Sunday, February 26, 2012

Brand Update : Will Airlines' Failure Affect Kingfisher's Brand's Equity ?

The much hyped and celebrated Kingfisher airlines is in big trouble. UB group decided to extend its beer brand to airlines and executed the branding in perfect style. The beer brand and the airline brands gelled with each other in terms of positioning and brand attributes. The airlines further reinforced the fun and exciting attribute of the parent beer brand.
Kingfisher Airlines failure is  the failure of its business model. The business tried to grow too fast burning its cash in the process. Now the brand has been criticized by the same media which once sang its glory as the poster boy of extravaganza and customer delight.
Now Kingfisher as a brand is facing its worst PR nightmare. The Airlines failed to honor its schedules resulting in a series of cancellations which led to customers getting stranded. Whatever equity that the brand had built-up seems to be gone down the drain.
So the interesting question is whether the whole issue of Kingfisher Airlines will affect its parent brand " Kingfisher beer " ? Often in marketing classes, we used to talk about the negative effect of a brand extensions failure on the parent brand. Will the same apply to the beer brand ? 

Branding literature suggest that the failure of a brand extension will affect the parent brand only if there is a strong perceived fit or similarity between the extension and the parent brand.The damage to the parent brand is more if the extension is in the similar category. In the case of Kingfisher, the similarity is only in the positioning and the categories are poles apart - one is beverage and other is a service. Another instance of the damage to parent brand occurs when there is similarity in the customer groups that use the extension. Generally literature suggests that parent brands are not much affected by the extensions' failures. ( Reference : Brands and Branding  : Research and future implications, Lehmann & Keller,2006, Marketing Science)

So it can be safely argued that the equity of Kingfisher beer will not be much affected by airline's failure. Further , the absence of competition, the ban on advertising will help the beer brand and competitors cannot take advantage of the current issue.
The extension - Kingfisher Airlines is going to have a tough time getting back the credibility of the consumers if it survives the current crisis. Consumers have a short memory and Kingfisher Airlines can find solace in that.

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Kingfisher : The King of Good Times

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Brand Update : 7UP Wants You to Feel UP

Certain brands change its taglines at the drop of a hat. 7Up, the lemon flavored softdrink brand from Pepsico is one such brand. The brand which re-energized the lemon flavored softdrink market in India after the demise of Limca is in a way struggling to find a sustainable positioning.

The brand which was launched in 1990 quickly gained traction in the Indian market largely due to the branding exercise centered around the mascot Fido Dido. The brand , for some reason or the other, decided to drop the famous mascot and began to concentrate on the " lemon " factor. The brand then adopted the tagline " The lemon drink'.
Later the brand decided to focus on the brand benifit - refreshing taste and adopted the tagline " Mood ko do lemon ka lift ". Then yet again in 2010, the brand went into anger management mode using the  tagline " Bheja Fry, 7Up Try " . In 2011, the brand roped in bollywood actor Sharman Joshi as brand ambassador and  adopted the positioning strategy centered around the coolness factor . The brand had the tagline  which was then changed to " chill machao " .

The brand couldn't find a tagline which really worked or established a sustainable positioning platform . One saving grace is that the brand however kept revolving around the coolness factor in these brand communications.

This summer , 7Up again changed its positioning and had a rebranding exercise whereby the logo has been changed to reflect the brand's international persona. Along with the new brand logo, 7UP is also running its 2012 summer campaign.
The new campaign is around the theme of "optimism" or upliftment.. The brand uses the " UP" term in the brand name to further reinforce the current positioning of optimism
Watch the new campaign : Sharman Joshi ( 7UP)

The brand has adopted yet another new tagline . The new tagline is " Dil BoleI Feel UP " . The positioning theme is that the brand lifts your optimism ( mood). The new ad features Sharman Joshi shaking a leg with a penguin. Other than that , there is not much wow in the new campaign. Another interesting fact is that 7UP decided to bring its Nimbooz brand also in the current campaign thus saving on the cost.

