Posts filed under ‘Marketing’

Innovative Offers in Auto

Reportedly, February saw the biggest fall in the last 12 years in car sales – passenger car sales in February 2013 declined by 25.71% over February 2012. Overall the car sales increased by only 3.68% over last year (Source: SIAM). 

Given the high interest rates and soaring fuel prices, the car market is expected to remain weak. In the wake of such circumstances, car manufacturers are thinking outside the box, or at least stretching it to regain sales momentum.

To lure in customers, car manufacturers are offering several attractive offers across their range of cars. While some are offering 0% interest, others are offering attractive EMI schemes, some are doing buy-backs and exchanges while some are offering additional accessories and fittings for free.  Nothing new in this kitty, these are typical of March, because its year-end for everyone.

But wait, car manufacturers are now offering something new too. For example: Volkswagen is offering a trade-in scheme, where you can bring in your old car + Re.1 and take home a brand new Vento, rest of the payment to be made after one year, in full or in attractive 36 EMIs.

Tata Motors is offering its Manza customers 60% of the purchase price after three years. That’s quite an attractive offer, locking in the resale value, knowing for sure that you will get 60% of your car’s price, Given how poor the resale market has been in the past few years, with so many players in the market and manufacturers introducing new models and upgrades to old ones much more frequently, buyers are spoilt for choice even in the resale market.

It’s understandable that the car manufacturers themselves are offering such bold schemes because they have the deep pockets to take in some of these costs, but there are some entrepreneurial automobile dealers who have come up with some innovative offers for their own markets.

A Skoda dealer in Gujarat is offering ‘Buy a Rapid, Get a Fabia free’! We’ve heard of buy one, get one free offers in FMCG, but a first in automobiles, that too an initiative not by the manufacturer but by a lone dealer! Sure, from your point of view, you get the hatchback (Fabia) free only after five years, but by then won’t it be time to change your car anyways? Who would pass up on such an offer?! He sure has worked out his economics and has gone in head first to tackle the sales slowdown. A source from the trade says, “This is quite a bold move. In a time like this, when they are sitting on so much inventory, it is cheaper to offer such deals than to pay the bank interest. More cars on the road at least ensures us that we will have constant revenues from car servicing…”

A Jaguar Land Rover dealer in the north gave 15 cars to the who’s-who of society without taking a penny. He knew these people would pay him eventually given their status in society, but to just send off 15 of such high-end cars is quite a gutsy move. He was only trying to capitalize on the North-Indian “if he has it, I should have it too” attitude and it worked well for him. 15 Jaguar and Land Rover cars were on the streets of this not-so-big city, getting noticed and inquiries started pouring in. Plus the word of mouth from none other than the who’s who of the city helped him tremendously.

Tough times are calling for some tough calls, and manufacturers and dealers are tackling them with some innovative approaches.

  • Roshni Jhaveri
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March 25, 2013 at 8:16 am 1 comment

Response to the ‘Soldier for Women’ ad

This new ad from Gillette builds on the soldier platform adopted by the brand in an earlier campaign.

The current campaign was probably motivated by good intentions – making a positive difference and occupying a higher moral ground, while at the same time dovetailing neatly into the soldier identity that the brand was trying to establish by piggy-backing on a current issue that is top of mind for everyone.

However, I felt that the ad lacked a certain something in terms of execution. It seemed to lather on the sentiment a bit heavy and altogether lacked subtlety; my personal opinion is that a heavy message is better delivered with a gentle hand, this one played to every melodramatic instinct in the gallery – stirring music, B/W frames etc.

Worse still, the ad also seemed a bit patronising towards women. I actually thought that the nicest bit of the ad was towards the end where it spoke about respecting women because ‘when you respect a woman you respect your nation’. If all men respected women, then women wouldn’t need to be guarded and protected, would they ? (But then the ad wouldn’t appeal to macho soldierly instincts either, I guess.)

In contrast to this ad, there’s an ICICI Prudential ad that I noticed on TV yesterday that expressed a far nicer sentiment while showing everyday slice-of-life situations, ‘jo zimmedaari nibhaate hain, jataate nahin’.  Now that’s what I like; though the marketer in me is forced to admit that the Gillette ad will probably go down better with their TG than this one.

p.s. For other opinions on this, you can also watch the Gillette ad being discussed on ‘Brand Equity – Final Verdict’ on the channel ET Now by clicking on this link.

  • Zenobia Driver

February 19, 2013 at 6:23 am 4 comments

The Great Indian Khana Khazana

Food. One of India’s greatest passions. ‘Aaj Khane me kya bana hai?[what’s on for food today?]is the most important question asked in every household, almost every day. No surprise then ,that it is also the sunshine industry of India. Estimated at over US 100 Bn dollars, it is almost 2/3rds of the total Indian retail market. The food and grocery segment is growing at an incredibly fast pace too.

