Monday, May 31, 2010

Marketing Strategy : How to Engage Customers to Create Brand Equity

Engage Customers to Create Brand Equity

Originally Published here at

Engagement means creating involvement. Customer engagement means the effort taken by the brand to develop an involvement between customers and the brand beyond regular purchase and use.

Traditional marketing practices seldom encourage active involvement of customers. The marketers often are satisfied with the regular purchase of the product by the customers and the level of engagement with the customers is limited to handling queries, handling complaints and loyalty programs.

The new economy has necessitated marketers to think beyond the typical purchase/sales orientation to a more pro-active customer engagement orientation. The web 2.0 and the rising popularity of social media have created a new cost effective platform for marketers to build and maintain customer engagement programs.

Take the example of ZooZoo- the characters created by Vodafone to promote its Value Added Services. With in a short span of time, ZooZoo was all over the social media and the Facebook fan count reached 2, 75000 at the time this article is being written. Using ZooZoo, Vodafone has created a new way of connecting and engaging with the target audience.

Create a culture of engagement.

It is not easy to create effective customer engagement. The first and foremost requirement for effective customer engagement is to orient the company culture towards a customer orientation. Customers can be demanding and more so when the company takes an initiative to reach out. Hence marketers should venture into creating active engagement only after the entire firm develops an orientation towards customers.

Make it easier for customers to connect.

An important requisite for active customer engagement is to make the process easier for consumers to reach the company. Active consumer engagement cannot work effectively in an outsourced environment. Hence the marketing department should be able to create and sustain a robust mechanism to respond to the consumers.

The web has made it easier for marketers to keep tab on consumers’ demands. But in a country like India, one should account for millions of consumers who cannot access such a channel. While creating such engagement channels, the brand has to create a robust process to ensure that it responds to the consumer immediately. An unanswered query or a complaint can create negativity and can be detrimental to the brand’s equity.

Have a vision

Brand managers should have a clear vision about the outcome and purpose of customer engagement. The critical question is “what is the expected outcome of this engagement?”

The outcomes of a customer engagement program need not be based on purchase or sales. There can be qualitative objectives also for such an engagement. How ever brands will reap the benefits of loyalty and repeat purchases from the consumers who are actively engaged with it.

When the consumers are actively engaged with the brand, one need not search too far for new product ideas. Highly involved consumers will be a vital information source for obtaining feedback and product improvement ideas.

Move to a higher ladder.

Once the platform is identified and target audience chosen, the brand should have something to say to the consumer. The brand can engage the customer in many ways. Typically during engagement, brands will assume the role of an expert offering advice to consumers on problems. The task for the marketer is to find the areas in which the brand should engage with its consumers. For example, through Gang of Girls website, Sunsilk is providing tips and advice on hair care which is the subject where the brand is an expert. The advantage of such an engagement is that the brand has more control over the conversation.

While identifying the area of engagement, the brand should be able to ladder up to a more abstract need rather than restricting itself into a category need. This will appeal to a larger audience and thus take the brand’s reach farther. Tata Tea created a highly successful engagement based on the theme “ Jagore “ inspiring many youths to register themselves as voters in the recent general elections. But the challenge for the brand is to take this engagement further since the elections are over.

Another way of engagement is where the brand provides a platform through which the consumers engage with each other. The brand acts as a facilitator rather than the expert. Consumer driven brand communities are the results of such an engagement. These engagements are more powerful than the brand driven engagements because the underlying cause for such engagements arises out of passion rather than profit.

It is all about action

Successful engagement arises out of action. Brands venturing into creating customer engagement must devise ways to create and maintain a higher energy level among the consumers. The engagement plan should have activities, contests, debates, meet ups, webinars, sharing, exchanges, tweets etc to keep up the energy level. This means that there is going to be a substantial investment on the part of the brand to keep the momentum going. The investment is more on the human side rather than monetary investment. Technology has enabled companies to keep these engagement costs minimal. But there has to be a dedicated team who will keep the activity levels high so that there is never a dull moment.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Brand Update : Gems Does a Kinder Joy

Gems recently launched a new variant Gems Surprise. The product is a new pack of Gems that comes with a surprise toy inside. The new variant is in the shape of a ball attractively packaged. Right now Gems Surprise will contain Ben 10 toys. The new variant is priced at Rs 30.

Gems Surprise is inspired ( copy ?) by the Kinder Surprise . Kinder Surprise has met with success in the Indian market. I do not have the figures but as a consumer, I have been a regular buyer of this product so are my friends.
The consumer acceptance of the Kinder Joy may have been the reason for the launch of Gems Surprise.

Kinder Surprise was never a competition for Gems. Kinder Surprise has created different niche where Cadbury does not have a presence. Cadbury does not want any product to rule any part of the chocolate market that easily. Through Gems Surprise, Cadbury is addressing the industry competition.

