French liqueur brand Cointreau is a key ingredient in most popular cocktails like Margarita, Cosmopolitan, Sidecar and ‘Cointreaupolitan’. Made from orange peels and sweet oranges, a bottle of Cointreau is sold for around Rs 4,000 across five-star hotels, clubs and premium liquor shops in India. Justin Edward, head of Liqueurs at Rémy Cointreau (that manufactures cognac, liqueurs and spirits), was on his maiden visit to India this week along with famous burlesque performer Dita Von Teese, the brand’s global ambassador. The duo hosted ‘One Night in New Delhi’ as part of their ‘Be Cointreauversial’ campaign at The Leela Palace New Delhi. Priyanka Sharma talks to Edward about his plans in India
How big is the market for Cointreau in India?
Currently, the market is very small. The biggest challenge we face is that many consumers may not be aware that Cointreau is a key ingredient in most cocktails. But that gives us the opportunity to expand. What sets us apart is that we choose to focus our marketing on women because they are mostly the trendsetters in every country as well as more open to change.
Does focusing your marketing on women confine your consumer base?
It is a well thought out choice. In most countries, including India, women are the harbingers of change, innovation and progress. Moreover, Cointreau’s sweetness makes it more favourable to women’s palates. Cocktails are an elegant way of drinking alcohol and find more takers in women across the world. We are one of the only brands that speak directly to women. Moreover, while a consumer may enjoy whiskey alone, cocktails are usually a shared experience — so that widens our consumer base.
Tell us about the ‘Be Contreauversial’ campaign?
With the ‘Be Cointreauversial’ campaigns, we select women who are charismatic and confident, not afraid to try new things, to represent our brand. Dita Von Teese is one such woman. The ‘Cointreauversial’ woman is an intelligent urban woman who has the means and exposure to the finer things in life and has experienced luxury. Aishwarya Nair [The Leela Palaces, Hotels and Resorts Food & Wine Consultant] is another such example. The campaign is fun, irreverent and elegant, all at once. Forthcoming ‘Be Cointreauversial’ evenings in India will feature Indian women who embody Cointreau’s essence.
Each one will have her own nuances of controversy, which are open to interpretation.
What are the challenges of marketing liqueur in India?
Advertising alcohol [across television and billboards] is banned in several countries including France. This means we have to be extremely creative in our marketing techniques. We focus on creating experiences through tasting sessions in urban centres where women are exposed to luxury as well as have the resources to buy Cointreau. We also organise special cocktail classes for women and on-ground promotions like ‘High Heels Nights’. While India is a whiskey-dominated market, liqueurs and cocktails are picking up. There is a growing aspirational segment in India which wants to splurge on expensive liqueur. We focus on metros like Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore. The most crucial aspect of our marketing will be to educate the trade about our merchandise. We need to make them aware about what makes our product premium and what goes into making a good drink.
What is your competition?
Mostly white spirits. In liqueurs, we have heritage and history on our side [in 1948, socialite Margarita Sames combined Cointreau, tequila and lime to create the original margarita]. Champagne is and will be our biggest competition. Asia, as a whole offers great opportunities for us. Japan, for instance, is warming up to cocktails. We are hoping to usher in some changes in India as well.