Why Indian celebrities don’t launch liquor brands

Palash Krishna Mehrotra
Palash Krishna MehrotraMay 06, 2018 | 10:29

Why Indian celebrities don’t launch liquor brands

In the US, its Trump’s wine versus Dylan’s whisky.

The Bob Dylan whisky is here. In fact, three Bob Dylan bourbons have been launched and more are on their way. The label will feature Dylan’s own artwork. His famous signature will discreetly and magically reveal itself only when the bottle is empty.

Celebrities have launched lines of liquor in the past. Sting sells wine, while UK heavy metal band Iron Maiden is associated with a lager called Trooper. The marketing-branding is linked to the public image one has –all of which is to do with cliché.

Trump wine is a symbol for the provincial post-truth world, where facts are malleable and rhetoric triumphs (Trumps?) logic. Photo: APTrump wine is a symbol for the provincial post-truth world, where facts are malleable and rhetoric triumphs (Trumps?) logic. Photo: AP

Sting, the bard of swish love songs, will sell fine wine. The white British working class metal-head will drink unpretentious lager. The Dylan fan, most likely an ageing baby boomer with deep pockets, will buy a bottle of Dylan’s Heaven’s Door whisky.

It’s an interesting question to think over—does capitalism create a demand where none originally existed or does it spot and tap into a latent trend, then further capitalise on it? For instance, with more women drinking hard spirits, new American brands are targeting them with specific advertising and products.

It’s an open question if a bottle of vodka or whisky can be gendered. Perhaps it’s the most pointless question of all. One redesigns the bottle. The master blender manipulates some “tastes and notes”. And suddenly, just like that, one has produced a bottle of Jane Walker scotch. Johnny Walker insists it did so because the original was seen as “particularly intimidating by women.”

Brands targeting women also claim to give a small part of their proceeds to women’s charities.  Feminists have denounced this as “pinkwashing products”, but this hasn’t stopped manufacturers and advertisers.

As a piece on the website Mother Jones explains: “Ads and products now push alcohol as a salve for the highly stressed American woman. There are wines called Mother’s Little Helper, Happy Bitch, Mad Housewife, and Relax. Her Spirit vodka comes with swag emblazoned with girl-power slogans like “Drink responsibly. Dream recklessly.””

Capitalism will pick up whatever is in the air. In India, at the height of Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption movement, a whisky called Officer’s Choice Blue hit the shelves of poky thekas.

The marketing pitch was summarised thus on its website: “The equity of Officers Choice Blue is centred around the value of righteousness. The brand connects to the target audience of young modern and progressive consumers by asking them to take a stand against social wrongs and is brought alive through the clarion call of “Raise Your Voice”.” By all accounts, upright young Indians refused to switch to OC Blue and stuck to Old Monk, despite the copywriting.

In India, while teetotalling filmstars and cricketers endorse liquor brands (read soda glasses, music CDs and 8 pm apple juice), not one is closely associated with the product. Dylan being a whisky drinker himself lends an authenticity to his brand, and this is what makes Heaven’s Door slightly different from a simple endorsement. It is highly unlikely that Ranveer Singh drinks Royal Stag himself.

It’s a question still worth asking: why have Indian celebrities shied away from launching their own liquor brands, especially when they are not averse to endorsing the same? Could this be another manifestation of our famed hypocrisy? Does it not sit well with the image? There is, as far as I can think of, only one—Dansberg beer, launched by veteran Bollwood “villain”, Danny Denzongpa.

Hindi film titles would make for fantastic liquor names. Why not have a whisky called Sholay or a wine called Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. QSQT would make for a great blackcurrant alco-pop. A quarter of country liquor can be called Tezaab.

At a pinch Big B could launch a premium XXX rum called Angry Young Man. Aamir and Piggy Chops could be champagne; Alia a sparkling wine. Why, even Baba Ramdev is rumoured to be getting into the act, tapping into ancient India’s love affair with mahua, and launching an all-organic whisky. Allow me to scotch this rumour right now.

My worry is that if our celebs don’t get into the act, the plagiarists will step in. What’s stopping a Rajasthan brewery from launching a Bob Deol or a Bob Dhillon whisky, only that in this case one will be able to read the signature while the bottle is still full. Dylan’s lawyers will then have to fight a lengthy court battle in a godforsaken Indian small town.

Getting back to America, there’s another way that Dylan’s whisky is hugely significant. Think about the semantics of it. Dylan’s whiskies will go head to head with wines that bear the name of the only other American as world-famous as Bob—Donald Trump.

In the revised world order, Dylan whisky and Trump wine stand for two starkly different and opposing yet fundamental viewpoints. What you choose to drink will say something about you, as well as the demographic you belong to. Trump wine is a symbol for the provincial post-truth world, where facts are malleable and rhetoric triumphs (Trumps?) logic.

Dylan’s Heaven’s Door symbolizes a variety of old-fashioned Sixties rebellion, the reassuring objectivity of The New York Times and its fact checkers, and a kind of freewheelin’ all-encompassing liberalism and internationalism.

(Courtesy of Mail Today)

Last updated: May 06, 2018 | 10:29
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