Abhijeet Mukherjee2

Code RED

Written by: Abhijeet Mukherjee
About the author: Ex. President & CEO – QDigi Services, Hindustan Unilever, Coca-Cola, Eicher, Aircel, General Electric Company & Monster.com



Developing & executing a 360-degree Marketing (below the line) plan for an internationally renowned Beverage Brand. This resulted in marketing leadership across all the Beverage Categories.

Let me call this Brand – “Brand X”


Brand X is amongst the top 10 brands in the world. It is available in all the countries of the world except North Korea. Today, India is amongst the top 5 countries in the world for Brand X. However, brand Brand X is the smallest brand amongst its portfolio of brands in India. It is mainly consumed in Delhi NCR and Upper North areas of Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Haryana.

The Challenge

In 2007, I joined Brand X as Head of the Upper North Region, the largest franchise region for Brand X then. While we were still market leaders in a couple of categories, business was yet to recover fully for twin headwinds of allegations of pesticide contamination and also some local competitors had started making noises that Brand X was not a healthy choice compared to their own products.

The other challenge was to reach out to the Brand X consumers – while TV was the main medium those days, the consumers in this Region watched National Hindi & English channels. The local regional channels on TV were not popular unlike South India. The only way to influence consumers in the Region was through great on-ground activation and execution.

Strategy & Implementation

As a team, we decided to focus on Brand Brand X to lead the campaign for the complete portfolio of brands. We decided to carry this out in 2 ways:

  • By designing & implementing a series of innovative on ground activation 
  • By executing Project RED (Right-Execution-Daily)

A. Innovative Activation

This region had a craze for anything “foreign”. Also like most Indians, film stars, religion & cricket played an important part in their lives. They were also fun loving and enjoyed communicating in their local languages. Lot of rural people watched the state-run Doordarshan channel.

Armed with the above insights, we carried out the following activation:

  1. The Indian Premier League for Cricket had just started, and we sponsored the local team. As part of the contract, the members of the cricket team were introduced to the people in the key towns of Punjab; I handed over the wishes from the people of Punjab were handed over to the players in a large Brand X bottle in front of large media.
  2. A unique & a very successful Talent Hunt Contest was launched in every district and the top contestants were given prizes of visiting London. This happened for a month and created a lot of good press.
  3. A regional language Brand X film was made with famous local actor & singer and it was a big hit in the Regional Channel.
  4. In one particular year, a top Hindi film Hero, was made the Brand Ambassador and he visited the Region. The crowd went into a frenzy in the state.
  5. Finally, a well thought out plan was executed at the Gurudwaras.
    1. A large Brand X booth was inaugurated by the worldwide CEO of Brand X inside the Golden temple. This became the largest selling single outlet in the world.
    2. In other key Gurdwaras, Brand X took part during main festival days and brought joy and happiness into the lives of its consumers.

B. Project RED (Right-Execution-Daily)

The team implemented Project RED with great rigour and passion. Project RED was a part of Brand X’s worldwide plan of winning at the outlets where Brand X is sold or consumed. The following was done:

  1. Execution standards for availability, display and cooling were defined for each type and size of channel partner
    • Types – Grocery, Quick Service Restaurants, Fine Dine restaurants, Key accounts, Modern Trade and Convenience stores 
    • Sizes – Diamond, Gold and Silver.
  2. The company along with its bottlers made an investment of almost $30 million for creating demand by
    • Investing in visi-coolers (finally Brand X is an impulse product and required to be chilled)
    • Creating an additional team of market developers who ensured that the visi-coolers are stocked properly and as per defined standards.
    • The company spent a lot of time training the team.
  3. Random market audits were carried out every month on the outlets to ensure that standards of execution were maintained. The results were shared for improvement every month and for every market.


The Region achieved a CAGR growth of approx. 20% for 3 consecutive years. The market’s shares continued to rise year after year and by 2010 we became category leaders for all the 4 beverage categories. One city, Amritsar had the highest market share in the country with the highest cooler purity scores. One bottler won the best RED score across the world and was selected to visit Brand X Headquarters in USA. The team won the Division President’s Best Team Award.


  1. No matter how big your brand is, one must constantly innovate to reach its customers and stay ahead of the game.
  2. Execution requires a lot of detailing, hard work coupled with a lot of passion, rigor and focus.
  3. Data is King – several decisions were taken based on consumer insights and execution data.
  4. Finally a 360 degree plan needs to be implemented for maximum impact.

No wonder people are still in awe of Brand X even after 100 years!

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