Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Marketing Q&A : SEC Classification

Marketing Practice Reader Ajith Pillai asks a very important question
"SEC Classification is not exhaustive…how will you include a housewife..who is not working…but has some required education…what about households where there are two earning members…whose classification will you take…one who is a graduate sales man and the wife is a graduate shop owner… how can the classification of a house hold be done in this case…? I think its High time to Shift to LSM classification in india
Ajith is very true and SEC classification cannot be fully depended as a tool to understand Indian consumers. The main drawback of SEC is that it considers only two parameters , education and earnings. The classification also takes into account the education and earnings of the chief wage earner. So in the case of the example sited by Ajith, the classification fails.

Having said that , there is no alternative to SEC classification right now. There are experts who say that SEC 's failure is noted only on the top 10% of the classification. ie SEC A1 & A2 while the SEC still relevant in other sections where education and earnings of the CWE is a good indicator.

Ajith also mentions the relevance of using LSM. LSM stands for Living Standard Measurement. This is a proprietary tool used by HUL for better understanding of Indian consumers. LSM divides the Indian consumer class into 18 clusters based on 25 parameters. But since it is proprietary , I am not sure whether everyone will be able to use this classification.

It is time for Indian marketers to add more tools for understanding Indian market. The sheer size of the Indian market calls for a huge investment in research . Indian marketers still have some inhibitions in investing in such kind of researches.

Related Post
SEC Classification

Monday, April 28, 2008

Pankajakasthuri : Breathe Easy

Brand : Pankajakasthuri
Company : Pankajakasthuri Herbal Products

Brand Analysis : 323

Pankajakasthuri is an example of successful marketing. Pankajakasthuri is an ayurvedic cure for asthma. The brand came into existence in 1990's. The brand is a classic example of a brand identifying a need and capturing that space using aggressive marketing.

Asthma is a dreaded disease. The disease is dreaded because it changes the entire life of a person to the worse. Although modern medicine has provided new medicines for this disease, a perfect cure is still at bay. The stress associated with the disease and the possible relapse at the older age makes life worse for those who have this condition.

The modern lifestyle is also a perfect feeding ground for such conditions. The increasing pollution, lack of fresh air, lack of exercises and a sedentary lifestyle are all adding to the situation.
It is in this context that Pankajakasthuri gained prominence . Pankajakasthuri claims to be a combination of herbs which offers cure/relief to asthma patients . Pankajakasthuri is the brain child of Dr Hareendran Nair who is also the Managing Director of the company.

Pankajakasthuri was launched as an OTC product. When a medicine is launched as OTC, the biggest issue that it faces is the lack of support from doctors. Hence Pankajakasthuri had to rely on aggressive promotion through advertising campaigns.
The fortune of this brand changed when the brand roped in the Malayalam Superstar Mohanlal as the brand ambassador. From there on , the brand was on a growth track.

Mohanlal and Pankajakasthuri is a perfect example of successful celebrity endorsement. Mohanlal gave the brand excellent visibility and more than that TRUST. The brand was targeting the parents whose kids suffer from asthma. The biggest hurdle for this brand was to get the trust of the customers . Since Pankajakasthuri is a medicine and the end-user was kids, establishing trust was extremely important. The association with celebrity made this task easier for the brand.
The brand also was very aggressive on the media. The campaigns featuring the Star and the brand was hard hitting. The brand was positioned as a life-enhancer rather than a cure.

Watch the TVC here : Pankajakasthuri

Interestingly the brand name do not have any connection with the purpose of the brand. The name was coined by joining the names of the founder's mother and daughter.
The heavyduty campaigns made this brand a bestseller in the Kerala market. Initially the brand was focusing only in the home state. From the revenue from this brand, the company diversified into many categories including FMCG.

Two years back, the brand launched another variant Breathe Eazy which was positioned as a health supplement . The variant is endorsed by another film superstar Madhavan.

The main reason for the success of this brand from its humble begining is the investment on the brand. The brand never rest in the past success. Pankajakasthuri always invested heavily on the brand promotion. The message also has been consistent .

Recently the brand has moved from asthma-cure to healthy-breathing. The brand is now being positioned as a breath-enhancer rather than a cure. But the brand is not without competition. Recently Dabur has launched a similar product Dabur Swasamruth endorsed by Big B.

Pankajakasthuri is an example of a local brand achieving grand success . It also gives confidence to small players to invest more on brand promotion rather than bargaining with the trade.

Marketing Q&A : Ready to Eat Market

A Marketing Practice reader asks the following question

Is the Ready-to Eat( RTE) category going to be affected by inflation/price rise ? Why is that RTE brands are not targeting the bachelors ?

