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The scent of a beverage: Smirnoff Lime

By Surina Sayal , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Advertising | October 05, 2010
Diageo's Smirnoff brand of vodka tries a 'fragrant' sales technique at wine shops in Mumbai and Bengaluru to promote the new Smirnoff Lime

While walking through a mall, all kinds of perfumes envelope a shopper - luring him or her to buy them. It's not unusual to see representatives spray these perfume testers on paper strips and entice customers to buy into fragrances by smelling the paper strips. What is unusual, though, is a similar sales technique at a wine shop!

Vodka brand Smirnoff, from the alcoholic beverages company Diageo, recently launched its 'Lime' variant in the Indian market. The brand is already available in flavours such as Vanilla, Green Apple, Citrus and Raspberry in India. However, to be heard in a loud, cluttered market - particularly one that doesn't permit mass advertising for alcoholic beverages - the brand faced a few big hurdles. Another fact was that wine shops are a media dark area; hence there was a limited opportunity for communication.

The brand decided to bring on board design consultant company Lokusdesign. The brand and the agency realised that the lime flavour variant could be a blockbuster after initial trials. The challenge was to induce trials as consumers could not experience the flavour at the shops (since regulations prohibit bottles to be opened at retail outlets).

Smirnoff Lime's burst of freshness, with the taste of fresh green rind of lime, comes with a great flavour and fragrance. Therefore, to establish connect with consumers, the ideal appeals would be to use taste or smell. As tasting/sampling was not possible at retail stores, the agency thought of a spray in order to address the 'smell' part of it.

Research has shown that 70-75 per cent of what we perceive as taste actually comes from our sense of smell. Based on this premise, the design agency 'smelled' an opportunity and came up with a simple yet innovative and effective idea.

"We designed a unique flavour spray tester mounted on a 180 ml bottle. A promotion person sprayed the flavour on a tester card and a customer could smell it and instantly decide if he liked the flavour," says Chandrashekhar Badve, director, strategy and marketing, Lokusdesign.

Also, as the consumer had gone to the liquor shop with a purchase intention, this flavour testing/smelling resulted in faster decision and instant sales.

"We have shortened the traditional buying and sales cycle, which involves tasting the product first on-premise (clubs, bars) and then, may be, buying it off-premise (wine shop) a few days later. This is a lengthy process and consumers may forget the product/promotion which is directly linked to gradual sales," Badve says.

Interestingly, this is the first time ever that, at off-premise locations in India, a flavour spray tester is used to instantly connect the consumer to the product. People were stationed outside some selected stores, where patrons were invited to try the sprays.

This idea has been successfully launched and is currently under IPR registration process. Lokusdesign had been working on this innovative product design for less than a month.

The flavour of the lime beverage was converted into a spray format in India. While no permissions were needed to place this in-store, flavour migration test and toxicity tests were done.

This spray tool has been launched in Mumbai and Bengaluru, the latter being the largest market for vodka in India. Approximately 500 sprays have been placed in the two markets, across wine shops.

Part of the brief to the agency was also to design and develop visual communication directions as well as to develop, implement and deploy visually appealing dynamic displays, POSM (point of sales material) units, product displays and additional GWP (gifts with purchase) ideas using the launch tool kit.

For this, Lokusdesign created danglers, coasters and Smirnoff Lime menu cards, which have been displayed at bars, clubs and pubs across the two cities.

Discussing the results, Badve shares that the response to the spray tester for Smirnoff Lime has crossed expectations. While the target was 150 cases to be sold in the first month, the agency claims that by now, about 1500 cases have been sold, surpassing the initial sales targets.

While the idea is definitely new, whether customers prefer this style of product sampling and will other flavoured alcoholic beverages follow suit is something we'll have to wait and watch.

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