The history of Indian food is as diverse as this country itself. Apart from the geographical and cultural specialities,like idli-sambhar in the south, macher jhol in the east, makki ki roti sarson ka saag in the north and sol kadhi, masale bhaat in the west, there is also the influence of the Portugese[pork vindaloo], the Moghuls [dum pukhtetc.] and not to forget our very own invention of Indian Chinese cuisine[gobi manchurian!].

Much later, in independent India, multinational brands such as Nestle,Unilever etc have been forced to recognize and acknowledge the Indian palate in order to get wider acceptance for their offerings. Right from the ‘Meri masala Maggi dumdaar noodles’ to the ‘Masala Penne Pasta'[made from suji], their Nestle’s ‘Taste bhi Health Bhi’ offerings have had to bend to the Indian tastes.Their health platform has taken into account the Indian’s healthy respect for atta and sooji vs maida.

Giants like Pepsico have recently introduced Homestyle Masala and Lemony Veggie flavoured Quaker oats alongside recipes for oats upma and poha in order to cater to the Indian penchant for mom style breakfast. Unilever has introduced Knorr ready to cook Hyderabadi Biryani, Chana masala etc.  to bolster the Knorr brand’s traditional offering of soups. Nestle’s Maggi has enhanced its soup range with Maggi Souper roni[which has suji,vegetables and macaroni]to cater to the old Indian habit of a bit of this and a bit of that. Its traditional  sauce range now also includes the Maggi imli sauce[a home style tamarind sauce] available in a Pichkoo[local lingo for a squeeze pack].

Our very own home grown Indian companies realised the scope for growth in this arena long ago. ITC has taken its legendary Dal Bhukara and Biryani to the customer in the ready to eat market through its Kitchens of India brand. Its Ashirvaad branded rava idli mix etc are following the lead of MTR’s[Mavalli Tiffin Room] multifaceted offerings in the ready to cook range. In fact MTR’s traditional fare which included tomato rasam powder and Puliyogare [tamarind rice] mix, has seen a healthy facelift with the additions of Ragi Rava idli/Ragi dosa/Oats idli/ Multigrain dosa offerings. Britannia has entered the healthy eating market with its breakfast range of poha and upma available in broken wheat[dhalia] and tomato spinach.

These examples are just a snapshot of the big picture. No downturn for this industry then; the Indian continues to feast in both good and bad times. And, the great Indian taste buds are ready for the’ branded home style offerings’. If it has to be international cuisine, it better be an Indianised version[remember how the good ol’ Big Mac had to do a chikken Mc tikka to woo the Indian consumer]. And so, while India is waking up to the global phenomenon of Eating Healthy – it better be’ Taste bhi, Health bhi’,  and in that order, necessarily.

By,

Sita Lakshmi

November 21, 2012 at 6:59 am Leave a comment

Moving with the times – Tag Heuer

I often wonder about the longevity of watches as a category and whether they will eventually suffer the same fate as the humble typewriter, either in a few years or a few decades. Two close friends of mine have already stopped wearing a watch on a regular basis – their logic is that they carry a phone all the time and can see the time on their phone. What’s worse – for the global watch industry, that is – they find the watch doubly redundant when at their desk in office where they can also see the time on their laptop.

Undoubtedly, the trend towards wearing a watch as an accessory will extend the category’s life-span, but for how long ? And does the watch industry have any other tricks up its sleeve or will it fall prey to marketing myopia in a decade or two ?

[Note : We’d mentioned marketing myopia once in an earlier post; the subject of this post is somewhat similar – an attempt made by a firm to adapt to a changing market, though in this case it’s early days yet and the market verdict is not  clear.

Marketing Myopia : The term refers to the short-sightedness that leads companies to focus on their own organisation and product – line rather than on customers’ needs and wants. It leads to reluctance to change, and a failure to adjust to a changing market environment.] 

 

In this context, I felt that the launch of the Tag Heuer Smartphones by the luxury watch brand was an interesting experiment (you can read articles about the launch here, here , here and here). Tag Heuer started retailing luxury mobile phones in India from 2008. It has since launched three such devices – first the Tag Heuer Meridiist and Link, and recently the Racer. The Tag Heuer Racer Smartphone (pics on extreme right in the image above) was the one launched a few months ago; in keeping with the Tag image, the phone looks top-end  – really sleek, it’s supposedly styled after race cars. Buyers can customize their phones’ cases in a variety of materials, from rose gold to titanium,  just as they would a TAG watch. They can even add Calfskin-leather trim, or a sprinkling of diamonds, for good measure.

One fly in the ointment could be the fact that while consumers buy a watch for a lifetime – or at least to last for many years, they tend to change their phones to the latest model fairly often; at the price tag of a Tag Smartphone, that’s a bit heavy on the pocket. Will be interesting to see how this pans out. Meanwhile, kudos to Tag for not burying their heads in the sand, trying to adapt to changing consumer habits and being bold enough to experiment. A good effort, for sure.