According to a report in ET, lemon flavored drinks were growing at 16-17% in the last year making it the fastest growing category in Rs 10,500 crore Indian softdrinks market. This season is expected to witness lot of action in this segment.
7UP in my opinion is struggling to find its positioning. Frequent changes in the slogan and advertising theme reflects this confusion. That confusion is not good for the brand in long-term. How ever practitioners argue on this citing freshness and rising sales . But to create a sustainable brand equity ,consistency in the positioning theme is a must. Otherwise the sales of the brand depends purely on the promotional spend and every year the brand needs to reinvent the wheel. Globally, the brand has the slogan " Be Yourself, Be Refreshing " is a wonderful positioning platform. But 7UP however chose to ignore it and the eternal search continues.,

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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Mahindra XUV 500 : Inspired by Cheetah

Brand : Mahindra XUV 500
Company : Mahindra

Brand Analysis Count : # 508

Mahindra launched its first product from its first global SUV platform branded as XUV 500 in the Indian market. The launch was witnessed with great interest by motor enthusiasts since XUV 500 was perceived as a successor to the iconic Mahindra Scorpio. Mahindra virtually shook the SUV market in India when it launched its Scorpio brand in 2002. Auto enthusiasts were expecting something similar this time too.

And Mahindra did not disappoint at all.

XUV 500 excited the market with its bold masculine looks and a very aggressive pricing. The brand which priced itself at Rs 10.81 -12 Lakh for its two variants literally sent shock-waves to the  competitor landscape. The price was juicy for the C-segment car customers to think about XUV as an option. The company has rightly nailed both the product and the price.
According to the newsreports , through XUV 500, the company intends to create a category in the Rs 10-15 lakh segment. There is a gap that exists between Scorpio and the premium SUVs and this brand is expected to fill the gap.

Right from the brand's launch announcement, the company has been presenting the idea that XUV 500 was inspired by Cheetah. Cheetah which is known for its speed and agility was a perfect metaphor for the attributes that XUV wanted to project. 
The teaser ad for XUV launch was bang on with the idea of being Cheetah Inspired.

Watch the teaser ad : XUV Teaser

The idea of using the Cheetah as the metaphor is really smart because of the ease with which that convey's the brand's projected attributes. But all those build-up got wasted when I saw the launch campaign of this brand.
Watch the launch campaign : XUV ( I don't like Carrots)
This launch campaign would easily be one of the horrible ads in recent times. The client brief would be something like " Let us build a horrible ad and see whether a good product would sell despite bad advertising".
There is nothing much to talk about this launch campaign. The campaign neither has a big idea nor has some newness in execution. Jungle, hunk, scantily clad man-eating ladies and XUV... There is no trace of any logic or marketing thought behind the ad. To add to the insult, there are some phrases like " I hate Carrots " I am Hungry etc . May be the agency thought XUV 500 was a deo with some fruit and vegetable flavors ! What a waste !
Having said that, in the automotive market, it is the product that build brands and not the other way around. Despite this hopeless ad, consumers will buy this brand and may even evangelize it  if the product proves itself . Ads mainly play a supportive role in most cases. But there are brands which create an aura with smart advertising which later transforms the product dominated brand ( tangible attributes) to an intangible dominated brand. That is how iconic brands are created.  
XUV 500 wasted a terrific opportunity to build a brand using promotion. The brand was thinking about linking itself with adventure stories of its users but the execution killed that idea. There is no connection between Cheetah, the brand and the current advertising theme. Cheetahs are hunters but in the current ad, the brand user gets hunted.  Its just an ad but more than a poor ad, the brand lost a very crucial brand building opportunity. 

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Campaign Trail :Is Birla Sunlife Exploiting Yuvraj ?

A small controversy is brewing in the ad world regarding the latest campaign of Birla Sunlife featuring India's youth icon Yuvraj Singh. Yuvi was endorsing the Birla Sunlife brand for some time now. The campaign runs on the theme of highs and lows of the life and how one should prepare for such events. The last campaign was aired when Yuvi was in a bad patch and was kept out of the team because of poor form. The ad really struck a chord because here was one famous cricketer who was criticized by all for his poor form. The series of ads featured cricketers like Sewag who also faced similar performance issues.

