After that post on I Feel UP (cringe!), 7UP and Viewspaper (where, incidentally, I was more annoyed with the phrase than the alleged bait-and-switch tactic to popularize 7UP’s new tagline), I got a tweet alert for another alleged bait-and-switch, from Param Anuranachalam, yesterday noon. This time, it involved Dewar’s and their wonderful TV show, Dewarists.
I have had long discussions on this on Twitter yesterday and also posed a few questions to understand what people think. Strangely, I got more DMs than @mentions. And from what I have read in those responses, my initial position has indeed changed.
The crux of the matter is this – Dewarists (pronounced Dooerists – don’t call it Dayverists and feel like a dork), a music-based TV show used the Dewar’s India page on Facebook to promote the music, show and individual songs (which are given as free downloads). See this email from Dewarists team, for instance (click on it for larger view).
Why is that an issue? Because Dewar’s is an alcohol brand!
Is that still as issue? As a tweeter asked me, befuddled, if people felt cheated that a cigarette brand (Benson & Hedges or Wills) was sponsoring cricket world cup.
The issue seems to be that Dewarists, a music show that has nothing to do with alcohol or the act of drinking alcohol, asks people to join the Dewar’s page on Facebook, to download the songs or know more about the show. The page, rightly so, since it is the brand’s page, includes other brand-related communication.
At the outset, I did not notice any issue here. I know of Dewar’s, the brand, and knew from day zero that they were behind the Dewarists show (even for an occasional drinker like me!). I thought this was a wonderful idea for surrogate communication that alcohol brands are forced to use, as a tactic, in India. And this is far better than showing Ajay Devgan getting his kick from Bagpiper….soda!
The show itself was wonderfully produced and was everything that Coke Studio India wasn’t – thankfully. As an intrinsic part of surrogate communication, people who watched the show and liked the music were asked to go the Dewar’s page on Facebook to discuss the show and listen to the music. In my opinion, this is the entire purpose of this show – to create awareness about Dewar’s, the brand.
But, till this point, I’m thinking like a normal marketer or a PR person.
As a responsible marketer or a PR person, I assume I also need to consider possible repercussions of this tactic – particularly because we’re in India.
Many responses I got on DM pointed out that they would not (and indeed, did not) join the Dewar’s India page on Facebook page simply because they are connected to many family members on Facebook. And that they did not want to be seen liking an alcohol page on Facebook. This was also cited as a main reason by a lot of younger Facebook users (I use ‘a lot’ cautiously – I got about 75+ responses on this question and about 20 responses pointedly mentioned the underage issue).
It is when reading this perspective that I understood that there might indeed be an issue. While I think the tactic used by Dewar’s is perfectly legitimate in marketing-speak, I feel they could have used a little more caution before getting fans of the show to become fans (on Facebook) of the brand. So, a Coke Studio India asking people to like Coca Cola India page on Facebook may be completely above board, but in the case of Dewar’s, considering the involvement of an alcohol brand, things may not be as simple as they seem.
If you are a regular alcohol consumer, this may sound ridiculous to you, but you perhaps need to think like a regular alcohol consumer + a responsible, Indian marketer. I made the mistake of assuming that my perspective is the right one, till I posed that question and got counter opinions which pointed to a valid loophole. After all, as marketers, we are responsible for the brand’s reputation – as PR people, even more so. Then, it is our (as marketers and PR teams) responsibility to place the online marketing/communication in the right context and look at all possible avenues to avoid any potential backlash.
In Dewarists’ case, there is no backlash, but I did hear from assorted people alleging the bait-and-switch. It is definitely not the size of I Feel Up and The Viewspaper (and 7UP), primarily because this did not involve the brand or its partners asking people to tom-tom the brand’s new tagline in the name of India. And also because the show itself was fantastic, with lovely music from each episode. But those are beside the point.
The point is about getting people interested in a wonderful music show and marketing to them an alcohol page on Facebook, to continue the association. There is also an official Dewarists page on Facebook, but understandably, the marketing from the brand is for the Dewar’s page. Any fan of the show searching for the keyword ‘Dewarists’ will get the actual page easily. But the number of fans in both the pages indicate that most fans of the show don’t search and merely go by what the brand dictates, in its official pages – 24,000+ for Dewarists vs. 100,000+ for Dewar’s! Case in point – The Dewarists website has links to the Facebook page and Twitter profile; the Facebook page is of Dewar’s India, while the Twitter profile is that of Dewarists!
Related, pertinent question: The Bacardi page on Facebook is listed under ‘Wine/spirits’. So is the Absolut Facebook page. Why is the Dewar’s India page listed under ‘Food/beverages’? Most beer brands I checked on Facebook are listed under ‘Food/beverages’ (does that make sense, in India, I wonder), but a whiskey brand like Dewar’s being listed under ‘Food/beverages’ seems odd, when other hard liquor brands like Bacardi and Absolut are listed appropriately. More so when people from the TV show are directed to this brand.
Some screenshots of alcohol brands on Facebook – notice the category below the brand name.