When it comes to marketing alcohol, producers need to be creative as they walk a tightrope between doing what it takes to sell their product and doing so in an ethical manner that takes into account local culture as well as the dangers associated with their product.
In sub-Saharan Africa the first step of the equation means catering to the market by slashing your prices to the bare minimum to turn a profit, as London-based Diageo, the world’s largest spirits company, has done in its efforts to target even the poorest consumers. In fact, Diageo’s strategy of selling locally-made liquor at dirt-cheap prices has been so successful they’ve even taken business away from illegal distillers of changa’a, a home-made liquor made from molasses and mashed grain in sub-Saharan Africa’s worst slums. By selling their cheapest whiskey, Jebel Gold, at 10 cents for 30 ml, Diageo are giving their customers exactly what they want – cheap liquor.
It’s not just low prices that are driving Diageo’s sales, however. In another effort at translating advertising tactics to suit the local market, Diageo’s medium of choice is radio, with ads delivered to remote villages in the local dialect or slang, thereby allowing Diageo to reach new customers who’ve never even consumed alcohol before.
Behind the News
But surely a marketing strategy of selling cut-rate liquor to people who’ve never drunk before raises some ethical questions – which is why Diageo has also joined the world’s 13 leading alcohol and wine makers in signing a commitment to reduce harmful consumption of their products. This commitment includes following a set of global guidelines for advertising online and on social media in order to ensure that alcohol isn’t marketed to underage drinkers and investing in programs that will reduce drink driving.
To combat high rates of drink driving accidents in South Africa, which are some of the highest in the world, Diageo have produced targeted, award-winning creative awareness campaigns. It started with their “Drive Dry” advertising campaign, created by Foxp2 agency in Cape Town, which featured the tagline “It won’t happen to me.” A later iteration of the campaign used the tagline “Who’s driving you home tonight?” The digital, print, TV and live activation campaign was supported by an engagement platform that encouraged consumers to make a pledge not to drink and drive.
In addition, the company have implemented their Red Card initiative to address underage consumption in Uganda, and support a responsible drinking program in Ghana, where they have also advocated for stronger legal purchase laws.
Diageo’s attention to local culture doesn’t end there, however. The company sources 70% of agricultural and packaging materials locally and works with more than 50,000 local farmers for its agricultural inputs.
With Africa seen as the last frontier for the global spirits industry, it’s clear that to be successful, liquor companies will have to adopt a two-pronged marketing approach that simultaneously caters to local wants for cheap drink while educating them about the perils of the same. Diageo has so far managed to walk this tightrope to global success.