The marketing of alcohol brands has had to adapt significantly during the COVID-19 lockdown and the subsequent bans on alcohol sales, with a renewed focus on ensuring the creation of an alcohol-safe South Africa.
Distell has collaborated with Diageo SA to promote synergy between players and constructively promote the growing trend of moderation, the responsible consumption of alcohol as well as healthier lifestyles.
Natasha Maharaj, marketing director of Distell, says there has been a shift in recent years away from traditional marketing formats, brands with the purpose being the new focus for brands around the world.
“Consumers are very clear – they are demanding that brands contribute meaningfully to things they care about. In a post-COVID-19 world, the demand for brands with purpose has become that much more prolific, and it is critical that we adapt to this,” she says.
Maharaj points to Amarula, which raised €500 000 in 2019 for elephant conservation through donations to WildlifeDirect as well as the collaboration between Drostdy-Hof and the Pinotage Youth Academy to ensure a sustainable wine industry for the future by developing young talent.
Zizwe Vundla, marketing director at Diageo, says the focus on responsible marketing has never been more critical, notably when it comes to the development and distribution of ethical and responsible content when marketing and promoting alcoholic beverages to consumers.
“When consumed responsibly, we know that alcohol can form part of a balanced lifestyle. However, maintaining this balance can be challenging for some consumers, leading to health and social problems. We are working to help solve the challenge of alcohol misuse.
“While marketing alcohol in a responsible manner is one element of this, we are working hard to educate especially at-risk groups about the dangers of binge drinking, drinking and driving, and underage drinking, and to develop a responsible drinking culture. Diageo’s Responsible Drinking Media Awards, launched in 2011, are part of this, and supports media in helping promote responsible consumption.”
Marketing departments have also evolved over recent years, from what was traditionally a male-run function to a situation where 80% to 90% of industry marketing functions are being managed and ably led by women.
Both Maharaj and Vundla are well-respected in their companies, with Maharaj having over 16 years’ experience in marketing and a demonstrated track record of developing and executing integrated marketing plans end to end. Vundla is a passionate leader with a history of building strong teams and is skilled in Business Strategy, Insight Generation, Innovation, and Integrated Marketing, with a strong commercial backbone.
Vundla says men have a tendency to be hierarchical whereas women are typically more collaborative. “What our industry has lacked to date is collaboration on how to build and adapt, preserving the social elements while reducing potential harm. Today we have Diageo and Distell, two competitors that are connecting on how to constructively promote moderate consumption behaviour in our industry. When it comes to responsible consumption, it isn’t about competition; it’s about collaboration with a common purpose.”
Maharaj agrees that it is critical to instil a culture of moderation around alcohol. “We believe it is in this format that alcohol can have a positive impact on social connection. Alcohol historically is layered with male bravado and drinking ability revered. As s leader in marketing, we intend reshaping that narrative by making moderation cool.”
She goes on to say that women play a vital role in the taverner environment, constituting about 60% of all taverners, often being the sole breadwinners or single mothers. “The income from their businesses helps them give their children an education and they are employers in their own right. That is admirable, and we have programmes in place to support the development of all taverners, including women, to ensure their establishments are safe and responsible.”
Vundla says the alcohol industry supports about 180,000 township small businesses: “One tavern owner supports about 7 people, so the number of people sustained by the sector really mounts up when you look at it closely. It needs to be well-regulated so that there is responsible consumption, but it must also be nurtured and helped to grow, given the huge impact it has on the economy.”
Background information on alcohol industry’s impact on the economy:
• The industry contributed R51 billion in taxes in 2019 – 10% of total tax revenue from indirect taxes for the year.
• The industry generated R5.7bn in net export earnings in 2019, bringing in critical foreign exchange.
• It directly generated R137bn (3%) of SA’s GDP in 2019, which is more than the contribution of the entire agriculture and food processing sectors
• The alcohol industry supports four of the sectors identified as critical to SA’s economic recovery by Business for SA
• The industry spent R9bn on agricultural raw materials in 2019, supporting 4 759 producers and their employees