According to ITC press release on March 2008, Indian RTE market is worth around Rs 80-100 crore. The market is somewhat in a stagnant state and the growth is minimal.

The general price rise that we see today will have an impact on most of the food product segments. The Indian middleclass segment spends heavily on food products. Hence when there is a price rise, there is a chance that the consumers will tighten the purse-strings .
In the case of RTE category, the segment is not price sensitive. As you are aware of , RTE products are highly priced and is often targeting the upper middle and higher segments of the society. Hence a general price rise may not have an impact on this segment.

Unlike the western market, RTE brands have not been able to break into Indian consumers kitchen in a big way. It is more of a cultural issue aggravated by the price factor. Even though many Indian households are ripe for such a category, the brands have not been able to make an impact. Many middleclass have now women working which makes this category relevant. But there is a cultural preference for freshly cooked food.

The price and taste is also a dampener. The value proposition of RTE products are not attractive for an average Indian consumer. In my experience, the packs does not have enough contents to justify the price. This has prevented many repeat purchases. Again , the same taste of the food also inhibits customers to checkout the products often. For non-vegetarian dishes, consumers are doubtful whether the food will remain unspoilt for such a long period. Hence there is a inhibition of buying these foods regularly.

Regarding the bachelor segment, RTE cannot target this segment because of two reasons :
For the bachelor segment, I doubt whether the size is big enough to be considered as a target segment.
Second, this segment mostly prefers fast food joints and restaurants and RTE brands maynot be able to bring in a new habit of cooking oneself among these consumers.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Brand Update : Ceat

The rebranding bug has caught Ceat too. The brand is now sporting a new logo. The saddest part is that Ceat has done away with the famous mascot ( Rhino) and the golden tagline " Born Tough".

The Rhino mascot has been with Ceat for almost 50 years. The tagline was also deeply etched in the mind of the public. According to Harsh Goenka , the reason for changing the mascot is that there is a general perception that Rhinos are getting extinct and is a sloth. ( Source : Financial Express). Hence the brand wants to change into something modern. I think it is one of the most unconvincing reasons for changing such a blockbuster mascot .
Currently the brand is promoting the new logo. The new logo is being promoted in the same way as Vodafone. Both TVC and print campaigns scream " Change is inevitable" and " Change is here ". No wonder the agency is O&M which handled the Hutch - Vodafone rebranding. The current campaign is a cut-copy-paste of the " Change is Good " campaign for Vodafone.

The brand also denounced its tagline " Born Tough ". The current re-branding campaign is only talking about the logo and the new tagline is not revealed.
The question now remains as to why a brand would want to change a mascot and slogan which is deeply embedded in the consumer's mind. It has to be noted that Ceat has never invested in the brand. Except for some occasional bursts of campaigns, Ceat never invested in the brand. If people still remember the brand, its because of the power of the mascot and the slogan and not because of any sustained campaigns. By denouncing the most powerful brand elements, Ceat has taken a big risk.
I think the current rebranding exercise is not going to be sustained over time. After the rebranding, the brand will again go in for a silent mode and also may be forgotten by the consumers.

Related Brand

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Yera : Think Glass, Think Class

Brand : Yera
Company : Shreno Ltd ( Alembic Glassware)

Brand Analysis Count : 322

Yera is a brand that has redefined the glassware market in India. This brand can be credited with popularising glassware in Indian households . Yera is a brand which came into existence in 1965. The brand now holds a lions share in the Indian glassware market in India. The brand can be said as the pioneer in promoting glassware in India

The emergence of glassware as a serving-ware came through the restaurant route. My assumption is that the first glass serving -ware was the glass tumbler that is still used in restaurants and hotels. It is interesting to note that still 80% of Yera's turnover is from the no-frill tumbler ( source:HDFC securities)
Now Yera has almost 150 different designs of glassware ranging from tumblers, icecream bowls to dinner sets.

Yera became popular household name mainly as a gifting item. At one time Yera was the most sought after gifting item for the 'gifters' . The main factor being the Price. From a range starting as low as Rs 100, Yera made gifting easy. But yera was a nightmare for the gift-receiver. After the ocassion, the house will be full of different types of Yera products.The institutional segment also boosted the turnover for this brand . Now in Kerala, many textiles uses Yera products for gifting the customers.