There is no product in Cadbury's brand portfolio that is similar to Kinder Surprise. Gems was chosen because it is a unique brand with lot of equity among the consumers. The form factor of Gems also made the brand worthy of being a competitor for Kinder Surprise.

Gems Surprise is going to create holes in the Parent's pockets. Gems was always affordable and right product to buy for the Kids. Gems Surprise priced at Rs 30 is an upward stretch for the brand.
The question is whether the consumer will buy Gems for Rs 30 because there is a gift free with it ? For all those customers who has been buying SKUs of Gems for Rs 5 and Rs 10 may find it difficult to justify the purchase of Gem's Surprise at Rs 30.

What I understand is that the product ( chocolate ) will be the same in Gems Surprise. What you pay more is for the toy.In the case of Kinder Surprise, consumers did not have a benchmark about the price so Rs 30 for Kinder Joy was accepted by the consumer.

Gems will definitely get lot of consumer trials and purchases .Whether the purchases will be sustainable will depend a lot on the variety of the gifts that is inside the pack. Kinder Surprise is the master in this game. Will Gems beat the master will be a fun ( expensive though) to watch.

Related Brand
Kinder Surprise

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Market Statistics : FMCG Market Shares

Today's ( 26/05/10) Economic Times carries interesting market share figurers of FMCG players across various categories in the Indian market. Thought of sharing.

Hindustan Unilever Ltd
April 2009( %) April 2010 ( %)
Soaps 47 43.8
Detergents 37.4 36.8
Shampoo 45.3 46.9
Toothpaste 27.9 25.7
Skincare 46.5 45.4
Tea 22.4 21

Proctor & Gamble
April 2009( %) April 2010 ( %)

Detergents 13.9 14.6
Shampoo 24.1 22.6

Godrej Consumer Products
April 2009( %) April 2010 ( %)
Soaps 9.8 10.5

April 2009( %) April 2010 ( %)
Toothpaste 9.6 10.6
Shampoo 6.1 5.5
Chawanprash 59.6 60.9

April 2009( %) April 2010 ( %)
Coffee 41.1 41.8
Chocolates 25.2 25.2
Noodles 63.1 62.2

April 2009( %) April 2010 ( %)
Toothpaste 49.8 51.2
Toothpowder 43.6 43.5

Tata Tea
April 2009( %) April 2010 ( %)

Tea 21.7 20.2

Monday, May 24, 2010

Tata Tion : Why Let Go

Brand : Tata Tion
Company : Tata Tea

Brand Analysis Count # 454

Tata Tion is Tata Tea's foray into the non-carbonated beverages market. Tion which was soft launched in 2009 has been launched nationally. The brand was initially launched in TamilNadu and has been in the market for more than a year.

Tion is a fruit based drink which has extracts of tea, ginseng and fruit. The brand is a challenger in the Rs 2500 crore non-carbonated beverage market in India.

Tion is positioned as an energy drink . The brand although fruit flavored is positioned as a tea-based cool drink. The major differentiators for Tion are its ingredients. The brand has tea extracts and Ginseng which makes the brand stand out from the rest. The presence of these ingredient also makes this brand look more healthy compared to other drinks.

Tion has the tagline : Why Let Go. The launch campaign is does not have much to talk about.The brand is essentially giving a message that it has so much in it that you cannot let it go.

Consumers have different take on the taste of Tion. The taste may not be universally appealing and that can restrict this brand to a niche. Tion will appeal to those consumers who are looking for a healthy cool drink and something different from the fruit juices. Compared to the existing fruit drinks, Tion gives certain kind of refreshment thanks to its ingredients.

Tion was initially launched in 400 ml packs priced at Rs 22. But now the brand is available at 200 ml packs priced at Rs 13. The packing is novel and can generate lot of trials.
But the 200ml drink seems to be too little to quench thirst and can create a perception of too little for that price. That was the typical reaction of a consumer after having the drink on a hot day.
Tion is a different product from the rest and along with the endorsement of Tata, the brand can get lot of trials. In the city where I live, Tatas have managed to make the brand available at key locations. The proposed JV with Pepsi will also help the brand get into more store shelves.

The challenge for Tion is to convince the customers to regularly consume the brand. The brand is banking on its ingredients to convince the consumers to patronize it. I feel rather than the ingredients, the brand will hold the key. With the kind of communication strategy, Tion may not be able to build a strong equity. It may need a heavy dose of celebrities especially those in the athletics/sports which can reinforce the message of a healthy energy drink. With global brands like Gatorade, Burn etc upping their ante, Tion should invest more on the brand rather than banking on its ingredients.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Marketing Strategy :Do You Know Your Customers ?

