Friday, December 22, 2006

Maruti Esteem : Welcome To The Big World

Brand : Esteem
Company : Maruti Suzuki
Agency: Lowe

Brand Count: 180

Maruti Esteem is one of the best selling cars from the Maruti's portfolio. The car created the C class segment in India is known for its quality and reliability. Esteem was launched in Indian market in 1995.

Esteem is actually the rebadged version of Suzuki Cultus. The previous avatar of Esteem in India was Maruti 1000. Maruti 1000 was the 1000 cc sedan launched in 1989. Although the car was well received by the consumers, there were certain issues interms of Power and ride comfort. This prompted Maruti to take out the model from the market. This paved the way for a much powerful and refined sedan from Maruti with the new brand name Esteem.

True to its name, Esteem was considered an upmarket luxury car during the early ninetees. The car lived up to the expectations of the consumer and delivered excellent performance. The mid nineties turned the tables against this brand. All the global majors began to eye this lucrative segment and the competition became severe for the brand.

The high profile launch of Ford Ikon and Hyundai Accent took the gas out of Esteem. As usual, Maruti was reluctant to make any drastic changes to the best selling Esteem. The car retained its same look for almost 15 years. The entry of the fully loaded Tata Indigo also made the life of this brand very difficult. The car from its position as a market leader in the C segment became " An entry level sedan". The launch of Baleno in the segment further weakened the position of Esteem in the hierarchy. Baleno was launched at the premium end of the segment but the recent price cut and dealer offers put Baleno at the same league as the Esteem.

I am not sure about the previous positioning of Esteem . For customers it was a good car from Maruti. I would say that it was a sedan which anyone can buy with their eyes closed. The brand had tremendous equity and was a natural choice for an Upgrade for a Maruti Loyalist. So this brand was the choice of a Zen owner as an upgrade.The excellent quality ensured high customer satisfaction for this brand. Esteem was always rated high by JD Power satisfaction surveys. The quality of the product was the single reason for the successful extension of the brand's lifecycle.

Esteem was a good package, hence the company was not sure as to the USP or the Point of Differentiation. Whether it was power or comfort or looks or quality , this confusion was evident in the ads of Esteem during the nineties. While the competing brands had their own USP's
Ford Ikon focused on Power
Indigo on Value
Fiesta on Looks etc

The confused positioning diluted the brand equity of Esteem and made it look like a second cousin to Ford Ikon. The value proposition of Esteem was challenged by Indigo and the overall comfort and drive quality was challenged by Hyundai Accent.

2004 saw the reincarnation of Esteem .The entire car got a new look. Taking cues from Baleno, the car was changed completely. The company embarked on a new positioning " Fall in Love Again" on an emotional platform. The car looked better and was a welcome change from the old much seen look of Esteem. But again the ads were little too boring .

2005-2006 saw the brand striking the " Big Idea" .The new positioning was formulated. The brand is a Big Car.... Big on mileage, Big on Power etc. The campaign has the common theme of a father and daughter with the daughter discovering the " Bigness " of the new esteem. Although I have reservations about the execution of the campaign , the " Big" Idea is really a "Big Idea".

The brand is now revealing its true self. The tagline says " Welcome to the Big World" . The TG is those looking for an upgrade. The audience will be the die hard Maruti fans and those who don't want to take risks. The positioning cements the realisation that the position of Esteem will be in the Entry level C segment.The brand faces stiff competition from Indigo interms of value proposition.

Related Brand
Ford Fiesta

Source ; Businessline, maruti.com,wikipedia
image courtesy: maruti website