Thursday, February 24, 2011

Brand Update : RIP Ford Ikon ( 1999-2011)

One of the best selling  car brands from Ford is being laid to rest this year. Ford has officially confirmed that the brand will be discontinued this year. Ford has cited the following reasons for the decision to pull the plug on Ford Ikon. The company wants to introduce new cars based on its global platform. Ford Ikon although was derived from earlier models of Fiesta is a car built for India. Hence no other models can come out of its platform. Now globally car markers are looking for making common platforms from which multiple car models can be built. 
Another reason perhaps may be that Ford think that Ikon has become old. The brand has been in the market for the last 12 years and consumers have seen lot of Ikon. Hence this familiarity may prevent further freshness/excitement about the brand.It is my assumption that the brand may not be able to fit into the Bharat Stage V emission norms. 

News reports also say that Ford is contemplating on bringing the Fiesta to the Ikon price band and then introduce another Fiesta variant - Fiesta Sedan at the premium end. 

So Ford Ikon is Dead.
The question is whether killing Ikon is a good marketing strategy or not. 

Theoretically every product moves through a lifecycle and eventually die. But there are brands which has been thriving for decades and still is fresh and alive. So in a branding perspective, only products die and brands live forever. Hence killing a popular young dashing brand Ikon may not be a good idea. And bringing Fiesta to take the place of Ikon also seems to be confusing brand strategy.

Ikon was a neglected brand in the Ford portfolio ever since the launch of Fiesta. In my earlier update on the brand, I had mentioned that the brand was not promoted or energized. In 2009, Ford made some cosmetic changes on Ikon and sort of relaunched it. But a very random non-systematic investment on brand will not yield results. Ikon should have been consistently promoted and nurtured. Ford did not do that and then complaining about the legacy  is just an excuse. Brands will survive above product lifecycle only through regular investment on promotion and innovation. Then even if products die, the brand will reinvent itself under new products. Here I am making a distinction between Brand and Product. 

Ford is now rejoicing in the new found success of Figo. The company seems to have identified the right product strategy and wants to capitalize on that by bringing in more globally compatible products like Figo. Ikon thus does not fit into the new found product strategy of Ford. 

The death of Ikon is opening up a vacant spot in the car market. The segment of a sporty sedan is now open and up for grabs but only for those who have willingness to invest for the longterm.

So RIP Ford Ikon, we miss you.

Related Brand

Friday, February 18, 2011

Brand Update : Dyna gets a new brand ambassador

The Dyna brand of soap from the Anchor Group of Companies has got a new brand ambassador- Ms Sonakshi Sinha . Ms Sonakshi is an upcoming Bollywood actress who made debut in the hit film Dabaang. Ms Sonakshi is the daughter of yesteryear's actor Shatrughan Sinha. 
Dyna had captured consumer's attention with its high profile campaign featuring the brand ambassador Katrina Kaif. Dyna roped in Katrina at her early stages of acting career. Katrina Kaif  went on to become a very popular star in recent years and the brand benefited a lot through the association. Now Katrina has moved along to endorse Lux.
In my post on Dyna, I had commented on the over reliance of Dyna on the brand ambassador. On hindsight, Dyna infact benefited through this heavy dependence of the celebrity over the last few years. Now the brand face the challenge of maintaining the momentum after losing its priced celebrity.
Dyna is now trying to replicate its success with Katrina by roping in Sonakshi Sinha. Sonakshi is in her early stages of acting career and Dyna hopes that she will become successful as her predecessor and the brand thus benefit through the association.
In one way, such a strategy makes sense. Rope in talented upcoming actress and ride on the potential success. If the actress becomes a star, the brand benefit and if not then the brand can move on in search of another potential actress. The cost of acquiring these celebrities will be less since they are in the early stages of their career. There will also be exclusivity since not many brands will be after these new comers. So both the brand and celebrity benefits through this association.
Watch the ad here : Dyna Soap 
Dyna is also retaining its positioning based on the product properties like - No Filling, 76% TFM and Grade 1Soap. The brand is based on the promise that it will be soft on skin since it contains more TFM than the competitors. The positioning is more appealing to a rational mind.
One of the key areas where Dyna may have to focus is the distribution part. In my city, I hardly notice the brand in shops and supermarkets. The POP visibility is also poor. Guess that the brand is currently focusing on Northern Markets as of now. 
Dyna retains its tagline " Be a Lady " . I still feel that the brand need to rethink its tagline and get some meaningful creative tagline that reflects the brand's true promise .

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Monday, February 14, 2011

Mediker : Sunday To Sunday

Brand : Mediker
Company : Marico Industries Ltd
Ad Agency : BBH Communications

Brand Analysis Count : 472

Mediker is a specialist brand from Marico. This brand is a classic example of a Niche brand . Mediker is a brand with a 3 decade old history. The brand was originally from Proctor & Gamble and in 1999 Marico bought the brand for a consideration of 10 crore. 
Mediker is an Anti-Lice shampoo. The brand is a leader in this niche with a market share of almost 100%.