The brand now faces two issues :
a. Cheap glassware products from local players and also cheap imports have hurted Yera most. Yera now operates in the low-price segment and the flooding of products has commoditized the category .

b. Although Yera had some campaigns for brand-building, the brand was primarily playing the pricing game. Although the brand has made glassware popular, it has not been able to upgrade itself into a premium player in the segment. This is the typical ' class or mass' dilemma. I am not advocating that Yera should be targeting the premium segment and forgo the volume. But the doubt is whether Yera can command some premium over the rest of the players in this market.

The brand also failed to see the emergence of Crystalware as the preferred category for the premium customers. Now this segment has foreign players and La Opala's Solitaire.

To be fair to the brand, the glassware market is very small. I got a 2001 figure putting the glassware market in the range of Rs 25 crore. Now I estimate this market in the range of Rs 60 crore.
The glassware market is also moving towards ceramic wares which are more stylish and up-market looking. Yera has the power of its brand equity to take it through the price competition from cheap imports and local players. But the brand is silent in the media and I don't remember any campaigns for this brand in the last 2-3 years.

In a market full of price-competitors, Yera cannot afford to rely on past glory . The brand may fade from the memory of the new generation. What the brand needs now is a measured dose of brand- building campaigns . According to the brand's website, Yera boasts of having a brand recall of 84%. The brand must consistently build on the existing platform.

I would even suggest a complete makeover for the 'brand'. The brand should think of upgrading itself to a premium player. The brand should exit from commodity mindset and start its journey towards a value-added player. The brand has the tagline " Think Glass, Think Class ". It should be focusing on the class part.

The brand is now having commanding mind-share. Now is the time for the brand to ladder-up.
Laddering is deepening the meaning of the brand to core brand values or other more abstract considerations. ( Kevin Lane Keller)

The brand should ladder-up to some higher attribute like enjoyment, togetherness etc. The laddering-up will help the brand to move a notch higher from the price-players. And such a focus on non-glass attribute will bring back the interest of consumers to the brand. A heavy dose of campaigns and some celebrity can boost the image of this pioneer.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Brand Update : Peter England

Yesterday, the outgoing students of the Public Relations Stream of my institute presented me with a Peter England shirt in appreciation of all the branding funda I taught them. It was long time since I happen to get my favorite brand of shirt. Ever since my marriage, my wife has been experimenting with a whole lot of shirt brands on me ( except Peter England ) . It was good to see my favorite brand again .

I began noticing subtle but serious changes with the brand over the last year. The brand is having a very slow and steady makeover. The makeover is not cosmetic but may result in a complete change in the entire brand DNA.

From the year 2003 itself, Madura Garments has been toying with the idea of taking the brand away from the mass market segment .As we know, Peter England is one of the largest selling readymade brand with a steady focus on the value segment.

Madura Garments - now a part of Aditya Birla Group has been trying to raise the image & premium of this brand but could not let go of the intense equity that Peter England has made in the mass market segment.
In my last post on this brand, I had mentioned that the brand has changed its slogan from " The Honest Shirt ' to " Honestly Impressive " . The idea was to bring in a new set of brand value : creating impressions.

This year , the brand has fully changed its DNA from the Value Brand to an Aspirational Brand. Aspiration not like the expensive Louis Philippe ( aspiration to own ) but the aspiration to impress. The brand has the new slogan " Impressions Everyday " .

The entire communication of the brand has changed. The brand now has Foreign Models, Foreign Locations and a new image. The brand is running a heavy-duty print campaign for its Summer/Spring collection. Needless to say, the ads are honestly impressive.

Peter England is now projected as an ' everyday use ' brand but that which creates impression. So in a sense, the brand has not forgotten its Value proposition.
Along with the change in the communication, Peter England also has made a confident foray into the premium segment with a sub-brand :Elite. Peter England Elite competes with the likes of Louis Philippe and Van Heusen .

I liked Peter England because it is a no-nonsense shirt. I can wear it everyday and can buy it with confidence . An occasional tea spill or ink spill will not make me grimace . I don't need to because I can always buy another one.

Now with the brand moving into a premium segment offers new challenge to its marketers. The brand may leave a large void in the mid-segment of the market. This segment is very price sensitive and even a couple of 100 bucks can tilt the decision. My argument is that for this segment there is a big difference between a shirt retailing for Rs 595 and one that is costing Rs 795 although the difference is only Rs 200. The brand may have the strategy of offering the range at price points between Rs 600 - Rs 1000.

There are lot of brands like John Players are waiting to grab that space if Peter England decides to go premium.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Brand Update : Lux

I cannot but watch this brand with a sense of awe. Lux and the brand's sustenance at the top of the product lifecycle.
There is never a dull moment for this brand. Be it the Chocolate Seduction or the Black Provocateur. Now Lux has launched two exotic variants : Lux Strawberry & Cream and Lux Peach & Cream.

