Thursday, October 18, 2012

Marketing Funda : Why "iPhone Killer " is a bad marketing idea

The marketing world is now full of wannabe iPhone Killers - the new products that aims to kill the market leader or iconic brands. Although Frontal Attack is a celebrated strategy in marketing text books, the risks are pretty high and the possibility of a bloodbath is even  higher. Market Challengers will do better if they don't attack iconic brands directly.
The recent Apple Vs Samsung war of smartphones and the ultimate fall out of painful lawsuits warrants a recheck on the strategy of a frontal attack on market leaders.  Apple rule of the smartphone market with iPhone has prompted many mobile marketers to try and comeout with " iPhone Killers" but with no success. Market leaders like iPhones are seen in many markets. In India we have market leaders like Colgate, Alto, Maggi, Axe, Parachute, Johnson & Johnson, Horlicks etc who command a very large share of mind and also the market. There were many attempts from market challengers to dethrone these leaders by directly confronting them. In many cases, these challenger brands stay in a distant second position while the market leaders are not pretty much hurt. 

The famous wars between Pepsodent Vs Colgate, Maggi Vs Top Ramen J&J vs Sparsh , Complan Vs Horlicks were high profile frontal attack by market challengers but could not dethrone the leaders from their positions. My hypothesis is that rather than frontally attacking the leaders especially iconic brands, competing brands will do well if they could build a position that avoids direct comparison with the market leaders . Its not a blue ocean strategy where you would go in search of a new market but positioning away from the market leader so that consumers would not directly compare the brand with the market leader attributes.
The problem with a direct frontal attack is that consumers will directly compare the attributes with the market leader and if the competing brands do not have strong parity and even stronger differentiation, the strategy will have a negative fall out. In the case of iPhone, the competing brands which tout themselves as iPhone killers were not able to create strong parity with this iconic product especially in the brand image front.

Market challengers could do well if they can position their product away from the iconic brand and create a market and grow by expanding it on their unique strengths . 
Its my hypothesis, what do you say ??

Friday, October 12, 2012

Brand Update : Axe Extends to Soaps

Axe deo , the market leader in the Rs 1000 crore Indian deo market has extended itself to soaps. In the typical Unilever style of experimenting with successful brands the current guinea pig brand is Axe. The rationale is very simple  a) The soap market is witnessing a growth while deo market is now full of competition
b) With Cinthol brand becoming unisex, there is a vacuum for a men's soap brand and Axe is the best fit for filling the gap.
c) The lure for incremental profits from an established brand.
Indian soap market is around Rs 6500 crore and the men's grooming market is around Rs 1500 crore ( Economic Times). The brand may be looking to become an umbrella brand endorsing multiple products across the men's grooming category. The big question is whether these extensions will make the original deo brand vulnerable ? 
I think so.
I wonder why Axe is being extended when there is so much competition in the deo market. Axe is now attacked both on positioning front as well as on product attributes front. The Axe positioning is aped by most of the deo brands to the point that everything is so predictable and boring. Now HUL is further diluting the brand by its extension into a different category. 

The new extension carries the same positioning as the Original Axe brand . Axe bathing bar has the tagline " Engineered for Guys ". The ad campaign follows the same theme as the Axe Deo brand.

Watch the ad here : Axe Deo
Priced at a premium of Rs 35, Axe expects the brand loyalists to be the early adopters for this brand. HUL will be leveraging on its huge distribution strength and its reach to make sure that Axe Bathing Bar is available across the markets. To be fair to this experiment, Axe globally also is extended to various categories like Body Wash, Talcum powder etc but none of the extensions has been as successful as the original product. The same will be the case in the case of Axe Soap also. 

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Roma Switches : India's Largest Selling Modular Switches

Brand : Roma
Company : Anchor ( Panasonic)

Brand Analysis Count : 516

Indian switch market is estimated to be around INR1800 crore and is dominated by Anchor with a share of 50%. Anchor Electricals which is one of India's largest electrical  products company was formed in 1963 and virtually created the branded electrical accessory market in India. The company effectively filled the need for quality and reliable electrical products in a market dominated by unorganized players.

In 1976, the company launched India's first Piano type switch with the sub-brand Roma. The product was highly successful and Roma became India's largest selling modular switch. ( Source : superbrand). In 2007, Anchor was taken over by Panasonic and now is a subsidiary of the global giant.