Watch the ad here : Yuvraj Birla old ad

This time around, things were different. Yuvraj was diagnosed with cancer and is undergoing treatment in US. There is a huge wave of sympathy, prayers and sadness among the millions of cricket lovers for this flamboyant young cricketer. 
Surprisingly the ruthless marketer in Birla Sunlife Insurance began to flood the channels with the followup campaign featuring  Yuvraj. The new campaign is in the same line of the older version but very striking and all the more disturbing. 
 Watch the new ad here : Birla sunlife new ad

My initial response was surprise and disgust. How can a brand run a campaign like that when he is sick and undergoing treatment ? - this was the question that came to my mind .My conclusion was that Birla Sunlife is exploiting a very sad situation to its advantage. 

Now ET and Business Standard newspapers have reported that the entire campaign is done with the concurrence and support of Yuvi and even Yuvi wanted to change some dialogues to reflect the current state.

Here the question is whether Birla Sunlife has done the right marketing move to run such a hard-hitting campaign when the entire cricket loving Indians are praying for this cricketer's health.

My take is that Birla Sunlife has messed up the entire campaign so much so that consumers began to question the intention of the brand in running this campaign at this point in time. 

It is true that many brands have used celebrities for their campaigns when these celebrities were recovering from such serious health issues. Celebrities like  Lance Armstrong  and Lisa Ray were featured in brand campaigns when they were recovering from such serious health issues.
The recent controversy has occurred because of the following reasons :
1. Many viewers including myself thought that Birla Sunlife has tried to gain advantage of this current situation by re-running the old ad. I was not aware of the fact that it was done with the active support of  Yuvraj Singh. This is a glaring error in term of the execution of the campaign because the agency or the client didnot thought of such a perception. The campaign managers should have given lot of indications that this ads were released with the active support of the celebrity.
2.The timing of the ad could not have been worse. The brand could have waited for some time before jumping into releasing the campaign. This ad would have been a huge hit had the release coincided with Yuvraj's complete recovery.  
3. The brand bombarded the channels with high frequency which gave the impression that it was trying to make maximum mileage of the entire episode.
4. Even if the celebrity would be supporting such a campaign, the brand should have resisted the temptation to take advantage of the situation. The ultimate aim of this campaign is to build the brand and that reason make the timing of the campaign a very bad choice.

What ever be the rational decision of the brand to run this campaign, common sense would vote against such a high frequency campaign. The entire campaign theme is highly negative and that negativity messed up the ad campaign for the brand. Unlike the ads featuring Lance Armstrong or Lisa Ray which was positive, this Birla sunlife ad was much like  " I told You So " kind of stuff. 

The " intention " of the brand is a very powerful factor that influence the customer. Here the brand failed to convey its good intentions . Otherwise this could have been one of the most remarkable campaigns in the category.. Alas.....

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Brand Update : RIP Peek ( 2008-2012)

In 2010, I had written about a simple email device called Peek launched in India by Aircel. According to news reports, the company has stopped its hardware device and made a strategic change from a hardware /device marketer to a service ( S/W) company. The Aircel website is also not given any info on this product and I assume that this product is dead in India too.

This marks the end of a product that aims to do only one thing- email service. In my previous post on this device, I had mentioned that the chance of survival of this product is minimal because of the fact that many mobiles are now offering the same service and more and it does not make sense to have an email only device. Only customers to which this product made sense was the business customers. There too, the brand failed to make the cut.
The company has switched over to providing cloud based services and has associated with Micromax in India. So the company will move on but this simple device will not be available anymore. 
The short PLC of this device highlight the fast changing world of technology which is disrupting many industries and product categories. The immense popularity of Android has infact accelerated the demise of this product. 
There are many marketing theorists who argue about the virtue of specializing and concentrate on one benefit and excel in it. Peek was a brand doing just that but it proved to be myopic. Neither the brand cared to understand customer need nor was interested in changing to suit customer's new demands. 

RIP Peek ( 2008-2012)
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