The new variants are the fruit based soap which is now the flavor of the season. Lux has always been in the forefront of identifying and creating new trends in soap flavors.
What is interesting about the two new variants is that these are not promoted using sub-brands. As you may recall , most of the new launches in the recent past for Lux has been using sub-brands.

We had Lux Crystal Shine, Lux Provocateur , Chocolate Seduction etc. I had commented on my last post that HUL may have forgotten the Core brand Lux.

My fears are now found addressed as the new variants represent the core brand . My argument is substantiated by the fact that both these variants contains Cream which is the essence of the Original brand Lux.
The new launch also assumes significance in the light of heightened competition from ITC brand Vivel Di Wills. Vivel has been promoted with Film Stars and also comes in new exotic flavors.

Strawberry is going to be a new trend in the personal care market. I think it was started by Parachute Starz which is heavily promoted as having strawberry extracts.

Soap is a product where loyalty of customers lie not in a single brand but a basket of brands. Since the investment for the product is negligible, consumers are not averse to trying out new flavors or brands. Hence the task for any soap brand is to keep engaging the consumer at either the product lever or at the promotional level.
Brands like Santoor has been investing in promotions while the product essentially remained the same. Lux is taking the product route where consumers are engaged with new flavors and variants.
The new Lux variants are promoted exhaustively in women's magazines. What I liked about both these variants is that it is tempting. Both Strawberry and Peach has a tempting effect to it and I am sure that many consumers will try out these variants.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Feels Good

Three of India's celebrated bloggers considered Marketing Practice blog worthwhile to be featured in their " The best of Indian Business Blogs : Weekly Digest by your trusted business bloggers ".

Mr Gautham Ghosh , Mr Rajesh Lalwani and Mr Gaurav Mishra has put their valuable comments on my analysis of Tata Sumo Grande .

Thanks A lot.

Also Marketing Practice has been included in Adage Power 150 . Adage Power 150 from Advertising Age ranks the best of World's Top marketing and media blogs. The ranking is done by Todd Andrilik and managed by Charlie Moran. Marketing Practice is ranked #317 in the current list. Hope to break into #150 one day :)

Marketing practice is also featured in Alltop's new India centric single page aggregator site.

It really feels good.

A big thank you to all the readers .

LML Vespa :RIP 1960-2006

Brand : Vespa
Company : LML

Brand Analysis Count : 321

Vespa is an interesting brand firstly because it was a brand which was once bestselling and now dead and secondly because of its unique history in India.
Vespa first came to India in 1960 with a collaboration with Bajaj Auto. The technical collaboration ended in 1971 and Bajaj and Vespa parted ways. Vespa at that time was considered an iconic scooter brand globally and the brand was owned by Piaggio. Piaggio then joined hands with the Kanpur based Lohia Machines Ltd ( LML) in 1983 and started to roll out the Vespa range of Scooters. By that time Bajaj was ruling the market with the iconic Chetak .
Vespa came to India with a more powerful 150 cc scooters but could not met with success in the Indian market. But launch of LML Select in 1993 was an instant success. The company also revamped the NV series which began to shore up the volumes. during 1991, LML was facing its worst financial crises and the company was referred to BIFR. It was Vespa NV that brought the company back to black . By 1998, LML was the second largest scooter manufacturer in India with a market share of over 28 %.
But the JV between LML and Piaggio did not last long. In 1999 the JV was called off with LML buying Piaggio's stake. LML decided to go alone with the scooters. It dropped the brand name Vespa and continued selling LML NV and LML Select brands .

But during these times, the entire two wheeler industry was redefined . Scooters made way to Motorcycles . Sensing this shift, LML ventured into motorcycles. In 2003, LML launched its first bike in India branded as Freedom. But the entry into motorcycles was a disaster.

LML was falling into severe financial crisis. A labour unrest at the Kanpur plant proved to be the last nail. In 2006, LML closed down the operation of its Kanpur plant. And it was the end of Vespa Scooters.

When scooters was considered a work- machine, it was Vespa which redefined the market. Vespa was stylish and contemporary. It was elegant, youthful and more balanced compared to the sturdy Chetak. While Chetak was the price warrior, Vespa was always the premium scooter. Vespa was commanding the premium for the looks since the technology that drove both Chetak and Vespa was the same.

