Experiential Marketing Has Helped Us Generate Authentic Brand Awareness: Zeenah Vilcassim

Read this interview with Zeenah Vilcassim, Director, of Marketing, BACARDI India about her vision for the brand and more


For BACARDI, India is one of its top 5 priority emerging markets and it has a huge ambition to deliver 5 times its current business results in India by the year 2030. 

With a diverse global portfolio of over 200 brands (28 in India), Bacardi is set to introduce exciting brands to the Indian consumer and innovate in ways that will really add value to their drinking experiences. 

On the back of this sentiment we spoke to Zeenah Vilcassim, Director, of Marketing, BACARDI India about her vision for the brand and more.

Help us get an insight into the Overall alco bev industry and growth pivots for India

India is not only one of the fastest-growing alcoholic beverage markets globally, it is also one of the most interesting. With an estimated market size of $52.5 billion in India in 2020, the market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 6.8% between 2020 and 2023 (ICRIER 2022). By 2030, 26% of Indian drinks consumers are expected to move to higher brands and 24% will spend on newer categories of alcohol. This level of premiumisation and experimentation makes it an extremely exciting time for us at BACARDI. 

Whilst there have been many trends bubbling under the surface for a few years now, the pandemic has significantly shifted how people in India drink. New occasions have opened up with people turning towards convenient in-home drinking and ready-to-drink cocktail options. There is also a desire for e-commerce - 6 out of every 10 liquor consumers in India would be willing to purchase alcoholic beverages online if they had the option.

For BACARDI, India is one of its top 5 priority emerging markets. We have a huge ambition to deliver 5 times our current business results in India by the year 2030.

With a diverse global portfolio of over 200 brands (28 in India), we have the opportunity to introduce exciting brands to the Indian consumer and innovate in ways that will really add value to their drinking experiences. 

How is BACARDI creating 'moments that matter' for its audiences? What are the innovative ways you are reaching out to the consumer in?

We at BACARDI are creating ‘moments that matter’ for our consumers, based on four key pillars:

  • We keep consumers at the heart of everything we do - identifying and leveraging insights as the basis of all activities at Bacardi with a strong culture of evaluation and optimization.  For instance, during COVID-19, we evolved our on–ground festival, Casa BACARDI, into a virtual experience with over 4000 people in attendance with the objective to give people these moments of connection and joy during tough times. Our flagship program for BREEZER - VIVID SHUFFLE adopted its first-ever hybrid edition. Furthermore, during the lockdown, we brought Bacardi NH7 Weekender to the homes of our consumers, with #HappyAtHome sessions. The successful first edition encouraged nearly 6 million consumers to do what moves them from the comfort of their own homes.

  • We remain authentic and transparent with consumers: We believe in communicating with empathy to our consumers. Consumers today are anything but ignorant. It is therefore integral to be transparent with them across aspects like how the brand functions with its ecosystem, its efforts for sustainability, and its engagement with its on-trade partners.

  • We focus on agility: At Bacardi, our core marketing pillar is to be agile in all our approaches- campaign, marketing, experiences, etc. We continued to keep consumers at the heart, even during the pandemic, by analysing what they are frequenting to, what they are looking forward to and so on. Based on these insights, we were able to take several of our platforms and properties digital with great agility, keeping our consumers at the core.

  • We innovate to add value: Our core marketing strategy has enabled us to be future ready and to cater to our consumers’ needs, be it through product innovation or experiential innovation. In the recent years, with the help of this strategy we’ve forayed into new categories like brandy and the launch of Goodman, the first ever in-house brand from Bacardi in India. With evolving consumption trends, we witnessed consumers’ growing inclination toward RTD as it provides convenience and is perfect for the on-the-go occasion. Therefore, we introduced new product variants like BREEZER Watermelon Mint and the BREEZER Bliss range, a better for you RTD with natural fruit juices, as well as Bombay Sapphire’s Gin & Tonic RTD. In 2021, we integrated an AR virtual immersive 3D island with our partner Sansar to transport people across 25 different countries to our Caribbean paradise for the first virtual edition of Casa BACARDI. The highlight for the fans was the ability to enjoy a complete sensory experience through spatial audio and personalized avatars. To ensure we could also give people an at-home experience we created special Casa BACARDÍ kits available to purchase online, enabling them to recreate a Caribbean vibe. 