What Marketers Should Know About Customers

Originally published here in

The dictum “Understand your consumers “has often become a cliché. It is not a new idea but it is the most forgotten idea. When sales are growing at tremendous pace and when the production is struggling to meet the demand from the market, consumer is pushed to the backyard. During periods of economic boom companies focus is on expansion, diversification, new offices, mergers and acquisitions. But then suddenly out of the blue, everything comes to a grinding halt. Growth stopped, inventory piled up and consumers stopped crowding the stores. Now is the time to bring back the consumer to the centre of your business strategy.

It is said that the seeds of disaster is sowed during the time of growth and optimism. Take the case of realty sector. This is the sector which was most affected by the current slowdown. When the industry was growing at a scorching pace, every one forgot the consumer. Prices were skyrocketing not because of real consumer demand but because of speculation. Many players cared little to understand whether the consumer is actually buying or is it a mere speculation that is driving the price. When the realisation came that real consumers are not buying, everything came to a standstill.

This current slowdown in the economy is a lesson for all marketers to go back to common sense. The common sense that consumer is the centre of business. The purpose of business is to create consumers. And to do that one should know the consumers.

Who is your customer?

Although this question sounds too basic and simplistic, it is surprising to know that many businesses do not have a basic definition of their customers. The era of mass marketing where the marketer treats the entire market as a homogeneous group is over. The market has moved drastically into different segments.

Consumer’s knowledge about offerings has also changed. This new set of empowered knowledgeable consumer has warranted that companies be more empathetic to the needs and wants of the consumers.

Marketers should have a thorough understanding about the consumer. The first step is to clearly define the consumer. The definition of consumer should be exhaustive and not be limited to a mere demographic picture. The mental, physical, emotional and social dimension of the consumer should be clearly stated by the marketer.

What does the consumer need?

Once the customer definition is clear, the next task is to map the needs of the consumer. This is not a static process because consumer needs and priorities keep changing. Hence there has to be a continuous mechanism through which these changes are absorbed into the learning systems of the company. In an advertising agency perspective, increasingly companies are cutting their media expenses. That does not mean that the need for promotions has died. When advertisers look for new cheaper methods for promotions, agencies should be in a position to help them. This can happen only if the agencies have a better understanding of the consumer’s changing needs.

Understand Customer’s customer

In the remarkable book “What the customer wants you to know “, management guru Ram Charan says “The most important thing to understand about your customer is her customers”.

The customer’s customer principle has wide application in business marketing. For an advertising agency, the customer’s customer is the consumer. For a business firm, it will be the customer of the client. If a marketer wants to clearly understand the customer needs, he has to first identify the customer’s customer and customer’s competitor. While many consumer firms clearly map their customers and competitors, business markets fail to understand the significance of this understanding. Because if the customer’s customer stops buying products, then your customer will stop buying from you.

From market driven to market-driving

Consumers will not be able to tell you exactly what they want. But a deep understanding about their life and their behaviour will give valuable inputs about new product ideas. Market –driving strategy is the strategy where the company shapes the consumer needs and wants through break through products and technologies. Hence it is important for marketers to go beyond what the consumer is saying.

Market Driven strategies are the conventional reactive strategies. Companies react to the changing marketing conditions using various marketing mix elements. The focus is on satisfying the obvious stated needs of the consumers. Market Driving strategies are aimed at creating original products and shaping consumer needs. The needs may be hidden and marketers should have the guts to tap those hidden needs.

Steve Jobs is quoted to have said that he does not believe in market research. He famously said that “We just want to make great products “. Here the focus is more on shaping the consumer needs and wants rather than reacting to existing needs. In a market driving strategy, the focus is to create new customers rather than satisfying existing customers. But for that one has to understand the hidden and latent needs of the consumers.

Constant consumer conversation and engagement will help marketers to understand those needs and find means to satisfy those needs profitably.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Brand Update : Tata Indica Brand Portfolio

Indica is a brand that is an epitome of persistence. Tata Motors through Indica has demonstrated how to manage product lifecycle effectively. The brand which was launched in 1998 has passed through many hurdles. The brand successfully transcended the initial flaws, bad customer /expert reviews and brickbats to become one of the largest selling cars in the Indian auto industry.

The brand survived and thrived because of the constant focus of Tata Motors to improve the product continuously. More than the product innovation, it was the value proposition that forced customers to choose Indica despite all those nagging troubles. You can see lot of Indica customers cribbing about the bad service and constant trip to the service centers but sticking to the brand because of the value proposition. You cannot get a diesel car with that much space at the price at which Indica is selling ( so far).