Roma is the market leader in the INR 800 crore modular switch market. The brand was earlier promoted as a sub-brand of Anchor ( Anchor Roma) and was heavily supported by the company interms of its brand building efforts.
Anchor should be very much appreciated for building a brand in a boring product category like switches. The brand was able to change consumer's perception about products like modular switches. One has to take into account that consumers where not considering switches as style statements but as a functional product.

Roma was promoted by Anchor by highlighting its aesthetics and reliability. The brand earlier had the tagline " Zindagi Khubsoorat Banaye "  Watch the ad here : Anchor Roma 

After the acquisition by Panasonic ,  Roma was elevated as an individual brand endorsed by "  Anchor by Panasonic " . Roma also launched its premium range branded as Romoa Viola and promoted by a hyperbole type ad.

Roma is again in the consumer's mindspace because of the new campaign revolving around the brand's claim of being the " Largest selling modular switch brand in India". In positioning parlance, the brand has taken on Category Positioning .
Watch the ads here : Roma Butterfly ad
                                Roma Marble Ad
The ads are created for only one purpose i.e to highlight the fact that Roma is the best selling switches in the country. The brand also have the tagline " India's largest selling modular switches ". This is a straight textbook strategy of owning up the category and positioning as the category leader.
The basic premise of the campaign is that consumers are not aware of the leadership position and the brand wants to remind them so as to assure that they are buying the market leading brand. Although the theme of the ad, its setting has a total disconnect with the product, the campaign however drives the message to the mind of the consumer.
I remember Orpat and Ajanta brands positioning on the platform of being the " Largest ". Being the largest, biggest, etc give some kind of an assurance to the consumers regarding the quality, reliablity , support etc.
Although being the " Largest " has its own set of  advantages, Roma needs to cover its flanks because lot of brands like Legrand, Havell etc were able carve out mindspace by positioning on aesthetics , reliability etc.Harping on being " The Largest " may not be enough.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Denim : For the man who doesn't have to try too hard

Brand : Denim
Company : Hindustan Unilever

Brand Analysis Count : 515

Denim is one of the oldest deodorant brands in India. Although the brand's original launch date is not known, the brand is in existence even before Axe deo's launch in 1996. The brand had a fair share in the Indian market before being eclipsed by Axe Deo. 

Axe deodorant's launch was the event that triggered the near annihilation of Denim brand in India. Axe virtually captured the entire male deodorant market and Denim was left in the sidelines. 
HUL felt that there was no need for two brands with almost similar brand personalities and decided to choose Axe as the major focus area.During that time, there was a brand rationalization exercise code named " Power Brand" strategy where Levers decided to prune the number of brands in its portfolio.

How ever Denim had a small but loyal customer base ( like me). There was something innate for the brand which forced HUL to retain the brand but not as a standalone brand. In 2002, Denim was merged with Axe . Denim had a reasonable presence in the men's grooming market with Talcum Powder ( 4% share) , After Shave ( 18%) and Shaving Cream (8%). The deo was retained as a Product Line Extension of Axe and other products were axed. 
From then on, Denim was staying in the Indian market as a variant thus satisfying many loyal consumers who ware initially charmed by the fragrance, brand name and the character of this brand.

In early 2012, HUL began to turn its attention to Denim . Without much promotion, Denim was  again relaunched as an independent brand. Denim was heavily pushed at the retailer shelves as a low priced deo and Axe endorsement was removed. When most of the deos were at Rs 130 -200 price point, Denim was retailed at Rs 100. Now the company have started promoting Denim through television campaigns. 

Watch the ad here : Denim Deo ad 
The brand retains the original positioning and the classic tagline " For the man who doesn't have to try too hard". 

The Denim brand has moved from an Independent brand to a Line Extension and then to an Independent brand. The brand name has moved from Denim to Axe Denim and to Denim. Where in the marketing textbook we see such a branding strategy !!! We can see these kind of funny experiments only from HUL which houses the best marketing minds of India. In a span of ten years a brand being repositioned twice and brand name changed twice !!
One thing needs to be appreciated is that even though Denim was migrated to Axe, HUL made sure that Denim's brand character is not lost by retaining the brand elements like the color. This has helped the firm to relaunch Denim as an independent brand without confusing the consumer. 

Denim is now the low priced flanker brand for Axe. Denim will protect the Axe brand from the low priced local brands which is nibbling away Axe's share by imitating the positioning. Denim also stands a chance to develop volume from the loyalists and also those looking for a VFM deo brand. 
As a consumer who loved the brand, I am happy that Denim had regained its individuality.Beyond price, there is some powerful brand elements like the brand name , fragrance and a character that still have potential to make this a worthwhile player in the deo category.