Brands and Customer Engagement

Recently, I have been sharing some of my thoughts and ideas on how brands can find ways to engage with their customers through the pandemic. And while many industries have been adversely impacted by the virus, some like the wines and spirits industry have been particularly hard-hit. They have been hit on several fronts: low demand from consumers because of economic and job uncertainty, other allied industries such as dining out and travel being affected and finally, because of trade wars.

In a recent post on the wines and spirits industry, in which I had shared my thoughts and ideas on Perrier-Jouet Champagnes, I had also briefly mentioned how Scotch Whisky exports to the US – its biggest market by volume – is down by 25% because of a 25% tariff.

The Covid pandemic is a good time for me to share my thoughts and ideas on Scotch Whisky then. Not merely to boost sales, but for brands to engage better with their customers. I had put down these thoughts and ideas over a year ago (2019) as a way to supplement the main brand campaign ideas I had for two brands of Scotch Whisky from Pernod Ricard, Chivas Regal Scotch Whisky and The Glenlivet Single Malt Scotch Whisky. Those brand campaign strategies and ideas were among many that I lost to termites, as I have written recently, though they are still intact in my head.

Thankfully, these customer-engagement ideas are not just written down in my computer, I have been able to even execute designs for the campaigns. And how they came about is yet another story.

A friend shared the results of the 2019 International Scotch Whisky Competition with me on social media sometime last year. I was pleasantly surprised to see Chivas Regal and The Glenlivet among the awards, since I had had the pleasure of visiting their distilleries in Scotland decades ago, as a delegate from Ogilvy Delhi to a conference organized by our then client Seagram. But I also thought it strange that Pernod Ricard had not cared to communicate this to their customers. At least, I hadn’t seen any advertising nor editorial coverage in the Indian media.

Chivas Regal, the prince of Scotch whiskies; Image: Pixabay

I started to create just the kind of adverts that I thought both these brands should be sharing with their target consumers. While I was writing and creating these adverts, another thought occurred to me: what if the award announcement advert for Chivas Regal led to a larger customer engagement program for the brand.

The context then, of course, was quite different. Still, it seemed to me that instead of merely announcing an award win, it would make much more sense if Chivas Regal could use the opportunity to create a club of Scotch Whisky consumers and start a CRM programme of sorts.

Since the Chivas Regal brand is positioned as the spirit of chivalry, this would be no ordinary club. But a group of people from the corporate world coming together to pledge allegiance to a chivalric code. The Chivalry Club would work by invitation to start with and also through referrals. However, a specially created campaign could also work as a lead generation exercise for the club, where they visit the special landing page on Chivas Regal’s website and take the pledge. At the moment, I have created the basic structure for the chivalric code to exist, what it stands for, and what consumers/members are meant to do to join. We could always add filters to screen members in order that the Club attracts only genuine participants.

The creative idea for the chivalric code campaign is the comparison of corporate life with the game of chess, which seems to belong naturally to the world of Chivas Regal. You can read about this entire campaign for Chivas Regal by clicking the link below.

While writing this post, I happened to visit the websites of Chivas Regal and The Glenlivet and I was not just disappointed, but alarmed by what I saw. Neither of the websites capture the correct imagery of the brands and their brand positioning. Worse, they are badly written and do not convey the most distinctive dimensions of these legendary Scotch whiskies.

The Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve with the new seal on the bottle’s shoulder; Image: Toyamakanna on Unsplash

I am a little concerned about the different variants being launched as well, and their packaging designs. For example, The Glenlivet, has dispensed with what I think is the most elegant and distinguishing feature of the brand’s identity: a single golden stalk of barley. It stood for so much about the brand: it being the original whisky, its unbending and straight character and of course, its singularly distinctive taste. In its place, I now see a fussy-looking seal, with the year 1824 emblazoned on it, and a whole bunch of barley stalks.

Coming back to the chivalric code campaign for Chivas Regal, I added video about a month ago, which is meant to air only on English news channels and English business news channels. I was also thinking that the game of chess could have gone on to become an interactive, online customer engagement tool during the Covid lockdowns and through the pandemic. Members of the Chivalry Club could have participated in online games of chess, specially created for them by Chivas Regal, and could have also used them to raise funds for Covid relief.

Besides, in keeping with one of the tenets of the Chivalry Code, the Chivalry Club itself could have launched a social media initiative – perhaps on LinkedIn – to help the less fortunate find jobs during the pandemic.

The entire idea grew out of an award win for these leading brands of Scotch Whisky. Sometimes, it appears that success is better when shared. And as I write in the document explaining the Chivalric Code campaign, the world is so heavily tilted in favour of the wealthy and the powerful, that perhaps a little spirit of chivalry is required to correct the lopsidedness. Salut to that!  

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