Tata Motors has been continuously tweaking the brand over these years sometimes making quantum leap in the quality and refinement of the product. A snapshot of the brand's evolution is given below

1998 - Indica announced
2001 - Indica V2
2004 - Rejuvenated Indica V2
2005- Indica V2 Turbo Diesel
2006- Indica Xeta
2008 - Indica Vista

The brand made a quantum leap in 2008 with the launch of Indica Vista. The entire brand personality changed with the launch of Vista. The product's looks and feel had changed completely and it was a rebirth for Indica.
The changes in the product was not limited to exteriors. Indica began sporting different types of engines from Fiat which gave a new perception of quality to the brand.

At the pricing also, Tata Motors consciously raised the Vista brand to a higher level . The Vista is pricier than the original V2 thus reducing the attractiveness of the brand to the Taxi segment. At a price range of Rs 4 - Rs 5 Lakh, Indica Vista is not a cheap diesel car. It was an upward stretch by the brand.

The Indica Brand portfolio is given below.

The Indica brand portfolio consists now of three sub-brands V2, Vista and Xeta.

V2 is the most economical of the lot and is the original Indica. This product is retained because there is still huge demand for V2 at that price point. Within the V2 range, there are three variants which includes the Indicab which is for the Taxi segment. Price of this sub-brand ranges from Rs 3,50,000 - Rs 3,95,000

Next sub-brand is the Vista. Vista is the new generation Indica and Tata Motors would like this brand to take over the leadership position from V2 in future. The brand is targeting the discerning Indian consumer with its value proposition and good looks.Vista has lot of variants satisfying the various needs of the customer. The Indica Vista Aura is the premium range that sports many goodies that premium brands claim like ABS, Airbags etc. Vista also comes in Petrol version sporting the Saphire engine. Prices range from Rs 3,90,000 - Rs 4,90,000 ( apprx). Within the Vista range, customers are given lot of engine option including engines from Fiat.

Xeta is the petrol variant of Indica V2. I am not sure about the future of Xeta since the petrol segment is heavily competitive and compared to Maruti and Hyundai, Indica Xeta's value proposition is not that attractive as the diesel option. Prices range from Rs 2,72,000- Rs 3,00,000).

The positioning across the brand portfolio remains the same. All the brands focus on the value proposition. But these sub- brands sports different taglines

Indica V2- More car per car
Indica Vista- Changes Everything ( Surprise Yourself is the new tagline)
Indica Xeta - Makes much more car sense.

Vista recently relaunched itself with Drivetech 4 technology and is now sporting a new tagline Surprise Yourself .

Indica in a way is an example of good marketing practice. The brand continues to evolve and is a pleasure to watch.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Peek : Simply Connect

Brand : Peek
Company : Peek Inc ( brought to India by Aircel)

Brand Analysis Count : # 453

Peek is a very very interesting brand. In my analysis of 453 brands, this is one brand which intrigued me the most. My opinion about Peek keeps on changing when more and more information was collected. Regular Marketing Practice readers know that I am highly opinionated when it comes to brands ( often it is the most voiced criticism about this blog) . For this brand , I couldn't make an opinion at all.

Peek is an email only device that was launched in India a few months back by Aircel. Peek is a brand from USA based Peek Inc. The brand has created lot of interest among the media and tech analysts in USA.

Peek is the brain child of Dr.Amol Sarva, a Stanford Phd holder, who was the co-founder of Virgin Mobile. Peek has an interesting story behind it. Amol and his wife were expecting their first child. After long walks to take exercise, Amol's wife came home worrying about the e-mails that were piling up in her inbox. Smartphones were not affordable to her. Hence the idea came to Dr Amol to design a simple solution for those customers who could not afford a Blackberry or smartphone but would like to check email on the go. ( read the story here)

Peek is a mobile like device that can be used for checking email. In the techie lingo, it is called email only client. Although Peek looks like a mobile phone, you cannot make phonecalls from it. The brand is launched in India in association with Aircel which is offering connectivity to Peek. The handset is costing Rs 2999 and Aircel has a tariff plan starting with Rs 299 per month. Peek supports 5 email accounts .

Now comes the most important question. What is the market for Peek ? Who will buy a device that can be used only for checking emails ? Will anyone pay Rs 300 per month for checking emails on a device ?

I still don't have an answer.

Peek is a big break-away product in a market which talks about products that claims to do everything. Smartphones are now increasingly loaded with more and more applications. Even ordinary mobile phones are now loaded with multiple features. Peek is a product that does only one thing. The million dollar question is whether such a device makes sense in the Indian market?

Peek is not competing with Blackberry or Smartphones. This is a device that is targeting a specific set of consumers who like to check emails while on the move/at home. Now who can be such customers ?

a. Those persons who does not have an internet connection at home but gets lot of emails.
b.Those who doesn't want to carry a laptop on the move but need to check mails regularly.
c.People who always travel a lot and could not afford a laptop and data plan .
d. Those people who cannot afford a mobile internet data plan .
e. People who want to check emails but dislikes internet browsing.
f. Those who travel to places where there is no internet connection.
c.Corporates who can give Peek to their executives instead of the expensive Blackberry

Peek makes sense in markets where mobile internet data plans are expensive. In the US, such plans are very expensive and have long term contracts associated with it. Peek does not have such constraints and is not restricted to one service provider. Hence there is a market for such a product in US.Another plus for Peek is the simplicity of usage. The product is simple to use and configuration is very very easy. So for a non-geek, the product is a simple solution.

