It’s no secret that the liquor industry the world over is a male dominated one. But the story at one of the world's largest alcohol beverage companies is quite different. Diageo has several women across its ranks. From its CEO to the sacred position of the Master Blender, women are leading from the front. Among these women is Ruchira Jaitly, who took over as the chief marketing officer of Diageo India in 2023. In an episode of Media Dialogues with Storyboard18, Jaitly spoke to Delshad Irani, about the trends reshaping the consumer growth story. She says, "Global soft power, local heart and everything else is 'and': India is going to be an 'And-society' for the next 10 years."
What are the key trends informing your marketing strategies across brands?
There are some enduring stories that are coming through really on the way consumers are evolving. The first one is premiumization. Consumers are across the board, choosing to eat, drink, and certainly live, better rather than more. There’s this whole sense in our category in particular of just appreciating new experiences, premium liquids, premium propositions which is very exciting because we have one of the most enviable Global stable of Brands as a portfolio across different categories. For the longest time we've been looking to introduce some of those propositions in India but do so at a point where consumers appreciate that this is about quality and not about quantity and that's something that we're excited about.
What else is coming through besides Premiumisation?
The other enduring trend is the fact that with more and more Millennials and post-millennials entering the market, India is poised to be the largest in terms of the number of people entering the legal drinking age or adulthood. Millennials and post-Millennials are particularly important. They have very different codes of consumption and that's exciting because they're looking for brands that talk more progressive, are looking more for elevated experiences. They are looking for sustainability - not as a narrative but as something that belongs to the brand and its purpose. It’s not just a story you tell but it's something that you own as a brand at the heart of what you do and for us those consumers are now becoming almost a bellwether of what consumers expect from their brands and therefore India is going to be an ‘and’ economy, it's never going to be an ‘or’. It’s not just about having great liquids and great experiences, it's also going to be about how you're bringing that to life for the consumer and where you're bringing it to life.
Give us a few examples of what you mean when you say And economy and bringing those experiences alive?
Digital transformation is an enduring trend. It’s going to continue but it's getting much bigger because it's not just about digital for media or tech which is important but it's also digital for a phygital experience, for elevating experiences anywhere on the entire value chain. If I look at it, the entire Omni Channel Journey for a consumer is coming alive like never before, especially post-Covid, but I think also because technology is now being able to deliver a lot of these solutions.
When I look at how consumers want to enjoy the whole sensation or how they experience a brand it's as much on their devices as it is in person and again therefore it's the personalisation and the experience. Personalisation on your device, the experience when you're out there. Sustainability is a larger trend but within that narrative, there's a larger piece on the culture of inclusivity. I'm really proud of Diageo because this for me is where we really walk the talk beyond the remit that most organisations or most brands go. We really want to get diverse and Progressive voices and Elevate them for larger audiences and for this audience this is becoming very important. How inclusive you are, how diverse you are. It's not just about representation and showing a mixed-gender setting which one could argue was done before, it's about actually giving that person, whatever the gender, that role. A role, or some agency at that moment.
I see a lot of really interesting enduring trends and that means really well for us as a society as well. A lot of times advertising is that mirror to not just where society is today but where we want to see it going and how we want to see that dialogue evolving. It is a very exciting time.
When I spoke to your Global CMO, she mentioned a trend called ‘Sober Curious’. When you speak about catering to a wide range of customers in social settings where alcohol is an important piece of that setting, are you also thinking about it that way for Indian consumers? Are you seeing the sober curious trend playing out in India as well?
I'll give you an example. I had someone come over and I had my bottle of Tanqueray 0.0 and I poured one of those. We both enjoyed that evening. There are evenings when I'm very 'sober curious' and I enjoy that moment because I am extremely responsible about the way I interact with the category. I'm a repertoire consumer but equally, there are moments when I want to try something different and I want something different from all the propositions I've had in the past.
I think your point on why Sober Curious is going to get bigger and bigger, I want that personalization of what I want in the moment and I still want the experiences. That’s the ‘And’ I was talking about. I want the experience but it has to be personal to where I am at that moment. Our zero Alcohol propositions whether it's Guinness, Tanqueray, Captain Morgan doing phenomenally well wherever they've been launched. We take our time launching it because we want to make sure that it delivers that experience because that's 101 and the market is ready for it because people don't mind paying for it.
It's part of our positive drinking philosophy which is a big part of the way we measure our spirit of progress goals and our society 2030 obligations. It’s not something that comes from just for Innovation's sake, it comes because we believe that that's the way we can give or we can at least create the right kind of responsible culture around the brands that we build, manufacture, and operate.
How have you seen the media landscape shift from your vantage as a marketer?
The biggest thing that happened to me as a marketer, and my biggest victory when I was starting out in marketing was if I got that spot for my brand on the Sunday evening movie Doordarshan. I still recall that vividly. I remember that I came back and said Oh My God I have just cracked it as a brand manager. My brand is going to be on the Doordarshan evening movie on Sunday evening, which personally for me was a reminder that the weekend was over when I was going to school.
From there to the multiplicity on screens is something we all know about. This whole personalization and customization that we're seeing is becoming a huge part of everything that we do which for us as an industry is brilliant. We want to communicate responsibly in a medium that helps us address the right consumers, the ones who are looking for our Brands and for more and more information about how they can consume our brands and products better. That’s great for us and that's going to continue.
The one that's also completely changing the way we're looking at consumers is, really leveraging first-party data and being able to talk to consumers in the context that they choose to be addressed in. For us it is about premiumization, personalization, customization, and also the ability to talk to the right audience. The last one is when we talk about more scale brands as well as opportunities, it gives us the ability to get experiences going and technology is changing the way we can deliver experiences. There is this ability to go through the whole gamut of phygital experiences and bring those alive and media for me is now about phygital, it's not just about a TV screen which was one-way communication like we did on Doordarshan all those years ago.
The last one in the media industry and that's evolving is there are more and more diverse voices in media. And for us to be partnering with a lot of those progressive media outlets and to be working with them on creating that vision of an inclusive, more elevated society that we'd like, that's also fantastic. To me India is a global soft power, local heart and everything else is 'and'. India is going to be an 'And-society' for the next 10 years.
Diageo has a whole bunch of iconic brands in its portfolio, well-established brands and it has acquired or invested in new emerging brands. From a marketing point of view, what is the distinction in how you approach these two categories of brands?
I think large brands want to behave more and more like small personable brands and small brands are very comfortable in their space but they're also looking at growing and reaching out to more and more consumers who they think would be relevant.
It’s interesting you said that because one big consumer trend that we're seeing is experimentation and repertoire. Indian consumers are experimenting and they're actually entering a repertoire of different experiences faster than maybe a lot of other global audiences and they're doing it because for the first time they can actually learn more about brands. For example, a recent tequila launch Don Julio is poised to be one of the most exciting liquids for a consumer to try and it's because of not just the taste but also because of the sheer curation that goes into the making of that liquid and putting it out, very different from a category that exists.
Then you’ve got what's happening on gins and the work that we've done with Nao but equally the work with our brand Gordon’s and Tanqueray. It's wonderful that consumers have this choice in this repertoire, and it's a lot of education even in categories that exist. In our category in India, I sense that it is going to be building consumer communities and literally a grassroots building up on brands, even if it's a brand that you've known a lot about like a Johnnie Walker and which is why when Walkers & Co talks about progressive portrayal and inclusivity, it does it because we want people to know that, that's the world we belong in beyond the liquid that they may have tasted at some point in time in their lives.