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Reinventing Officer’s Choice Whisky: Spoiled for Choice

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The case
Ahmed Rahimtoola

Who – the protagonist

Ahmed Rahimtoola, Head of Marketing at Allied Blenders and Distillers (ABD), the group that owns Officer’s Choice Whisky (OCW).


officer choice

OCW was the flagship brand of ABD, with 6.6 million cases bought per year, leading to a 15% share of the regular whisky segment in India.

Launched in 1988, OCW was a smooth whisky with a finely balanced malt blend. According to Impact (2007), a UK based trade magazine, the drink was positioned third in terms of sales among the top 15 brands of whisky in India.


The market leader Bagpiper Whisky, bolstered by a tradition of celebrity advertising, was annually selling double the volume of Officer’s Choice. The rapidly growing Imperial Blue brand was weaning away younger users from Bagpiper and OCW with its smart packaging and innovative advertising.

ABD recruited industry veteran, Deepak Roy, as Executive Vice Chairman and CEO, to spearhead the business and catapult the company into the “big league”.

Aware that OCW needed to change tack and appeal to the under 30 market – nearly 60% of India was under the age of 30 – Ahmed had three of the country’s leading advertising agencies pitch for the rebranding project.


Ahmed was briefed to relaunch OCW in January 2009, with a final decision on the winning pitch in October 2008.


For a country with a population of 1.3 billion, and the seventh largest in terms of size, it’s hardly surprising India is the third largest whisky market on earth.

Key quote

“Differentiate or die was something I strongly believed in.” - Ahmed Rahimtoola, on the need for OCW’s rebranding to be disruptive.

What next?

Ahmed was under pressure to ensure the selected pitch would be the right one for this critical rebranding exercise for OCW.

Which pitch would be best to boost OCW’s 3-pillar strategy – repackaging, repositioning and reconnecting with younger consumers?

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Reinventing Officer’s Choice Whisky: Spoiled for Choice
Ref ISB066
Teaching note
Ref ISB067

The authors

Tanuka Ghoshal, Geetika Shah and Arun Pereira

Tanuka, Geetika and Arun talk about students using sound logic, and going down the field research route.

Target market

target market

According to Tanuka: “One way of facilitating class discussion for this case would be to paint a very salient picture of the core user towards the beginning, so that the discussion of the creatives can be strictly from the perspective of the target user, who is from a different socioeconomic segment.

“Having said that, an additional dimension on which students relate to the case is the Indian context, as most of the cases they study at ISB are set in foreign contexts. There is a significant comfort level visible in the discussion of the brands, advertising and cultural setting due to the familiarity of the context.”

Getting the creative juices flowing

Geetika added: “When cases (such as this one) present evaluating multiple creatives or advertising/communication messages, people intuitively have subjective perspectives.

“It is easy to form an opinion about a creative that is most appealing to an individual, and the discussion can get lively.

“The challenge in the case therefore is to remind students about the specific brand objectives, and evaluate the creatives from that perspective. This makes the evaluation and subsequent discussion more focused and less subjective.”

Sound logiclecture

Tanuka continued: “Rather than nudge students to a “correct” answer, or towards the option that was ultimately selected by the company, the point is to have them defend their selected option with sound logic.

“This logic is to be based on case facts, particularly supported by the market research done by the company. The deeper they dig into the market research data presented, the richer the arguments would be behind a potential choice, and that is the intention of the case.”

Field research vital to the case

Arun mentioned: “This case would not have been possible if we did not have access to the company. The willingness of the company to generously share all the relevant material, whether PPTs, or multimedia content, along with substantiating it with their perspectives and insights, have contributed in making this a truly rich case study. That is from a practical perspective.

“It is also useful for a reader to access any case from the point of view of a real life individual protagonist who is faced with a dilemma with multiple possible solutions.”

About the authors

Tanuka Ghoshal is Assistant Professor at the Indian School of Business
e Tanuka_Ghoshal@isb.edu

Geetika Shah is Associate Director – Content Development and Training at the Indian School of Business’ Centre for Learning and Management Practice
e geetika_shah@isb.edu

Arun Pereira is Clinical Associate Professor of Management Education at the Indian School of Business’ Centre for Learning and Management Practice
e Arun_Pereira@isb.edu


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