BrandSutra: Amarpreet Singh Anand and his rubber band philosophy

Amarpreet Singh Anand, Executive Vice President & Portfolio Head, Diageo India, says that leading McDowell's No 1, India's largest selling whisky brand as per market data, is a privilege as well as a great responsibility. All his stints in marketing have been about solving crises and turning around brands, and he attributes his success to following five astute principles of Marketing.

You have worked with iconic and heritage brands throughout your career. What are the key life and marketing principles that you follow every single day?

Since I'm from Rishikesh, I've always been rooted in spirituality and yoga. I start my day with a deep sense of gratitude towards my environment, my upbringing and even my mentors. The main marketing principles I follow, first, is that I think of myself as a rubber band - the right kind of stretch can lead to unprecedented collaboration and creativity. Secondly, it's very important to connect with consumers and culture. I encourage my team to do this as often as possible and build empathy and curiosity. Thirdly, the Marketing job is really a Chief Integration Officer's job. Successful marketers are able to integrate and get the best out of people and the ecosystem. Fourthly, Marketing, these days is about driving business and accountability. If it doesn't lead to off-take in the shelves, then the investment needs to be questioned. Lastly, you are not as good as your best success, and not as bad as your worst failure. I've believed in these principles very strongly in my career.

Innovations and P&L management are two distinctive functions. How did you transcend both functions?

While both functions are different in nature, the common value is to foster strong partnerships and inspire the larger organization and ecosystem. I've been able to transition and lead both functions successfully because I've had diverse experiences and roles in my career. My experience in sales has helped me in my innovation jobs and vice versa. Diverse experiences matter, especially in the first 15-20 years of one's career.

You lead India's largest selling whisky brand, McDowell's No. 1, and released a new campaign 'Tu Mera No. 1 Yaar' during the lockdown. Do share interesting insights related to the campaign.

Our vision for the brand is to be the biggest and fastest recruiter brand for the next generation of consumers. Keeping this in mind, we've given the brand an entire revamp. At the same time, we've created a new consumer proposition and platform idea. In this lockdown, people started realizing the power of relationships, both old and new. Since the brand's essence is about friendships, we explored it further and learnt that people mostly don't express their gratitude to friends. We released a Friendship Day campaign that expressed this gratitude via a 'virtual hug'. It showcased Vicky Kaushal and music influencers, encouraging everyone to give a virtual hug to their friends. Our follow-up campaign was for the Indian Premier League, created jointly by my close friend Sonal Dabral and DDB Mudra. The beauty of both these campaigns was that despite the lockdown, we saw extraordinary levels of creativity and collaboration, both internally and externally.

The alcobev sector saw a complete shutdown during the lockdown. How are you getting back to business?

We had zero sales in April. But as the markets started opening up, ensuring access to consumers became our main focus. Our priority was to get the manufacturing and supply chain back. Consumers were shifting their purchase to larger SKUs and bigger brands which promised greater trust and quality perception. Also, because of in-home consumption during lockdown, some categories, SKUs and brands did better than others. Beers went down massively, and whiskies were booming. We are on the road to recovery, in some States faster than others. The festive season also brought back some market share. Even though we aren't fully back, we're cautiously optimistic about the recovery.

What is the biggest challenge you have had to face personally and/or professionally? How did you overcome it?

The biggest challenge both personally and professionally has undoubtedly been the COVID crisis. The more senior one is in the organisation, the more the expectation to lead and give directions to your team and people. So, we lived by the day. We instituted a 'no business agenda' team meeting twice a week, just to ensure everyone is safe, whether they have the groceries or need any help at home. The idea is to ease anxieties and sharing of information which allays a lot of fear of these trying times.

One other challenge I've faced was the worm controversy in 2003 when I was with the erstwhile Cadbury's, now Mondelez. I have always used these crises as a springboard to do better, proving the rubber band analogy I was talking about earlier.

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