In India too, mobile internet plans are expensive. Now the tariffs are coming down because of intense competition. It needs to be seen whether the Rs 299/month offers a value proposition to the consumers compared to the mobile internet data plans. As of now, the product is available only with Aircel. Hence the product is virtually locked with one service provider.

Peek is relying heavily on its simplicity . The product does only one thing and tries to does it very well. The brand is relying on the wisdom that there is a segment of consumers who prefer simple solutions to their needs. It is laudable for the brand to resist the temptation to add one more additional feature to Peek.

Peek also makes immense sense to businesses who are looking for a cheap alternative to Blackberry. Peek can be given to the employees and compared to BB, the cost is very very low.

I am still confused about whether the brand will be successful in India . My initial impression was that Peek will be a failure but am not going to predict doom because you never know how consumers will react to such a simple product.

Having said that, Peek opens an opportunity for a device that is purely a social networking client. If there is a product that does emails, facebooking, orkut, twitter and at this price, I would be the first one on the queue to buy.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Remembering Dr Prahalad

Remembering Dr CK Prahalad

Dr C K Prahalad, the renowned Management Guru passed away recently leaving behind a legacy of unmatched management insights and lessons. Dr Prahalad was serving as Paul and Ruth McCracken Distinguished University Professor of Strategy at University of Michigan’s Stephen M. Ross School of Business . A renowned teacher, a prolific author and an accomplished corporate strategist, Dr Prahalad’s contribution to the world of management is incomparable.

What set apart Dr Prahalad from the rest of the academic stalwarts was the practicality of his insights. He was one of the few academicians whose research and insights were tested and verified in the real world of management. His contributions range from breakthrough insights on core competence, strategic intent, co-creation, competitive strategy, bottom of pyramid marketing and innovation.


Dr Prahalad came into cynosure of management thinking during 1990s after a path breaking article “ The Core Competence of Organisations “ published in Harvard Business Review. Dr Prahalad and Gary Hamel advocated the importance of understanding the importance of core competencies and using the core competencies for growth. The insight that Prahalad and Hamel proposed inspired many firms to direct their energies to build their businesses based on the core –competency rather than go for mindless expansion of business. The idea of core-competence was a revelation for many American firms who were struggling from the onslaught of focused Japanese firms.

Competing for the Future and Strategic Intent

Dr Prahalad and Gary Hamel further expanded the idea of core-competency to competitive strategy where the authors reminded business leaders about the importance of understanding the competitive environment while charting the business strategies.

The concept of strategic intent was another gem of an insight from Prahalad and Hamel. According to the authors, it is important for firms to understand the strategic intent of the competitors while formulating the strategies. Most of the firms are so fixated about the immediate impact of competition that they fail to understand the long-term vision of their competitors. The authors narrate the stories of how Japanese firms outsmarted the western counterparts by incrementally growing within the market. The US firms failed to understand the long-term plans of Japanese firms and thus did not respond against the slow and steady growth and ultimately paid the price of losing market share.

Bottom of Pyramid

Although Dr CK Prahalad brought into light some of the path-breaking management insights, his thoughts on marketing to Bottom of Pyramid remained as the highlight of his life’s work.

Dr CK Prahalad created a huge impact on the way marketers looked at people at the lower income strata. In the path breaking book “ The Fortune at the Bottom of Pyramid “, Dr Prahalad dispelled many myths about the poor and convinced businesses to look at poor people as a profitable market opportunity.

According to Dr.CK, poor live in an expensive high cost sub-economies. Poor does not have access to easy credit. If at all they get access, they pay 50-60 % annual interest and outrageous terms and conditions. Dr CK wants marketers not to perceive that being poor mean using cheap products. These consumers actually pay more for certain services compared to those living in a richer environment. For example, Pre-paid mobile service cards are popular among the poor consumers. Although the denominations of these recharge coupons seems low, the consumers actually pay upfront for the talk time and in most of the cases, they do not get the talk time for the full amount paid.

Another myth about poor that Dr Prahalad wanted to dispel is that consumers at the bottom of pyramid are not willing to pay for innovations. Dr CK argues that poor consumers are willing to pay for those innovations that are relevant to them. But marketers often try to sell to poor consumers those innovations that are relevant only to higher income strata.

