McDowell’s No 1 to strengthen market share with new variants

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United Spirit’s McDowell’s No 1 is all set to consolidate its market presence in the Indian whisky market on the back of new launches, celebrity brand endorsements and promoting the concept of friendship in its communication strategy. It has for the first time, in a span of 40 years of the whisky brand’s existence, signed on a Bollywood celebrity endorser.

Spirit of friendship
If we take a look at the current marketing landscape, values like friendship and sharing have become the new language of consumers, especially when they seek advice from friends and peers during purchase decisions. On their part, brands across industries, are tapping into this insight to create a stronger connect with young consumers. Though, McDowell’s No 1 has time and again cashed in on the friendship plank to grow its market share in the country, it has taken this brand communication to another level. The whisky brand recently signed on Bollywood actor Farhan Akhtar as brand ambassador and DDB Mudra South created a television campaign featuring Akhtar along with Purab Kohli, Cyrus Sahukar, Zoa Morani and Chang, for its soda extension.

Explaining the rationale behind the move, Ashok Capoor, President and Managing Director, United Spirits Limited (USL), says, “McDowell’s No 1 has always been the preferred drink when friends get together and our association with four brand ambassadors echoes these sentiments and situations that anyone can easily identify with. From golden moments to Dosti Ka No1 Spirit, the brand is a true ambassador for friendship.”

He further adds that the whisky brand represents the social aspirations of today’s youth, which is spending time with friends. “The McDowell’s No 1 group of friends – our new brand ambassadors from Bollywood – echo these sentiments and situations that anyone can easily identify with. McDowell’s No 1 has set benchmarks for the alco bev industry in terms of innovations in packaging, large unique events, activations and promotions. McDowell’s No 1’s association with the actors will set a similar benchmark for friends wanting to have a good time together. The new TVC is themed on the ‘No 1 spirit of friendship’ and showcases interesting friendship moments appropriately for McDowell’s No 1 given its stellar performance in the industry,” he states.

Spreading the fizz
Thus, the brand’s communication has evolved over the time with different taglines such as ‘Mera No 1’, ‘Cheers to Life’ and ‘Happy hours with friends’. The spokesperson also shares that all of McDowell’s consumer engagements have been in the realm of Dosti (friendship). “We have had the biggest activations involving top music stars from Bollywood to get consumers to bring alive their dosti moments,” he adds.

Since advertising of alcoholic beverages is a limited affair, as it is banned in India; and most brands take the surrogate advertising route, McDowell has tried to stay ahead of others in terms of digital and on-ground consumer engagements. Capoor explains, “Our initiatives are mostly initiated at consumers at the point of purchase and point of consumption. The brand is very active in the social media space and has over two lakh fans engaged on Facebook. There have been innovative digital campaigns on leadership featuring our brand ambassadors including MS Dhoni.”

The McDowell brand has also laid great emphasis on the design aspect of the bottles to stay relevant to the young adult consumer. It has won several international awards for its packaging innovations. This has been infused with the brand’s core positioning as Capoor points out, “McDowell’s No 1 packaging draws inspiration from its Scottish heritage and pride of ownership for the Dosti moments. Highly skilled design agencies from the UK are involved in McDowell’s packaging and design.”

More the merrier
The brand is also aggressively looking at targeting a wider spectrum of consumers with new and premium variants. Not just that, it is taking its celebrity brand endorsement initiative to a whole new plane by assigning brand ambassadors for its new offerings too. For instance, it has Mahindra Singh Dhoni endorsing McDowell’s No 1 Platinum, which was launched in 2011 and claims to have sold a million cases in its first year of launch. Similarly, for its premium offering Cariba Rum, it has signed on Chris Gayle as the endorser.

In terms of segmentation, McDowell’s No 1 serves the mid segment and claims to be the largest selling franchise in India by volume and value. According to the company, “The Rs 9103 crore United Spirits, is the largest alco bev company in the world by volume (sold 120.54 million cases, Calendar Year 2011). It is the market leader in India and McDowell’s No 1 is the largest selling whisky in India. Additionally, it is the largest selling alco bev franchise across whisky, rum and brandy, both by volume (44 million cases) and value (USD two billion).”

Additionally, the company’s other latest premium offerings also include McDowells VSOP, in the brandy segment, which too, claims to have sold one million cases in its maiden year. It also has DietMate Whisky, world’s first diet whisky, created especially for the fitness conscious drinkers. Apart from the existing portfolio, the company plans to launch several new offerings over the next few quarters.

Trends and targets
Moreover, industry trends are creating a suitable condition for further growth of the brand. Sample this: With a 30 per cent year-on-year growth, India is one of the fastest growing alcohol markets in the world and largest consumer of whisky which accounts for almost 80 per cent of the entire liquor market. Owing to India’s affinity for hard liquor, Indian whisky market which currently stands around Rs 40,500 crore (2011) is expected to cross Rs 54,000 crore mark within next two years (source: ASSOCHAM).

Plus, for McDowell’s No 1, which claims to have 46 per cent share of the prestige segment, the demographic window with two million new consumers above legal drinking age entering this segment augurs well for the whisky brand. Furthermore, according to the company, the brand has pan India presence and is available across retail outlets and at bars, pubs, fine dine restaurants.

However, there is stiff competition from brands like Allied Blender’s Officer’s Choice and Seagram’s Royal Stag among others. But Capoor seems unfazed as he says, “McDowell’s No 1 sells 44 million cases; the next competitor across segments sells 30-40 per cent less volumes.” Though he does not reveal any numbers for expected growth, he points out that the brand will continue to be the market leader on the back of impending launches and strong existing line up.

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