But like Chetak, Vespa was also myopic. It failed to see the sweeping changes that was happening to the two wheeler market. LML was not able to upgrade the scooters since the JV with Piaggio was called off. It was also reeling under severe financial crisis. These coupled with the shift in focus to motorcycles paved the way for the death of this stylish scooter. LML still manufactures and exports Vespa to US where it sells as Stella and also to UK.

LML could not emulate the success of TVS in launching indigenous technology and surviving the aftermath of a failed technical collaboration. The company also could not replicate the success of Bajaj which reaped rewards by entering the Motorcycle segment. The failure of LML Vespa is a bitter lesson to all Indian business who depend on foreign partners for technology. The problems with most JV's happen with the issue of control. While Indian partners want technology, seldom does Indian entrepreneurs want to lose control over their companies. During the licence raj , foreign partners used to succumb to this because there was no other way to enter the Indian market. But post - liberalisation, Indian market is a level playing ground. Indian business either have to shore up their investment in R& D or may have to negotiate hard with the JV partner on power-sharing.

Piaggio have a presence in Indian market in the three-wheeler segment. The resurgance of scooter market has inspired Piaggio to re-enter the Indian market with the Vespa brand. According to news reports, 2008 may see the re-entry of Vespa once again to India.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Brand Update : Asian Paints

It has been a year since I updated on this brand. Over this one year, the brand has been concentrating on its premium range Asian Paints Royale and also Apex Ultima. I have not seen any campaign for the Core Brand :- Asian Paints.

But the focus has remained the same : Colors.

Asian Paints has been using the brand ambassador Saif to the maximum for the Royale Range. But I definetely missed the sequel to the classic campaign " Kyunki Har rang kuch kahta hain " ( Every Color has a story). But I am not complaining since the brand is still owning the 'color'.

Now the brand is back into my radar for a unique customer centric innovation. The innovation is not something revolutionary but simple commonsense. The brand has came out with samplers.

The concept is very simple, now you can purchase a small 200 ml pack of Asian Paints and try it on the wall to see how the color will look like in your wall. So rather than depending in the color cards, the consumer can actually see the painted portion of the wall and make the final decision about the color.

The samplers make good sense for consumers. It is very difficult for the consumer to imagine how a room would look like by looking at the color card. Now he has a chance to paint a small portion to see how the color will look like in realty . Ofcourse the consumer will have to 'buy' these samplers while imagination comes free of cost.

This concept has been perfectly captured by the latest TVC where the husband tries to explain a color to the wife. He then symbolically asks the architect " How can anyone imagine a color , yaar? "

This innovation can be easily replicated by any competitors but the fact is that the idea belongs to Asian Paints. Then the question arises whether the consumer will pay for the samplers and paint on a wall to see the real color. Something which only time will tell.

But I feel that this move stems from a consumer insight that often customers feel that what they expected of the color and what comes out after the painting has a difference. Often the color in the colorcard and that painted on the wall may not deliver the same effect . This has even prompted customers to play safe and not experiment with new colors.

The samplers are often a good way to empower the consumers and make their color selection perfect. Another consumer insight is that educated customers now take more time and effort in selecting the right colors for their homes. People either rely on architects or read mags and books to find out the right color which matches their lifestyle and tastes.
This little innovation will go a long way in choosing the right color for their homes.

In a way these moves will enable the brand to surpass an important influencer in this product's purchase : the painter and the retailer.
With empowering the consumer more, Asian Paints will find more meaning in the brand building exercises because the entire decision making power is given to the end consumer.

Related Brand

Asian Paints

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Fastrack : How many you have ?

Brand : Fastrack
Company : Titan
Agency : Lowe Lintas

Brand Analysis Count : 320

Two years back when I wrote about Titan watches, I had mentioned Fastrack brand as a sub-brand of Titan. Now this sub-brand has grown to become a fully independent brand. Fastrack was launched in 1998. The brand was aimed at the youth segment (15-25). The brand was promoted with the slogan "Cool Watches from Titan "

Essentially Fastrack was a sub-brand endorsed by the Titan Brand. In most of the campaigns , the brand was promoted as Titan Fastrack. The brand was targeting young consumers who was moving towards the competitor Timex. It was during this time that Timex and Titan parted ways.

Fastrack had a good start . during the first year, the brand clocked a turnover of Rs 15 crore. The good run continued till 2001-2002 and the brand was worth Rs 25 crore at that period. But the sales stagnated. Although the brand appealed to the youngsters, price was significant dampener.The brand found that the target group which consisted of college students could not afford this brand. ( source : Business Standard)

During 2003-04, the brand went in for a repositioning exercise targeting executive segment aswellas casual watch segment. It was a suicidal experiment . The brand sales came down to Rs 23 crore. The change in positioning did not fit well with the brand. The consumers were not willing to pay Rs 1200-2700 for a watch that did not have the executive image.