Lice is a irritating problem for most of the homes where there is a girl aged 5-12. According to a research conducted by the brand, 23% of urban households are facing the issue of lice. The problem is more grave in the Southern part of India due to heat and humidity. Around 82% of school going girls suffer from lice in metros and large cities. 

Having infected with lice is not only a health issue but a social one also. The girl suffers not only from irritation but in some cases ridicule and isolation. Parents relate lice with unhygienic and instruct their wards to keep away from kids who suffer from lice. 
Mediker in a way is a boon for those who suffer from this irritant.  The brand has a powerful equity and recall among consumers. The brand then was faced with a unique perception problem. The initial ads of Mediker was solely focused on the effectiveness of the product. The ads had the visuals of kids getting irritated with lice attack and mother then uses Mediker shampoo and when she combs the hair, lice just falls off. The ads gave an impression that Mediker kills the lice and hence can cause harm to the hair.The fact is that Mediker makes the lice unconscious and thus combing causes the lice to fall off.

Since Mediker did not have a brand /category competition, the only competition it had was from the lice comb. Lice comb was the preferred first option for the consumers. But lice comb was painful for the kids and often caused damage to hair and scalp. The effectiveness of the comb was also limited. Hence the focus of Mediker was more on showing the effectiveness and painless feature and ads were geared to communicate those benefits to the consumers. 
The brand owners did not gave much attention to this perception issue and ads were reinforcing the effectiveness of the product along with that the perception of a harsh product. Mediker was perceived to be a harsh product and mothers tend to use the product only as a last resort. This perception severely limited the usage of the product and hence the category size was small.
One of first task of Marico after acquiring the brand was to make good the perception of Mediker. The brand was re-launched in 2001 as a gentle solution for lice attack. The brand was trying to become the first choice for consumers faced with the problem of lice . 
Mediker was always sold at a premium. Since this is a specialist product the product was priced more than the ordinary shampoo brands.
In 2003-2004, the brand went for an extension into hair oils. Mediker launched Mediker Plus hair oil which was an attempt aimed at increasing the category size and also bridge the price gap. Hair oil was priced below the shampoo and was more gentle compared to the shampoo ( perception). 
The brand also went in for a packaging change with green bottle giving way to sky blue colored bottle with a fairy on the label to denote the " gentle " promise. 
2010 saw another brand relaunch for Mediker. The brand has been made more Natural and the hair oil extension has also been relaunched. The ads featuring the South Indian film star Shobana was also on air to announce the relaunch. 
Mediker's communication was consistent over its life cycle. The brand initially had to educate the consumers on the usage since Mediker was more like a treatment than hair-care. The shampoo had to be used for 4 consecutive sundays inorder to break the life-cycle of lice. To help consumer remember the usage, the brand owners used the famous " Sunday to Sunday " tagline for Mediker. The tagline is still remembered by the consumers.
Now the brand has moved to a more emotional /social platform for positioning. The brand is directly addressing the mother's concern about the child's interaction with others and the worry of getting infected by lice. The brand now tell mothers to let her child socialize without worrying about lice.
Watch an ad here : Mediker

The brand by nature is niche. There is no use in trying to increase the brand size by diluting its specialist status. The only possible way for the brand to increase its size is to make the category bigger. Since lice attack is a perennial problem, the brand should be able to position itself as a preferred solution ( first choice) . Now it is considered to be the last resort even after repeated attempt by the brand to change that perception. 
Mothers are very caring especially with personal care products for their children. My 6 year old daughter uses Johnson & Johnson shampoo on her hair. Now replacing that with Mediker should demand some real problem ! 
For Mediker, focusing more on gentle means diluting the effectiveness ! so this decision is a real dilemma for the brand manager. The change in perception will take time and Mediker is on the right track in handling the issue. It had roped in a celebrity and also put a " Natural " tag to it which will make the brand look more gentle. The brand is also conducting lot of below-the-line (BTL) activities to spread awareness about anti-lice treatment and solutions in schools and townships. The brand should put in more investment on celebrity mothers  and make the packaging more gentle and attractive ( to kids) to change the perception of a tough product. 

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Marketing Strategy : Flexible or Focused ?

While discussing the components of an effective marketing strategy, marketers often is in two minds about the overall direction of their strategy. Should the marketing strategy be flexible or focused?- this is the critical question that marketers should address while preparing their strategic plan. 
Flexibility in marketing strategy refers to the ability of the firm to adapt their marketing response to the changing environment. Marketing strategy should address the critical issues of (a) response to competitor’s actions (b) response to changing consumer trends (c) response to changing market environment (d) response to changes in technology (e) decisions regarding the entry and exit. Businesses operate in a dynamic environment which is witnessing changes every day. More than ever before, marketers are witnessing disruptive innovations which are changing the consumer behaviour frequently.

