Luxury & Experiential Marketing Post-Corona: Sabeer Ahluwalia

Co-marketing/ co-branding helps to garner best client experience, jointly increase ROI and provides opportunities for growth writes Sabeer Ahluwalia.


The Covid19 pandemic has completely altered the way we live, work and operates our businesses. These are harrowing times for our country and economy. Analysts are already comparing the situation to the ‘Great Depression of the 1930s’ when the Global Economic Output shrunk by 15%. Currently the WTO is estimating shrinkage of 13%-32% in Global Trade (1) with all signs pointing towards an emerging global recession caused by the Novel Coronavirus. India will also not be able to avoid the hit to its economy. Noble Prize winning economist Abhijit Banerjee has predicted a 13-15% hit to our economy. But as Countries begin to flatten the curve of the infection spread the talk of how we get back to work and reopen the economy has become the main topic of discussion amongst the pundits.

Events have always been a major source of lead generation for marketing professionals. Covid19 has hit marketing industry like a steam train. Most of us are still trying to grapple with the situation. We have all talked completely to online media and putting a greater emphasis on digital marketing but it was meant to be a gradual process with the transition period lasting a 5 to 10 years at the least. While Tesla has implemented a contactless approach overseas with Kiosks instead of sales consultants and the onus being on digital marketing but India is still some ways off from reaching a stage where all communication can be devoid of human to human contact. Right now it is certainly the case that all lead generation and brand awareness campaigns must shift to a digital platform it does not mean the death of Event and Experiential marketing.

In Overseas countries trade shows have been cancelled but businesses are now organizing online showcases and events which are being live-streamed on their respective digital platforms. They are still going ahead with their events but without the live audience participation. This is the new norm where events and digital platforms work in synergy. This does not address a lot of the concerns customers who expect a personalized run-through of all the features of the product but it was never meant to in the first place. These programs are only meant to qualify the leads.

Earlier for example in the automotive industry sales personnel were motivated to give test-drives to all the leads generated that is simply not feasible at this point. What must be done is once a lead has been qualified a personal experience with the bare minimum personnel and all safety precautions taken can be curated.

Having worked in various Marketing roles all my life, I can safely tell you Event and Experiential marketing has been of paramount importance to me and a major part of any serious marketing professional’s budget.

With India being more traditional market, consumers need to have a touch and feel of the product before buying - Especially in the luxury automotive industry where I have spent the last decade of my career.

When people are spending 50 Lacs to 1 Cr+ on a product they need to be given an experience of the product. Luxury is something that needs to be experienced and curating these experiences has been my bread and butter. Every product has to be experienced in a different way. For example for performance cars I would curate a drive experience/ drag racing at airport strips. And for our more luxury back-seat driver oriented products we would organize a Black tie event at a 5 star property.

We need to infuse super fresh ideas & innovation for all our Campaigns keeping in mind the art of social distancing while curating these experiences - As of now we have to live with it for the time being. Quoting my friend and Golf Guru Brandon De Souza – “Golf is one sport which is truly not a contact sport and maintaining social distancing is easy.” Unlike in a few of other sport where it is played in close indoors, here we are talking about over 180 acres. Ample opportunities to maintain Social distancing.

Its high time brands should re-learn the power of co-marketing/ co-branding and rise above the selfishness of doing a solo campaign/ events. Creating a campaign that cares for its promoters and customer.

Co-marketing/ co-branding helps to garner best client experience, jointly increase ROI and provides opportunities for growth.

Brands like Canali, Hugo Boss, Mont Blanc, Glenlivet, LVMH Stable - Louis Vuitton to Berluti, Christian Dior to Givenchy, Bvlgari, Hublot, Tag Heuer, or Ducati to Taj Hotels, ITC or Hyatt of the world, can all come together and do collaborative marketing campaigns. While we are marketing luxury car brands like Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Volvo or Jaguar we can easily integrate such other brands with it.

For example we do a campaign showing a luxury car used by an individual wearing a designer suit with a premium watch, carrying an exquisite pen with collector’s shades on his eyes, getting into a fine dining and sipping single malt at a luxury property. The idea is to fea-ture multiple brands in a single communication rather than brands spending a fortune each. Similarly launch events and other communication collaterals can be designed on similar lines. This could in fact be revolutionary and change the equations completely saving on to mil-lions for the brands collectively, without affecting their marketing or di-luting the Brand identity in anyway.

A global pandemic obviously isn’t the best time for conventional PR, marketing events and activities but by adapting to a digitalized approach working hand in hand with tailored experiences we can dampen the impact of Covid19 and even overcome the situation without a lasting trauma to our industry.

(Sabeer is a Luxury Marketer and Startup Evangelist. He has been heading Marketing & Sales of quite a few top global luxury brands representing Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, Ducati, Audi etc. Sabeer also mentors and has an investment in an Artificial Intelligence, Drone Tech & IoT Startups apart from representing ICC’s Young Leaders Forum & Expat Club of Calcutta)

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