Director of Marketing
Distell Southern Africa BU

Distell, a global business with roots in South Africa, produces and markets a diverse portfolio of award-winning alcohol and non-alcohol brands that have been crafted by extraordinary people across the world. Some of these brands include Amarula, Savanna, Hunter's Dry, Durbanville Hills and Nederburg wines.



CMO COUNCIL: How is your brand embracing automation and effectively managing the marketing technology stack to drive digital transformation strategies?

MAHARAJ: We continue to iterate our digital transformation strategy and subscribe to the future of personalization, the importance of consumer centricity and the strategic leverage that platforms offer. We’re investing in these capabilities with a focus on optimizing the consumer and customer experience.

We’re also running a number of ‘experiments’ to inform our strategic choices and levels of investment into digital transformation projects highlighted in our mid-term road map.

As a priority, we have focused our marketing stack on managing the technical aspects of our digital footprint in order to create future scalability and to conform to global security standards. We’re also using automation to drive consistency of digital brand presence and efficiency in managing our brands on the digital shelf.


CMO COUNCIL: Digital marketing campaign successes and failures; deployment learnings and best practice insights?

MAHARAJ: We have great routines in place to evaluate our work. Our next step is to focus our attention on agility in execution. We believe we can get fitter at ‘in real time optimization’ and we’re working hard to tighten our processes and partner working routines to respond faster and smarter to market signals. We’ve employed a continuous improvement approach to this and continue to iterate our digital practice.


CMO COUNCIL: What obstacles, challenges or deficiencies are you experiencing in migrating or pivoting to digital marketing platforms and programs with existing budgets and teams?

MAHARAJ: As a growing business targeting an emerging consumer, we find there are many opportunities and platforms to discover and test in various stages of maturity. Our goal is to efficiently evaluate them and focus our efforts and investment on the platforms that deliver strategic advantage to us. We’re building discipline in driving experiments from start to finish with explicit learnings and recommendations – faster.

Our approach is paying off - our Martech solutions are highly integrated, scalable, and continue to accelerate in development.


CMO COUNCIL: How are you balancing digital advancements with authenticity to maintain a human connection to your brand?

MAHARAJ: I would say managing authenticity is not a great challenge for us since we don’t do a lot of ‘creepy targeting’.

I would also argue we’ve gone to great lengths on our brands to meet our consumers relevantly across our unique cultural landscape i.e.: Viceroy, Savanna, Klipdrift, Bernini to name a few, so I would suggest we’re building a lot of positive equity as purposeful and relevant house of brands.


CMO COUNCIL: What regional forces and factors (competitive, geo-political, economic, environmental, etc.) are shaping and influencing strategies, spend and market receptivity?

MAHARAJ: We’re still beholden to latent route to market structures and cannot compare our acceleration of direct delivery or direct commerce to the global growth rates.

The Ukraine crisis and Covid impact on global supply chain is disrupting all of us.


CMO COUNCIL: How flexible and agile are your digital customer journeys to adapt to changing market environments (geo-political unrest, national disasters, etc.)?

MAHARAJ: We have the ability across our digital platforms to adapt quickly, as proven during the Covid viral outbreak.

Our decentralized business structure also ensures our service teams are exceptionally close to the market and have the autonomy to act in situ, again as proven in recent crisis.


CMO COUNCIL: Where are you in your Customer Experience journey strategy (marketing. content and commerce), and is that aligning with your MarTech investments?

MAHARAJ: We have a defined consumer experience map and a technology roadmap to enable it. Our technology roadmap continues to take heed from the several pilot solutions we’re testing as well as our platform experiments.


CMO COUNCIL: What new innovations in using social, mobile and customer data intelligence to impact brand performance, customer demand and market distinction in your regions?

MAHARAJ: Our social communities across our brand portfolio are well entrenched.

We have tested a number of mobile consumer solutions in the informal/mainstream arena and continue to grow our understanding of this environment aligned to the rate of digital maturity and adoption of technology in these environments.

Our first party data strategy is on the cusp of accelerating our enriched understanding of our consumers and we plan to see the fruition of this strategy in more relevant and agile market activities in the future.

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