Thursday, April 22, 2010

K Series Engines : Leaner Meaner Fitter

Brand : K Series
Company : Maruti Suzuki

Brand Analysis Count #450

Marketing Practice Blog has reached another milestone of 450 brand analysis. Let me take this opportunity to thank my readers whose constant feedback was a source of inspiration for me. The next obvious target is 500.

I am happy to mark this achievement with a very interesting brand - K Series Engines from Maruti Suzuki.

K Series is a classic example of Ingredient Branding. Professor Kevin Lane Keller defines Ingredient Branding as a special case of Co-Branding which involves creating brand equity for materials, components or parts that are necessarily contained within other branded products.

Although Professor Keller defines Ingredient Brands as a brand from one company which is an ingredient/component in a host brand from another company.But recent marketing practices has shown that ingredient branding can be done by the host company itself .
So ingredient brands can originate from the same company or from different companies. For example HP computers powered by Pentium Microprocessors is where ingredient brand Pentium is owned by a different company ( Intel) . Hence it is a case of co-branding.

In this case of K series, the ingredient brand is owned by the company itself. So theoretically it cannot be termed as a case of Co-branding.

K Series was launched in 2008 . The launch was to counter the much touted Kappa engine to be launched by Hyundai. K series engines also conformed to the tougher emission norms that came into force from April 2010.

Branding engines is not new in the Indian market. Bajaj Auto was a pioneer in branding its DTSI technology and reaped tremendous benefits in terms of differentiation. Maruti is trying to replicate Bajaj's success in the four wheeler market.

K series has been a success and the company has produced more than 3 lakh units in 18 months time. K Series engine is fitted in the new generation models like Swift, Swift Dzire, Ritz ,A star and new Wagon R. The first model to come out with this engine was A Star.

K Series engine is claiming to be more fuel efficient offering better control and ride quality. Maruti has invested some amount of money for the promotion of this ingredient brand. This is rather unique marketing practice seen in India because most of the other car makers having ingredient brands does not resort to exclusive ingredient brand promotion. There will be mention of the engine in the product ad but no campaigns exclusively for the engine.

The brand was launched with the ad featuring the marathon runner. Watch the ad here : K Series ad.

The ads could have been much better and more creatively done. The campaign lacks the " Aha " factor and only helps to create a brand awareness .How ever the company needs to be applauded for this type of branding. K series has adopted the tagline " Leaner, Meaner, Fitter" which sums up the brand promise.

The reason for Maruti going for ingredient branding is simple. Engines are now largely becoming commoditised. Now we see same engine in different car brands from different makers. For example, some models of Tata Motors, Fiat, Swift carry the same engine. When engines become a commodity, marketers have to look for other powerful differentiators. Hence ingredient branding comes to help. Ingredient brands are protected by the firm and creates its own identity in the mind of the customers. So K Series engines provide the much needed sustainable differentiation for Maruti.

According to reports, Maruti is planning to have K series engines for all its models. When the competition in the market has increased substantially for Maruti, such smart moves will help retain its leadership position in the Indian market.