDTV Good Times, all the local marathons, tennis and hockey tournaments, Voice Of Goa, IFFI in Goa, the Jaipur Literature Festival.

Could you tell us a bit about how Kingfisher Blue, Ultra and the new one, Red, are positioned and marketed?

Above Kingfisher Premium, the mainstream beer in the mild category, is Kingfisher Blue. It’s a very different brew, with a clean, crisp taste and tastes wonderful when it’s really cold. That is positioned on the outdoor adventure sports platform – lot like Red Bull and Thums Up.

Kingfisher Ultra is the super premium brand within the Kingfisher portfolio. It’s made from malts and hops imported from Australia and it’s a light, easily drinkable beer. Even the shape of the bottle is androgynous, so both men and women drink it (it’s popular with women). It’s called the ‘Emperor of Good Times’; it’s for people who’re looking for something distinctive from the Kingfisher fold. Ultra is completely positioned on the fashion platform – the new line is ‘Inspiring fashion’, and it will be part of all the fashion weeks. Next year, we’re thinking of perhaps having our own fashion tour.

Kingfisher Red is what we call the “all-season beer”. Typically, in the cold and monsoons, beer consumption in India tends to fall. Red is a strong beer – it’s golden brown, almost the colour of honey, and it tastes great even at room temperature. The brand is available essentially across the North and the East, and we will be rolling it out across India. We have a very specific campaign where we’ve broken the year into three seasons and we say – “When it’s hot, get red; when it’s cold, get red; and when it’s wet, get red.” Red is positioned at the Strong consumer and other strong beer consumers.

Can you tell us about your percentage spends across different mediums?

I can’t share percentage spends, but we aren’t very big on television. Alcohol is a media-dark industry in India and we have a legitimate product – Kingfisher Packaged Drinking Water, which is the fourth largest in the country.

On digital, Kingfisher is the world’s second most popular brand on Facebook; Heineken, also our brand in India, is number one. We have huge initiatives on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus; our digital strategy weaves into our mainstream media strategy and on-ground. Having said that, there is a lot of stuff that we do on digital, that we don’t necessarily replicate in the real world. Digital is a vertical by itself for us.

What can we expect during IPL this year on digital?

Our mobile website will be on – there will be a lot of contests that will run there (last year, we had book cricket and leader board predictions).

Could you tell us a bit about your current agency relationships?

JWT has handled our account for the longest time. Heineken is handled by W+K, we also have Triton which handles Kingfisher Blue and Red and a couple of other brands. For digital, we have 22feet as our agency. In a short period of a year, they’ve done some fabulous work for us.

Lastly, coming to Heineken, when can we expect the Indian version of the ‘Open Your World’ campaign?

If you see ‘The Entrance’, it’s very Bollywood in its sensibilities – completely over the top. The next campaign will come very soon; it’s been released internationally, and we’ll be activating that in India.      

Campaign India