Focus in marketing strategy refers to the firm’s ability to consistently explore the depth of the various elements of the strategy. It involves a continuous and in-depth focus on (a) consumer and their behaviour (b) core strength of the firm (c) market in which the firm operates (d) enhancing the depth of marketing mix elements (e) investment in product development (f) investment in product promotion  etc. Marketers now are faced with global competition. Geographical boundaries are now irrelevant as far as marketing is concerned. Indian products are now faced with competition from across the world. Hence is important for marketers to focus on their products and markets.   

When firms become too focused on their products and markets but not flexible, they risk the chance of getting into a state of immobility. This situation may lead to marketing myopia where the marketer becomes too focused on the product but failed to see the market moving in another direction. Focussed marketing strategy is ideal for mature markets where the chances of disruptions are limited.

When firms become too flexible in their marketing strategy, it may lead to a state of disorder and confusion. The firm sees many opportunities and will enter various markets without realizing their competence. This can lead to unnecessary wastage of vital resources and may lead to a financial crunch. Marketing strategies should be highly flexible in those markets which are emerging. In such a market, it will be difficult for marketers to focus because the directions are not visible yet. In such situations, marketing should be flexible enough to embrace any viable opportunities.

When firm’s marketing strategy lack focus and flexibility, it fails in what ever it does. The company thus will not be able to make an impact in any market it enters (because of lack of focus) and also will not be able to respond to changing market dynamics (due to lack of flexibility).
The ideal situation is where firm is able to have both focus and flexibility in their marketing strategies. This may sound impractical but it is not. While focusing on consumers and markets, it is possible for firms to be flexible in their response to changing market environment and competitive actions.

Professor Thomas Kosnik in the book Marketing Management : Text & Cases (Richard D Irwin,Homewood IL,1990) uses the term “Perennial Renaissance “for a flexible and focused marketing strategy. When a firm adopts a flexible yet focused marketing strategy, it is able to fight the competition and at the same time maintain a steady focus on what it is currently doing.
Take the example of Google. While Google tries to make its search engine better, it is constantly innovating and flexible in grabbing new opportunities and challenges as an when it emerges. Gillette is another example of a company that constantly innovates at the same time is very much focused on its current markets.

It is not easy to make a flexible -focused marketing strategy framework. The first task for the marketers is to build this concept into the culture. Flexibility and focus has to be built into the organisational culture. For example, it is very difficult for a bureaucratic organization to practice flexibility in their marketing practices.  Firms need to empower their managers to decide and act fast if they want to practice flexibility. At the same time, managers should establish discipline and process orientation if they want to embrace focus into their marketing strategies.

Another factor which managers should consider is to shift their attention from Products to Consumers. Companies can practice flexibility by focusing on consumers rather than getting stuck with their products. Consumers constantly look for new ways of satisfying their wants. By keeping a close tab on the consumers will enable firms to respond to changing trends faster.

It is also vital for organisations to plan for the long-term. When brands are managed for quarterly results, focus and flexibility gives way to short – term spike in sales. Managers should keep the long term objectives in mind (Focus) but keep their plans tuned according to consumer needs and wants (Flexibility).

Companies also should invest in innovations. Firms cannot aspire to be flexible if they did not innovate. Continuous innovations in terms of product and marketing strategies will raise the stature of the organisation in the market.

Originally published in

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Neslac : Milk For Growing Kids

Brand : Neslac
Company : Nestle India

Brand Analysis Count : 471

Nestle has recently launched a new brand in the 1500 crore infant ( kid's) foods market. The company has launched its global brand - Neslac in the Indian market. Nestle is the market leader in the infant foods market with successful brands like Cerelac, Nestum, Lactogen, Nestogen etc. Reports suggest that Nestle has close to 70 % of the kid's nutrition market.

The Indian infant food market is a difficult market to survive because of regulatory constraints. The market is governed by Indian milkfood substitutes feeding bottles and infant foods ( regulation of production, supply and distribution ) act 1992. There is a restriction in advertising infant food products.

As an established player in the market, Nestle has an advantage since its brands like Lactogen, Cerelac are very famous and has tremendous brand equity in the market. Hence even without ad support, these brands are growing. But for a new player, establishing in this market will be a tough one because of the regulations.

So it is interesting to see Nestle launching Neslac in the Indian market despite these regulatory constraints. Neslac is not an infant food but a milk food for kids above 2 years. The brand is positioned as milk for growing kids. So this brand may not come under the purview of the above act. Neslac is currently running a campaign announcing the launch of Neslac. 
Neslac is a global brand with presence in various markets under different names. In Pakistan, this brand is marketed as Nestlac Honey, in Malaysia it is Neslac Excella Gold etc.
Nestle already has another brand Nido  which is a similar product but targeted at a higher age-group.. I have a feeling that Nestle has replaced Nido with Neslac ( just a hunch.)
It will be interesting to see how the highly regulated market will respond to this high profile launch.