Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Force One : Be The Force

Brand : Force One
Company : Force Motors

Brand Analysis Count : # 506

Force Motors which is well known for its commercial vehicles like Tempo Travellor, Trekker etc has made a significant entry into the SUV market in India. The company recently launched an SUV Force One in the Indian market.
Indian SUV market is now appearing lucrative to auto majors. Indian car market is skewed to small cars. The market is dominated by small cars. SUVs were a niche. But recent trend is that consumers are purchasing more SUVs despite the poor infrastructure conditions and rising fuel prices. According to newsreports, 324000 SUVs were sold in India during 2010-2011. The growth of SUVs were infact more than the car segment. 

The Indian SUV market is dominated by Mahindra with its flagship brand Scorpio. Toyota Fortuner is the second largest brand but dominates the premium segment of the SUV market. The market has witnessed a slew of launches from all major brands in the world.Hence the launch of  a brand in this segment is very risky and difficult. Force One has took this challenge seriously and has done some serious homework before going for the launch.

Force Motors took a very smart step  by collaborating with Mercedes Benz for the engine of Force One. The company has already understood the benefits of tying up with a brand like Mercedes before in the success of its Traveller. So by sourcing the most critical element of the car from World's most respect company, Force One has almost negated the risk of Engine complaints and the Mercedes engine will give confidence to consumers about this newcomer's claims.
Second smart move was the design part. Indian SUV consumers like big mean machines. Frustrated by poor roads and rash and arrogant driving of larger vehicles like trucks and buses, most Indian consumers love to have a large vehicle to tame the arrogant truck and bus drivers. Hence Force One deliberately designed itself to look larger and meaner. 
The third and most important move was the promotion part. The brand almost shocked the entire auto world by roping Amithabh Bachchan as the brand ambassador. The brand knew that it is fighting with large and powerful brands like Scorpio, Fortuner, Safari etc and needs a trump card to get even with these established  brands. The roping in of Big B was a masterstroke and has given a terrific boost to the launch.
The fourth factor was the price. Force One has priced itself at around Rs 10 lakh. I am not sure about the effectiveness of the pricing strategy because it seems little pricey compared to Indian counterparts but not that much as compared to foreign brands. But my gut feeling is that it has not hit the sweet spot in the pricing and would have excited the market had it started of with a price of Rs 8 lakh. However, the Mercedes engine may be the reason for this confident pricing of Force One. It is to see whether Indian consumer is willing to pay that much for a new Indian SUV.
With Bachchan as the brand ambassador, one would wonder how the brand is going to structure its message. Force One had to convey a feel of ruggedness and premiumness inorder to gain consumer interest. The presence of Big B will assure eye-balls but if the communication is not right, people are going criticize the effort.
In the advertising front, the approach of Force One was surprising. I expected something that would project an international look and feel , something of the sort of a Reid and Taylor campaign highlighting the brand ambassador. But Force One took a very different route.
Watch the campaign here : Force one Kids, Force One Clean

The ads are very Indian and focuses on one aspect- Force. The brand has adopted the tagline " Be The Force " . In the ad, Big B says "India mein sirf Force hi Chalta Hai " meaning " In India only Force will work " . This message really strikes a chord with the consumers mind since everyone have felt this at some point in his life in India. 
With regard to the brand promotion, it is interesting to observe that the brand deliberately chose not to project itself as a premium. The brand I think is targeting those consumers who are pissed off by Indian roads. The brand is talking to the prospective sedan buyers and telling them that only a beast will survive in Indian roads.
The brand has started on a rugged communication route hence it has virtually closed its doors on premiumness. Infact this soundness of this strategy is validated by the launch campaign of Mahindra's X500 which calls itself a Cheetah. The brand has chosen  " Powerful " as its USP and uses the analogy of " Force " to communicate its positioning. The role of the ads for automobiles serve as a bait for the consumers for a test drive. No on buys a car just because of the ads. The product will sell itself if it excites the consumers and the influencers. 
Force Motors is a new entrant to the passenger segment. Like its peers Tata Motors and Mahindra, Force will also be perceived as a commercial vehicle manufacturer and the lack of expertise in the passenger car market will be the Achilles' heel for this company.Product Quality and quality  of its after-sales service is going to be very critical in the success of this brand. The brand has got its basics correct. This will be an interesting story to watch.