It was in 2004 that Fastrack launched its range of sunglasses. The move was made after a consumer research which shoed that mobiles/deo/sports shoes and sunglasses are popular accessories in the purchase list of youngsters. And Sunglasses fitted perfectly as a brand extension for Fastrack. In my personal view, sunglasses offered a great opportunity for the brand. There was no Indian brand of sunglasses at that time. The brands available was Ray-Ban and other foreign brands which were imported. These brands was damn expensive and often consumers chose local unbranded sunglasses.

In 2005, the brand went for another repositioning exercise with a new logo and new positioning. The brand adopted the famous break-away positioning of Swatch. The brand decided to target the youngsters again but for that the brand had to break the price barrier.
The brand discarded the steely look of the watches and looked at a mix of plastic and steel. It was a perfect cut-copy from the strategy adopted by Swatch . By doing so, the brand was able to reduce the price range to Rs 500.

The brand then took the help of advertising to change the perception of watches as a functional tool to a fashion accessory. The brand launched a campaign with the slogan " How many you have ".

The campaign , the positioning and the price was a great hit . The brand sales zoomed to Rs 35 crore. The sunglasses also contributed significantly to this sales boost.
Fastrack have adopted the following core brand values

Fashionable and trendy
Affordable Pricing
Fresh Communication to attract the young consumers. The brand wanted to be the ultimate fashion accessory for the youth.

For the sunglasses, the brand roped in the youth icon John Abraham as the brand ambassador. The celebrity fitted well with the brand. Taking a cue from the fact that most of the TG for Fastrack owned a bike, Fastrack launched a biker's collection which again is a classic example of consumer-centric product innovation.
The latest innovation is the neon - disc range of Fastrack watches that does not have Hands to show the time but have electroluminescent disc that lits up to show the time.

Another advantage for this brand is the freshness that the agency had bought in its communication. Most of the Fastrack ads has been refreshing. The brand had adopted a 360 degree approach in its communication and it is an example of a brand which had used Social media to its advantage.
Watch some of the Fastrack campaigns here : Fastrack

But the brand is facing a grave issue in the market. The issue is not regarding the branding but with the channels. In the case of Swatch, the brand had adopted an innovative approach towards the channels. According to the Harvard Case Study on Swatch, it is mentioned that Swatch launched a Veggie range of watches ( it had shapes of vegetables ) and this range was sold in vegetable shops.
But in the case of Fastrack, the brand had not gained the support of the channel members.The channel does not support both sunglasses and watches. The above observation is from my personal experience. In the case of watches, except for Titan exclusive showrooms, other watch retailers does not stock the full range of Fastrack watches and neither they offer spares like straps. I went to replace the strap of my Fastrack but had to be satisfied with one which was local made and that does not fit with the design. The retailer to whom I went was a premium dealer of watches and he said that the reason for not stocking Fastrack is that the design changes very fast.
For Fastrack sunglasses, the retailers are the usual opticians. I found ( in my city) that either these retailers does not stock the sunglasses or are not interested in selling . The reason they say is that Titan is trying to sell the sunglasses in stores other than opticians. Hence opticians are not interested in selling this brand. The fact is that 90 % of Sunglasses sales happen with Opticians.

Fastrack had tried to explore new channel for its sunglasses range. I have seen a couple of lifestyle stores displaying the range. But when I wanted to buy a specific model, I did not find that in any of the store. I had to go to the online store and buy the glass.
No brand can escape the channel conflict when it tries to explore a new channel . In the case of Fastrack, it is facing resistance from the conventional channel when the brand tried to explore new channel.

It is a nightmare for any brand manager to handle the issues connected with a brand like Fastrack. One one hand, the brand have to keep the consumer interest growing by launching new models and also updating cool communication . One the other hand, the frequent design changes calls for intense dealer support . The low price for the watches often translates to low margin to retailers thus dampening their enthusiasm for promoting this brand. The brand is trying to workaround this issue through its online store but the fact is that online cannot replace the conventional channel atleast in the immediate future.

Despite these issues, the brand has been a hit with young consumers. I noticed this brand in the wrist of most of my students . Once I asked a question to my students whether Fastrack watches are 'cheap ' ?To my surprise, none of the students think that Fastrack is cheap despite its ' cheap ' price. They corrected me that Fastrack is affordable and not cheap. That is a great achievement for a brand which has a price range which starts with Rs 500 but still is not considered cheap. The brand had successfully established itself as a fashion accessory rather than as a watch. My personal experience as a consumer for both watch and sunglasses is positive. The brand has not compromised on quality.