Dr Prahalad reflects the importance of marketers to really understand the need of this segment of society, then innovate specific products for them rather than push irrelevant product/services to them. The rich always tried to make decisions for the poor. Poor should be given the choice to purchase products that they need. Let the market decide what these poor people need. The poor consumers spent lot of money on products and services. Marketers should focus on improving poor’s quality of life rather than sell expensive products to them.

The works and insights of Dr CK Prahalad will remain eternal. Business and Management world will miss this thinker and strategist and his invaluable practical insights.

Originally Published here in

Monday, May 10, 2010

Brand Update : The New Rejuvenated Wagon R

One of India's best selling car brand got better. Recently Maruti Suzuki launched the new Wagon R in the Indian market. The new spruced up model features the famed K Series engine and with a brand new look.

Wagon R has been a run away success since its launch in 1999. So far the company has sold around 8.8 lakh units of Wagon R (source). Infact Wagon R is the second largest selling car brand ( annual sales ) from Maruti's product portfolio.

Wagon R operates in the A2 segment of Indian car market which is witnessing most of the competition in recent times. Most of the car majors are viewing this segment seriously and some of the new brand launches like Chevrolet Beat and Ford Figo has been highly welcomed by the consumers.
This intense competition has prompted Maruti to relaunch the upgraded version of Wagon R with a new engine and renewed look. It is interesting to note that Wagon R recently launched a high profile brand campaign featuring the Celebrity Madhavan.

Maruti have aggressively responded to the competition from Chevy and Ford by keeping the price point of the new Wagon R at the range of Rs 3.5 lakh - 3.85 lakh. Maruti has taken the risk of cannibalizing other brands like Estillo and A Star. The rejuvenation is also a part of Maruti to take the brand from the Maturity stage of the lifecycle stage to the growth path.

The new launch is expected to give much needed boost to the brand. Wagon R is still relevant in the Indian market. The users have vouched for the comfort and drive-ability of this car in the urban jungle. The company feels that the brand still have lot of steam left in it.

The company is calling the new Wagon R as the Blue Eyed Boy. The brand has retained Madhavan as the brand ambassador in the new avatar also.

Most of the auto review comparing Wagon R , Figo and Beat has rated the competitors as better than Wagon R. But what will be driving this brand will be the Maruti endorsement . Although Chevy and Ford have established themselves in the Indian market, Maruti still holds tremendous brand equity among Indian consumers. But competitors are not sitting idle. When Chevy launched Spark to take on Alto, it ran a highly successful campaign guaranteeing Zero maintenance cost for three years. That gave lot of boost to the sale of Spark.
Wagon R in a way offers less risk for the discerning Indian consumers compared to the new entrants in terms of cost of maintenance, spares , service etc. That will help Wagon R hold on to its pivot position atleast for now.

Related Post
Wagon R

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Marketing Strategy : How to Manage Moments of Truth

Managing Moments of Truth

The article was originally published here at

Moments of Truth is a term popularised by Mr Jan Carlzon – the famed CEO of SAS Airlines who had written a book of the same name highlighting the efforts he had made to turn around the ailing airline.

Moments of Truth is defined as those touch points in an organisation where the customer directly interacts with the firm. These are the moments where the customers come in direct contact with the company. The interaction can be with a man or a machine. The touch points are critical because it is where the customer makes a decision to continue or terminate a relationship.

Moments of Truth concept has a wide application in marketing of services. Since services involves close and frequent interaction between the consumer and the service provider, managing these moments acquire strategic importance. The moment where the sales person visits the customer or when the consumer visits the office are opportunities to create an impression and build a relationship.

Identify Moments of Truth

The first step in managing these critical touch points is to identify the points where the company comes in contact with the customer. Kingfisher Airlines had the wisdom to understand that one of the first interactions between the Airlines and the customer comes when the customer reaches the airport. This moment was often neglected by most airlines. Kingfisher capitalized this moment of truth by introducing ushers who would welcome travellers and direct them to the boarding counters. This small step created a huge positive impact on the customer service perception for Kingfisher Airlines.

Organizations often fail to correctly identify these interaction points which often results in a negative customer experience. Hence it is important for all firms to identify and map the customer touch points so that those points could be made an opportunity to make an impact on the consumer.

For example, most of the firms think that the first touch point for a customer who is visiting an office will be the front office personnel. But in reality, the first touch point is the security personnel at the gate who makes the first interaction with the consumer. One of my colleagues discontinued his relationship with his car service centre because of the raw deal given to him by the security staff.

While the front office personnel are trained, security staffs are often outsourced and may / may not be trained in customer service. Smart companies even train these personnel on effective customer service behaviour because first impression is so critical.

Hence it is important for firms to have a service map which gives the marketer an idea about the instances where consumer tries to interact with the firm. Once this is mapped, the marketer will be able to create strategies to create an impact during these moments

Create Moments of Truths

While service organizations have a constant interaction with the customers, product companies may not have any direct interaction with the customers. A soap marketer may not directly interact with the end consumer at all.

