Monday, December 24, 2007

Santro : The Sunshine Car

Brand : Santro
Company : Hyundai Motors
Agency : Saatchi & Saatchi

Brand Analysis Count : 300

Santro is a fine example of successful branding. It is a classic example of successful marketing in Indian context. Santro was launched in India in 1998. When Hyundai was contemplating its foray into the Indian market, it was planning to launch a C segment car ( Accent) . But however, Hyundai changed its strategy and launched Santro in the tough small car market.

Santro is the Indian version of the successful Hyundai model Atos. Hyundai was faced with lot of perception issues prior to the launch of Santro. The issue was with regard to the country of origin. Indians were unsure about Korean products especially automobiles. Hence the first task was t o ensure that Indian consumers develop a positive association with Korean car makers.
Second issue was developing a corporate image for Hyundai. Since cars are high involvement product, customers will make a choice looking on the maker, service support, spares availability , quality etc. Hence the launch of Santro should also launch the corporate brand Hyundai.
Third issue was about the design of Santro. Santro was designed to be a tall boy car and initial product testing revealed that Indians didnot liked the tall boy design. So the unenviable task for Hyundai was to make Indian consumers like Santro.

The fourth issue was the grip of Maruti on the Indian car market. The B segment was dominated by Zen which has proved itself to be a reliable workhorse. Zen was the preferred and logical upgrade to 800 and the car was considered to be the most reliable and powerful in that segment. To convert the potential Zen users to Santro was really a nightmare for any marketer.
Hyundai marketers had a tough task ahead. A lot was dependent on Santro's success. For the brand launch, Hyundai roped in Saatchi & Saatchi as the ad agency.
Thus came the first commercial : Watch the first Santro commercial here : Santro 1
The ad introduced Kim and Shah Rukh and a glimpse of the car. Kim was the Hyundai official who wanted SRK to be the brand ambassador for Santro. The name Kim was chosen wisely because the only familiar Korean name known to Indians was KIM .The ad introduced the brand and the company with a subtle statement from Kim : We settle only for the best.
The first ad was followed by teaser ads where Kim tries to convince SRK that Hyundai is serious about India, the quality issue and the brand Santro.
Watch the two launch ads : Here & Here
These ads really created a hype in the market about Santro. Teaser ads are dangerous and expensive. Dangerous because if the teaser failed to click, the entire product launch will land up in trouble . Another issue is that the brand should follow up the hype built by teaser ads. In the case of Santro, the teasers were intelligently made and clicked.
Finally came the launch ad which showed Shah Rukh who represented the Indian consumer saying " I am Convinced" to Kim. Shah Rukh fitted perfectly to the promotional scheme of Santro.
Along with the launch came the criticism. Understandably the criticism was towards the tall boy design of Santro . There were reports which called Santro the Ugly car. Santro answered that through its performance. Indian consumers experienced a new way of driving comfort. More than the campaigns, it was the performance that made Santro a runaway success.
With in 4 years of launch , Santro became the second largest selling car in India displacing Zen. Those who wrote bad about the tall boy design began to write about the advantages of this tall boy design.
Santro was initially positioned on the design aspect. It turned its biggest disadvantage into an advantage. But later , Santro was positioned itself as a complete family car. The brand was targeting those 800 users who wanted to upgrade into the B segment. The target market was the 35-45 yrs middleclass Indians.
All through these years, Hyundai also came out with product improvements and upgrades. Santro Zipplus was launched focusing more on the zippy nature of the car. But then came the competition. Maruthi launched Alto and Wagon R and came Indica which displaced Santro from the second position. The brand was also facing the issue of looking dated. It was time for Hyundai to reposition the brand.
Hyundai changed Santro completely in 2003. The entire design was changed and new Santro was launched as Santro Xing. Santro Xing launch ad also featured SRK and Kim. Santro Xing gave a new life to Santro. The car looked more spacious and the looks was contemporary.
Santro along with the new looks also changed its TG from 35- 45 to 25 -30. The brand felt that Santro should be considered as the first car rather than the upgrade. The brand wanted to appeal to the first time car buyers . To catch the young buyers, the brand was positioned as "Sunshine car' . Santro roped in Priety Zinta also as the brand ambassador.
Watch the commercial here : Sunshine car
Sunshine was communicating two intangibles : Freshness and youthful attitude. The brand was moving to a " Change your life " positioning. Priety was the sunshine girl. The big idea was that Santro will bring sunshine to your life. A car that can change the life of a young Indian.
As usual the campaign and the new Santro was a big hit. Along with these campaigns, Santro also ran some ads focusing on promoting the brand as the first choice rather than as an upgrade.
The last campaign of Santro was highlighting the virtues of a Santro users.
Watch the campaign here : Santrowale
The campaign was to portray Santro users as smart and intelligent and the ad was pitted against a similar campaign of Wagon R

After nine years of launch, Santro is facing its maturity stage in its PLC . The sales have stagnated and price war from Maruti and a slew of launches like Chevy Spark , have hurt the sales of Santro. Santro is also banking on price cuts and sales promotions to stay afloat. Hyundai has recently launched a new brand i10 to take the place of Santro. With the imminent launch of Tata's 1 lakh car in 2009, Santro may be used as a low priced flanking brand for i10 in future.
Santro is the best example of managing a product lifecycle. Santro has managed to keep its market position by regular upgrades, product changes , relaunches and repositioning. It has been consistent in delivering excellent quality and functional performance through out its life. The brand is still a preferred upgrade for many middleclass car users.
On this context, I wish to cite a personal experience at the dealership experience I had while choosing my car. I inquired about Santro aswellas Alto at respective dealers in Cochin . While the Maruti dealers were constantly following up with offers and schemes, I was surprised to find that Santro dealer was least interested in making a sale. Complacency has already crept in at the dealer points ( my perception). Understandably so because sales were happening without much effort. As a marketing professional, I feel that Santro is losing some 10 % sale because of this laidback approach of its dealers.

Santro still has lot of fuel to keep itself going. But for that Hyundai may have to keep the price down so that potential Alto users can strech a bit and buy Santro. There is a chance that with the launch of i10, the focus on Santro will slowly decrease and that is a bad news for all those who love this brand.