The brand need to sort the distribution strategy to move into the next level. Swatch also faced the issue of retailer resistance initially but the equity generated by the brand eclipsed the resistance. Fastrack also should be able to build the brand into a level where retailers have to stock this brand due to consumer pressure.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Tata Sumo Grande : More Than Meets The Eye

Brand : Sumo Grande
Company : Tata Motors

Brand Analysis Count : 319

Tata Motors is in the news for all the good reasons. The latest news being the acquisition of Jaguar & Land Rover. Along with this big news was the relaunch of Tata Sumo.
Tata Sumo is a brand that redefined the commercial vehicle market in India. Tata Sumo was launched in 1994 based on the popular Tata 207 platform.

At that time, the commercial vehicle market was dominated by Mahindra Jeeps. I can say that there was no Multi-Utility Vehicle ( MUV) category . Sumo was an instant success . The success was due to the time-tested value for money proposition. Sumo became the darling of those running passenger-moving business.
The vehicle was rugged, cost effective and spacious,looked good and was ideal for Indian road conditions.

Right from the launch itself Tata Motors tried to position Sumo as a family utility vehicle. As usual the brand was not perceived as a family vehicle. The main reason being the looks. Sumo looked and felt like a commercial vehicle. At that time Tata was perceived to be a truck manufacturer and that secondary association weakened the positioning of Tata Sumo as a family vehicle.
But the good news was the wide acceptance of Sumo as a commercial vehicle. Tour operators and taxi segment embraced this vehicle and soon Sumo became the market leader.

But early 2000 saw the emergence of new competition. Mahindra Bolero and Toyota Qualis gave a new meaning to the category which Sumo created. Qualis redefined the segment and became the market leader. It was also a signal of a shift in customer preferences in this segment. Even passenger-mover segment began to look for attributes like luxury , comfort, styling etc.

But Sumo was a brand that tried to change with times. Although no major changes were made to the product, Tata Motors nurtured the brand with cosmetic changes and tweaking here and there. Tata was not complaining since volume was not bad.The brand also launched a low priced variant Tata Spacio to fight the price competition.

The major change that happened to Sumo was in 2004. Sumo relaunched itself as Sumo Victa. Beyond cosmetic changes, the product had major changes like Power Windows, Power Steering etc. The brand was struggling at that time from the competition from Qualis. But Qualis withdrew from the market in 2004 to move into a new category of luxury MUV with Innova.
Innova soon gained acceptance as a family MUV - a place which Sumo wanted.

Sumo Victa during these period ran a campaign highlighting the positioning of a family vehicle. The campaign featured different profiles of people who had traveled offbeaten paths. The campaign was significant since it was more of a brand building exercise for Sumo. Till that time , all the ads of Sumo was talking about features rather than the brand.

Sumo Victa had the slogan " Kuch Log Sumo Chalate hain " translated to " Some drive a Sumo " . The message was that those who drives Sumo are those who have traveled the ' road less traveled'. But still the brand could not acquire the status of a family vehicle or a vehicle for individual use. But the brand had a set of customers who ran one-man-show business. For them Sumo provided twin benefit of business and family vehicle.

2008 saw something revolutionary. Tata Motors launched Sumo Grande. Sumo Grande has no resemblance to the older version of Sumo. Infact auto analysts say that Sumo Grande is an entirely new vehicle with new engine , new features and a new look.

There is no similarity between Grande and the original Sumo. Grande is positioned as a family car that feels like an SUV. By the look of it, Sumo Grande is an SUV. The brand is currently running a TVC with an international touch. The tvc shot in a foreign location has a catchy music, foreign model and a nice twist. The ad gives a clear support to the positioning of Sumo Grande as an SUV. The brand now has a new slogan " More than meets the eye " . The positioning is based on the premise that Sumo Grande delivers more than what you think it would.

But a big question is regarding the brand name. Why did Tata retain the brand Sumo. The new product is refreshingly new and everything about the brand is new, except the brand name. And for the first time, Grande looks and feels like a vehicle for individuals rather than commercial. The design has smooth curves and imposing looks of an SUV unlike the boxy Sumo. The interiors are spruced up. But Why the brand Sumo.