How has your marketing strategy evolved pre vs post pandemic? 

The pandemic pushed us to pivot towards creating unique virtual experiences for our audience to keep them engaged. Digital has always played a key role in our marketing strategy. Pre and post-pandemic we continue to see it be a key avenue for communicating and connecting with our audience. Today, hybrid models are important as we are continuously ensuring that we are connecting with consumers on the ground but also continue to build connections digitally for at-home occasions.

At BACARDÍ, we are invested in content as a vehicle for engagement with consumers. In line with this goal, content creators and platforms are key for us. 

We identify the content we want to create as well as where we’ve achieved the right to participate. Each of our brands then works with the content creators that match the brand ethos in creating content across these identified passion points of food, music, comedy and more. 

What are the top 5 consumer trends/preferences you are witnessing currently in the industry, across spirit categories?

In the past few years, consumer preferences have evolved multifold. The five most prominent trends we at BACARDI have witnessed include:  

  • Digitisation: During and post the pandemic we saw the rise in recipe videos on Instagram, masterclasses online, online health and fitness sessions, etc. Now, digital has become a second language for everyone.

  • Home-tainment: In order to stay safe, consumers have increased consumption at-home leading to at-home celebrations and entertainment – also referred to as ‘hometainment’. Consumers are now consuming cocktails at home and experimenting with multiple kinds of drinks. 

  • Drinking less, but better: Consumers are increasingly investing in high quality alcohol and are inclined towards purchasing from well established, trusted brands. Consumers today are drinking less but drinking better quality.

  • Premiumisation: As the global luxury market continues to grow, consumers are trading up, and we have witnessed that super-premium spirits have grown by approximately 74% from 2020 to 2021 in India (IWSR 2021). We are the market leaders in international spirits in the standard and above rum, super premium vodka, and premium gin. We aim to continue to excite our new-age consumers through the diversity and quality of our premium portfolio. 

  • Convenience: During the pandemic, the convenience of access to products from our homes increased. We are seeing a rise in ready-to-drink consumption as the category caters to the needs of these consumers who are looking for convenient, easy-to-consume products. 

With physical events now coming back to the fore of consumer marketing, what does BACARDI have planned in India for the rest of the year? 

As the world continues to open up, brands are starting to show more excitement and optimism about hosting physical events for their consumers, while ensuring that the activities are being carried out with the health and safety of all our consumers and partners in mind and following all health and safety guidelines.

Here at BACARDÍ, we are known for creating unique out-of-home experiences for our consumers. We are excited to be back on-ground with our flagship properties such as BACARDÍ NH7 Weekender, Casa Bacardi, The Doers Club, and more. Earlier this year, we hosted the BACARDÍ NH7 Weekender in-person, which prioritized safety protocols such as verifying that consumers are fully vaccinated, maintaining social distancing wherever possible and limiting capacity to 25%. 

Looking at the year ahead, we will be curating innovative on-ground experiences for our consumers and partners at the back of multiple product launches and campaign activations, to create some more unforgettable moments with them. With a focus on hybrid models, we are continuously ensuring that we are connecting with consumers on the ground but also continuing to build connections digitally for the at-home occasions.

Tell us a bit about upcoming product launches, marketing campaigns across brands?

Innovation is critical to us at BACARDI in order to remain relevant and stay ahead of the curve. We have constantly been expanding our premium spirits range, with the recent launch of DEWAR’s Japanese Smooth and the brand’s super-premium Double-Double range. We also unveiled Bacardi Anejo Quatro, Bacardi Reserva Ocho, and Bacardi Gran Reserva as part of our premium rum range, with much more planned for the rest of the year. We have even innovated in the RTD range launching the first BIO RTD with Bombay Sapphire gin & tonic in a can, and the response for it in India has been phenomenal. 

How important is experiential marketing for you?

Experiential marketing has helped us generate authentic brand awareness, as it appeals to consumers’ senses through thoughtfully created experiences. We at BACARDI have for decades leveraged the many passion points of our consumers in our experiential marketing strategies – be it music, culture, food, or creativity. This is evident in our properties such as Casa Bacardi, The Doers Club, NH7 Weekender and Breezer Vivid Shuffle. 

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