In the highly insightful book The Game Changer, the CEO of P&G - AG Lafley identifies two moments of truth for product consumers. The first moment of truth is when the consumer goes to the retail store to purchase the product and the second moment of truth is when the consumer uses the product. The product marketers should make sure that they positively touch the consumer at these critical points.

How ever marketers should not resist from creating new touch points with the consumer. Brands like Sunsilk have taken the initiative to make a direct connection with the consumer by building a community – Sunsilk Gang of Girls. TVS and Maruti Suzuki has tried to connect with the consumer by opening driving schools for the consumers. Fastrack is constantly communicating with the consumers through social networking platforms like Twitter.

Internet has opened up a new platform for marketers to create and manage new moments of truth. Although internet penetration is low in India, it never the less produces a platform to meet consumers who are often the early adopters. Blogs, Twitter, social networking sites like Orkut and Facebook offers an opportunity for marketers to create a community and thus understand the pulse of the market.

People are the key

People are the key to managing moments of truth. Whether it is the front office personnel meeting the consumer who visits the office or be it the sales personnel visiting the customer, people form the most critical media through which the impression is made. It is important for people across different levels in the organization to understand that they have a role to play in managing these interactions.

In a highly insightful book on customer service titled “Hug Your Customers”, author Jack Mitchell talks about the importance of involving every member or organization in meeting and interacting with the consumer. Jack Mitchell is the CEO of a premium clothing company Mitchells/Richards which is well known for their extraordinary customer service. In Mitchells & Richards, every member of the firm from the CEO to the Accountant interacts with the consumers so that the concept of customer service excellence runs through the entire organization.

Encourage Interaction

"The customer (client) is the most important visitor on our premises. He is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our business. He is a part of it. We are not doing him/her a favour by serving him/her. He is doing us a favour by giving us an opportunity to do so."

Mahatma Gandhi

This famous quote is seen displayed in most of the offices but seldom have we undertaken the activities in true spirit of this famous saying.

The critical questions that should be asked by firms in managing customer interactions are

· How easy is it for the customer to contact you?

· How fast will his query be answered?

· Is there a mechanism to measure his satisfaction?

· Do we reach out to him or wait for him to contact us?

· Do we discriminate our customers into large & small or do we have a culture that treats customers as equal?

· We have a promotions budget, expenses budget etc. Do we have a consumer relationship budget?

· Do our staffs are given sufficient authority and responsibility to make customer interactions fruitful?

Managing moments of truth is an expensive initiative. The fruits of which will be only visible in the long term. But this investment is worth it.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Nature Valley Granola : 100% Natural , 100% Delicious

Brand : Nature Valley
Company : General Mills

Brand Analysis Count # 452

Last day when I was shopping in a grocery store, a young guy came rushing in to the cash counter to tell the staff that he is going to consume a granola bar which is placed in front of the counter without waiting for billing because he is feeling very hungry.Welcome to a new way to satisfy your hunger pangs.

Granola bars is an emerging new category in the Indian market. Granola is a snack food made from oats, honey, nuts etc which are baked till crispy ( Wiki). Granola Bars are the bar form -packed like a typical chocolate bar. Granola bars are popular in Western and European markets as a convenient healthy snack food.

Nature Valley is a brand from the US Foods giant General Mills. The brand claims to be world's first granola bar brand with its origin dating back to 1975. The brand is said to have an iconic status in the US market.

Nature Valley was launched in India in 2006. The brand had a very soft launch and the distribution was restricted to certain markets. I think that now the brand has gone for a national launch.

Granola bars comes under the broad category of functional foods. The functional foods market in India is estimated to be around Rs 1700 crores. The bar form of functional foods emerged just recently.
Nature Valley is currently running a small campaign in some select TV campaign. The imported ad just shows a waterfall and a voice over explaining the nutritional benefits of the product. The brand has the tagline " 100 % Natural, 100 % Delicious ". The launch campaign is too small and basic that there is nothing much to talk about. The ad at best just introduces the brand name - nothing more, nothing less.

One would have expected some thing unique and creative from a marketing giant like General Mills especially when they launch an iconic product. But at present, nothing so far has been on air. Globally Nature Valley brand is pitching heavily on the " Natural " platform . Infact the name is a unlikely candidate for a snack food brand.

Brands like Nature Valley and Horlicks Nutribar have a difficult task of creating brand salience . Brand salience covers all aspects of brand awareness. Professor Keller describes two facets of brand awareness - Depth and Breadth of Awareness. Depth of brand awareness refers to the ease with which the brand elements can be recalled. Breadth refers to the awareness about the brand under various potential usage situations.