In theory we talk about the importance of brand associations. Sumo has strong associations with commercial vehicles. Whether Tata likes it or not, Sumo was never perceived to be a family brand. When such a strong association is existing , why did the brand use that name ?
May be the marketers at the company is not confident about launching a new brand . Tata Grande would have been a fine brand with an excellent product. Tatas could have easily drove into the mind of Indian consumers as a family SUV. Branding could have been more effective and Grande would not have to carry the burden of Sumo.

This is an exact reversal of the Maruti Zen example. When Zen was relaunched, the brand had positive association while the new product failed to deliver. In this case the brand have negative association and the product have excellent deliverables.

One reason can be the existing equity of Sumo in the commercial segment. It is where the brand has to decide on the segment. If Grande wants to take the position of Sumo in the commercial segment, it should adopt the brand name Sumo Grande. But then it should forget the family segment. If the brand decides to segment the family segment , the brand name could have been Tata Grande with no reference to Sumo. Tata could either retain the original Sumo or kill that brand which has reached the decline stage of the product-lifecycle.

But what Tata tried is to satisfy both segments which can be dangerous. I am sure that if Tata Grande delivers on performance, the commercial segment will definitely embrace the brand. Scorpio is an example where the brand is positioned as an SUV and is also successful as a commercial passenger mover. Even Tata could have introduced a variant of Grande aimed at commercial segment.

Having said that, I would like to add that Indian consumers believe in functionality more than anything else. Sumo Grande looks promising and initial auto-reviews are also positive. The brand comes with a neat price tag of Rs 6.5 lakhs to Rs 7.5 Lakhs. So there is a good probability that many individuals will try out this brand.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Brand Update : Lifebuoy

Today I was surprised to see a Lifebuoy ad featuring Yuvraj Singh . On a quick search, I found an unconfirmed economic times report on Yuvraj Singh roped in to endorse Lifebuoy.
It is for the first time that Lifebuoy is being endorsed by a cricketer. And ever since the brand has repositioned itself as a family soap, it was not endorsed by any celebrity.
And according to media reports , HUL has resisted using cricketing celebrities for their brands.
However, as a marketer who loves the brand " Lifebuoy " , I am terribly disappointed.

Disappointed because of two reason :
a. The use of celebrity.
b. The choice of celebrity.

Lifebuoy do not need a celebrity. From the earlier days itself , the brand had built itself without relying on any personalities. Even without those beauties and hunks, the brand had given us some path-breaking advertisement campaigns. The brand had that terrific power to stand on its own feet. But then why the use of a celebrity ?

Secondly, the choice. Yuvraj is a terrific cricketer but I have never seen him " performing " in commercials. Secondly he is an absolute mismatch for the current positioning of the brand. Lifebuoy's latest positioning statement " Koi Dar Nahin " is based on the time tested promise of protection from germs. How Yuvi is going to do good with the current positioning is something to wait and watch.

The current campaign is for a contest as a part of the consumer promotion scheme and does not give any indication to a change in positioning. So we may have to wait for the next commercial to see whether Lifebuoy has taken a serious repositioning exercise. But how will Yuvraj add value to a family brand is something that confuses me. Only logic that I see is that Yuvi is a rage among Kids. I have a feeling that the brand has lost its confidence of standing on its own.

Lifebuoy has long been known for its commercials featuring kids . One of the latest commercials which I liked most is that of Lifebuoy Care. The TVC features a girl outsmarting boys in a football game.

Watch the TVC here : Lifebuoy football

Some of the blockbuster campaigns like ' Little Gandhi ' was made without the help of any celebrities. It will never be the same again with a celebrity.
But the temptation is so strong. Yuvi is expected to bring in lot of eyeballs from Kids and HUL hopes that kids will pester parents for Lifebuoy. But that sounds a little cheap for Lifebuoy who boasted " Koi Dar Nahi " ( No need to fear )

I would like to ask this question to Lifebuoy : Dar Gaya kya ? ( are you afraid ? )

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Brand Update : Perk

After successfully launching the Ulta Perk, Cadbury's has launched yet another campaign for Perk. This time, the brand has got the communication right. The ad adopts the theme from the movies like Cast Away and adds a twist to it

Watch the ad here : Perk new ad

Although the theme is old, there is some thing refreshing about the execution. The brand now takes the new slogan "This is life, Take it Lightly " . The ad reminds me of the first positioning of Perk around the concept of
" light snack ".

The new positioning of Perk is refreshing and powerful. If carefully executed the new theme of " taking life lightly " has the power to catch the mind of the younger audience. The younger generation would love the attitude of taking life lightly.Also the theme has the power to sustain for a reasonable period of time.