More women are now seen endorsing the ‘man’s drink’. But is the communication sending out the same message?
The Bollywood films of the 1960s and 70s often featured some typical scenes. The villain, holding a glass of whisky in one hand and a cigar in the other, was discussing his evil plans with his henchmen in his den. The den would predictably have one wall lined with imported whisky bottles. These films immortalised the idea of assertive masculinity in Indian minds for years to come. But, more importantly, it reinforced the idea that has been around for decades - whisky is a man’s drink.
Globally, this perception has been changing. Women are drinking this ‘liquid sunshine’, as the Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw called it, in increasing numbers. And, reflecting the change are the women (actress) ambassadors of these whisky brands - whether it is Claire Forlani endorsing Dewar’s Whisky, or Christina Hendricks endorsing Black Label.
A similar trend is now emerging in India, and driving the change is an influencer campaign by Teacher’s 50 that features many women in it. Most recently, Bollywood actress Karisma Kapoor also did a paid promotion for it on her Instagram profile.
The campaign, which began towards the end of July 2021, has seen many popular social media influencers sharing a post with a bottle of Teacher’s 50 whisky. The core purpose of these posts is to communicate that this whisky has a balanced smooth and smoky blend.
While the campaign has roped in both male and female influencers, it is noteworthy that for a product that is known as a man’s drink, there is a fair share of women influencers as well. Clearly, the brand is reflecting the change in women’s alcohol preferences.
The influencers on board range from Bollywood actresses to a chef, a travel blogger, a writer, a singer, and even a fashion designer. Apart from Kapoor, there are at least 15 other popular women influencers, like Kalki Koechlin, Rasika Dugal, Krystle D’Souza, Mandira Bedi and Anaita Shroff Adajania. Their age ranges between 30 and 50 years, implying that the whisky is preferred by women across ages.
Whisky’s title as a man’s drink could be the result of a certain social programming, combined with the effects of marketing. It is believed that men prefer stronger spirits, while women drink sweeter and less complex drinks. This belief is further strengthened by whisky brand’s marketing campaigns that focus on the male market.
Bagpiper has featured many Bollywood stars, from Dharmendra, Sunny Deol, Shah Rukh Khan, Akshay Kumar and Ajay Devgn. McDowell’s has also featured Kumar, Farhan Akhtar and Vicky Kaushal. Chivas Regal roped in Akhtar. Even Royal Stag, another brand owned by Pernod Ricard, has had a long history of male ambassadors, from cricket stars to Bollywood heroes, like Saif Ali Khan, Shah Rukh, Ranveer Singh and Arjun Kapoor.
Priyanka Chopra was the first notable female celebrity to endorse a whisky brand, albeit through the surrogate ‘Fashion Tour’. After a 12-year-long association with the brand, Chopra was recently replaced by Alia Bhatt.
Generally, the ads for whisky, whether it is Bagpiper’s Khoob Jamega Rang Jab Mil Baithenge Teen Yaar. Aap, Mein Aur Bagpiper, or McDowell’s No. 1 Yaari, or even 8 PM Whisky’s A Time for Friends, denote friendship and how the drink helps male friends bond with each other.
But a cursory glance at the same ads featuring women, portray a very different messaging. Women are shown alone, but in positions of power. The choice of their drink denotes their stature and represents their identity. For example, the song in the Blenders Pride ad, featuring Bhatt, has words like, “Hit me with the brightest light, I’ll stare back. I’m made of pride.”
Moreover, most women in whisky ads, whether it is Bhatt, Chopra, Kapoor, or most women in the influencer posts, are seen wearing black, symbolising power, elegance and class. Whereas, the men are not necessarily seen wearing such colours.
This is the case globally. Women endorsing whisky are most commonly seen wearing black outfits. The Hendricks ad spells out the confidence more clearly through the copy.
It is clear that in these communication, whisky means different things for men and women. While it is a relaxing sip for men, it is a drink of confidence, empowerment and assertiveness for women. A woman drinking whisky is seen to be making a statement.
Looking at it from a gender lens, one wonders why women can't take a relaxing sip too. Why does something that denotes friendship and unwinding for men take on a business-like and aggressive tone for women? Do women really drink whisky to make a statement, or is it just the marketing communication? In more ways than one, these ads don’t seem empowering anymore, but another burden that women need to bear.
Anyway, empowerment can only go so far in India. If you look at the comments on these posts, men largely receive love and adulation for their appearance, while many women are being trolled for drinking alcohol. Male influencers have also received brickbats, but it's largely for endorsing something that is harmful to health. While women, mostly the actresses, have received it for being ‘drunkards’, ‘going against Indian culture’, and for not being the ‘ideal mother’. It is still considered unbecoming of women to drink and they are judged for it.
Reactions like these could be the reason that most women influencers in the campaign are seen posing with the glass on the table, rather than holding it in their hand. It is again a stark contrast from the men, who are seen confidently holding it and almost raising a toast to their followers.
Need a social media marketing agency for your project? Choose among 82 such agencies on afaqs! Marketplace now. Click here