In the case of Nature Valley, Depth of Awareness refers to how easily a consumer can remember the brand. Breadth refers to the various usage situations and how easily the brand is recalled in those situations . For example, Nature Valley can claim breadth of awareness when consumers remembers the brand when hungry/ while traveling/ watching movies/ after a workout or a game etc. It may be easy to create awareness depth with high profile ads. To create breadth, marketers may have to convince the brand efficacy in various usage situations. So brands first must decide on the targeted usage situations and then device communication strategies to create the breadth of awareness.

It is interesting to see that both globally and in Indian market, the NatureValley pitches not on "hunger/food platform" but on the natural ingredient platform which is quite different. Even the global campaigns give a different view on the brand. Hopefully the brand will follow the same framework here also. It can work here because most of the functional foods including the brands that directly competes with Nature Valley like Horlicks Nutribar, talks about hunger . So the brand can stand out by taking such a different platform. The brand has priced itself smartly at Rs 12 for a single bar and Rs 20 for pack of two. This is significantly lower than Horlicks Nutribar.

Whether consumers will get hooked to the " green " nature of the brand is a different story altogether.

Related Brand
Horlicks Nutribar

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Marketing Strategy : How to Create Brand Experience

Creating Brand Experience

Originally Published here in Adclubbombay

We are living in an experiential society. The consumers are moving towards selecting products based on experiential factors and marketers have the opportunity to sell products at a premium if the product is able to deliver the right kind of experience.

Bernd Schmitt in his book Customer Experience Management: A revolutionary Approach to Connecting with Your Customers; has defined customer experience management as the process of strategically managing a customer’s entire experience with a product or a company. Experiential marketing aims to engage the consumers so that he gets a complete experience of the product or service. Rather than depending on features, brands are looking at ways to deliver a holistic experience to the consumer.

There are many factors that drive this experience economy. Consumers are now armed with lot of information. This information has made many a differentiation irrelevant. Hence more than the product’s features, consumers tend to evaluate products based on their experience with the product and the company.

Marketers earlier had tried to create brand experience through standalone promotional activities. These activities were short-term and were intended to give a peek into the brand’s projected experience. But the situation now demands that the brand deliver its experience every time the consumer makes a contact with the brand or the company.

In this period where product feature based differentiation is hard to sustain, marketers must create a brand experience which can act as a sustainable differentiation platform.

Understand consumer’s world.

The first task for the marketer is to thoroughly understand the consumer’s world. Consumers live their experience from their own world. Hence when the marketers try to create brand experiences it should resonate with the consumer’s own world.

Brands which target children practice this principle very effectively. Take the example of Cadbury’s Diary Milk Wowie. The brand takes the kids through a chocolate world where the hero Mickey Mouse helps the kids to enjoy the chocolate world and protect them from harm. This fantasy world appeals to the kids intensely and the level of involvement of kids in this campaign is very high.

Be Relevant

Another critical factor for creating effective brand experience is the relevancy of the experience. For creating relevant brand experiences, marketers must get inside the life of a customer. In the highly insightful book “The Game Changer” P&G CEO: A G Lafley describes the importance of understanding the life of the consumers. P&G made it compulsory for its marketing team to involve deep into their consumers life so that they could come out with products that made their life easier.


The brand experiences that marketers create should be authentic and credible. Fantasy works best for children but for adults, the experience must be based on realism. The promise has to be delivered. This calls for the organization to be highly customer centric.

Kingfisher Airlines created a very meaningful credible experience by making the most of customer touch points. The ushers who helps the traveller at the entrance of the airport to the cabin services and food served created a new brand experience for the travellers.


Consumers should cherish the experiences created by the brand in their memories. The experience should appeal both to the rational and emotional mind of the consumer. Catering to the emotional self of the consumer will help the brand to build attachment with the consumer. Appealing to the rational self will enhance the credibility.

Asian Paints in its clutter breaking campaign “ Har Rang Kuch Kahta Hain “achieved both these objectives. The campaign touched the emotional chord with the consumers and also appealed to the rational mind of the consumers. The brand made the experience more rational by launching sample packs where the consumers can paint a portion of the wall to see how the colour will actually look like.


It is absolutely important for a brand to involve the consumers in any brand related activity if it wants to create a complete experience. The popularity of internet has opened many opportunities for the brand to involve the consumers. The brand can motivate consumers to sign up in an online community, visit the website or play games, share experience etc.

Brands can create involvement offline too. Kinder Joy has a unique method of creating a brand experience by bundling its chocolate with a surprise gift. Kids eat the chocolate and play with the toy and it created a unique brand experience for them which compel them to buy more.

Brands can create involvement by devising interesting brand rituals. Kitkat smartly taught its consumers a unique ritual of eating KitKat. Consumers willingly adopted this brand ritual making the experience of eating Kitkat unique. Brands can extend the involvement with the consumers by introducing memorabilia and collectables which will further enhance the brand experience.