Friday, July 06, 2007

Maruti SX4 : Men are Back (?)

Brand : SX4
Company : Maruti Suzuki
Agency : Lowe Lintas

Brand Count : 247

SX4 is Maruti's second attempt at the premium car market in India. Earlier it had tried its luck with Baleno which was scrapped this year. With much expectations and fanfare, the company launched its premium hatchback car branded as SX4.
SX4 once again proves two facts about Maruti:
1.The automaker is able to make quality products that can sell without much marketing efforts.
2. Maruti is a poor marketer.
Even after the government divested its stake in the company, with every product launch , the company shows the sheer marketing laidbackness of a public sector company especially in the marketing front. With the SX4 launch , yet again marketing and more precisely the branding part takes a backseat.

SX4 is taking the market leader in the premium sedan segment Honda City head on. Reports already suggests that this new brand has dethroned the leader and became the best selling in that specific segment last month. The exact picture will comeout only when the annual figures will be out.However, analysts say that SX4 is going to be a real threat for Honda City.

That has always been the strength of Maruti : the product and the price are always perfect. Be it 800, Alto or Esteem and even the failed Baleno, Maruti 's product quality was unmatched.People bought Maruti cars because of its quality and the peace of mind that the brand gives with regard to the Service and Spareparts availability BUT never I have seen one buying a Maruti because of its promotions ( Branding). Maruti and its individual brands are built on Product rather than on promotions ( nothing wrong in that though !). So we see lot of lousy boring ads but still goes and buy the car for its performance and quality.

The same thing is repeated here in the case of SX4. The product had lot of auto analysts harping about the quality and features and ofcourse the price. The marketing as usual is a great put down.

SX4 is positioned as a PULSAR.... oops! Copying a positioning statement ! . Exactly... The creative hotshots at Lowe may not have had time to think about something original so they copied the positioning of Pulsar ( Definitely Male !) and rephrased it to " Men are Back". Well you can argue that Pulsar is not currently using the tagline so why not take it ?

SX4 has so far been using print and outdoor to promote itself. The brand uses the tagline " Men are back" and another tagline " Now that's a Man " to position itself as a Male brand. Well I have some serious doubts: Does this Male campaign apply to Cars? Cars can be Sexy and Sporty but can it be a Male? More over does the agency guys looked at the product before fixing a gender? Does SX4 looks masculine? My concept of Masculinity in automobile apply to Big Ugly Mammoth SUV's rather than SX4 which has smooth curves and a smiling grill. SX4 is Sexy but not Definitely Male !

The creative guys may be confused when someone told them that the USP of this car is the Road Clearance and the space. They mistook it as being masculine. And more over the outdoors ads just show a male leaning over the car and the baseline cries " Now thats a man" . Execution at its worst form. Remember its the same Lowe which created some of the blockbuster ads for Unilevers. The lesson is that " Agency will be as good as the Client " If the Client lacks marketing acumen, agency will take them for a ride.

So will this brand fail .. never. The brand is already struggling to meet the demand. Customers are queuing up because the value is unmatched. The problem comes after a while .. when the Euphoria dies, the same happened with Baleno, the customers took up the brand when it was launched with little promotion. But when the competition intensified, the brand was forgotten. Sx4 may struggle in the face of an intensive and aggressive brand campaign from its competitors because SX4 have not found its USP. For now it need not because reviews and publicity is working to its advantage. Honda also has built its City based only on its product and not on any blockbuster creative campaigns. But that is Honda which has built international reputation in the premium segment while Suzuki is never considered a premium brand .

What do you think?