  • Zenobia Driver

October 31, 2012 at 9:00 am 5 comments

The Shopping Experience – Mid-segment cars

Sometime last year, we ran a series of posts on the shopping experience for jewelry, electronics, skincare and cosmetics, high street apparel and other premium goods.

Adding to that series is this post on the experience of shopping for mid-segment cars. A few months ago, my husband and I were in the market for a mid-segment car, more specifically a sedan, with automatic transmission, ample legroom in the rear and boot space. Our consideration set consisted of Honda, Volkswagen, Skoda, Nissan, Toyota and Ford. We are both car enthusiasts and had done our research prior to visiting these dealerships for further information on the cars and test drives; not only this, through our conversations with the sales persons we’d made it amply clear that we knew about what we were looking for in the car and that we already knew a fair bit about the cars themselves.

Given below is a summary of our experience at various dealerships :

Impressive: None

Satisfactory: Honda

  • Knowledgeable staff, understood what we were looking for and told us exactly about that, weren’t gimmicky or trying to sell us anything we did not care for in our car.
  • Not only was the sales person prompt in attending to us, but when we needed assistance or needed questions answered by the accessories or finance person at the store, they were quite prompt in showing us seat cover options, color options, or different EMI plans, etc.
  • Ample waiting space and engaging reading material at the showroom.
  • While the first interaction was impressive, the same cannot be said for the follow-up conversations, where we had to end up waiting for longer, cars weren’t ready for test driving, the formalities for the test drive took longer than expected. Finally when we decided to go ahead with the car, the payment formalities took too long, the car registration personnel were not professional, in the meantime the prices got revised and there was no communication for the same and eventually they did not even deliver in the stipulated time period.

 

Not-so-good: a few examples of what we didn’t like at other dealerships

  • Despite prior appointments with a specific sales person, the person was either out for another meeting or was on leave on that day.
  • Some sales persons did not know their cars at all. For simple questions, they needed to refer to the brochure or call their manager to answer our queries. Similarly their accessories and finance teams weren’t prompt with answering our questions either.
  • Despite taking prior appointments, the test drive cars were either out for another test drive or were still being prepped for the test drive.
  • Did not have ample seating space in the showrooms, so we were kept standing and waiting to be assisted.
  • Did not understand us, their customer, at all. In some cases, they did not really talk about the features of the car, instead demonstrated things like how to take the driver seat back and forth, how to turn on the AC and audio system, etc. Now if they understood us, they’d have also understood that we weren’t first time car owners and did not need to be shown such obvious things. In the bargain, they did not focus on the more important or uncommon aspects like fuel economy or sports gear or valet lock feature or parking sensors, etc.
  • One of the companies called us up with a new deal everyday!
  • Called up everyday to find out if we’d reached a decision despite making it amply clear that we’d get back to them the following week (‘cause we still had other cars to check out). Sometimes we got multiple calls in a day from different car/ accessories sales staff to ask the same questions.

Our verdict: Overall, a C. Major scope for improvement. While speaking to a lot of the sales representatives also realized that the attrition rate in the industry seems quite high; as only 1 out of the 6 sales people we interacted with had been with their company for over a year, rest had been employed with the firm for only  4-6 months.

  • Roshni Jhaveri

[Disclaimer: This post deals mainly with one aspect of the shopping experience – interactions with the sales staff. Also, the list of outlets visited for the purpose of observation is not exhaustive.]

October 25, 2012 at 9:09 am 7 comments

Vertical Branding

In a recent post, I mentioned that one of the things that makes the Himalayan water bottle stand out from its competitors is its vertical branding. Similarly, have noticed that several other products – Coca-Cola cans, Fosters beers, Cinthol talcum powder and deodorant, Axe range of products, Eva, etc. –  are also using vertical branding on their packaging. It got me wondering about whether this is the latest trend in packaging design, and even though we are seeing it more and more of it these days, whether it really works. I could think of several factors both for and against it – for instance, when most products have horizontal branding, vertical branding stands out on the shelf, but it could make the brand name difficult to read for many people, especially in a country with low literacy levels. As an aside, one reason it may work well for Himalayan water is that the target audience is well educated and can read the brand name easily.

I reached out to Poornima Burte, Graphic Designer and Owner of Design Orb, a boutique brand design firm, for more information.  [Disclosure: Escape Velocity has worked with Poornima and the Design Orb team in the past]

Excerpts from the discussion with Poornima Burte given below:

RJ: Are there any particular industries, products, packaging type, etc. where vertical branding works well? Any cases in which it should be avoided?

PB: Generally vertical branding works well in horizontally constrained spaces or when using on a curved surface or if the name is long. Vertical branding helps avoid distortion of the brand name on a curved surface, especially if it’s a long name, making it easier to read.

Apart from space constraints, whether to use vertical branding or not depends on how the consumer is going to interact with the product too. For example, in the case of FMCG products that are typically stacked on racks that go all the way to the floor, and the consumer is typically only a foot away from it, it makes it difficult to read a vertically oriented name, especially if they are stocked on the bottom racks. Also, in the case of FMCG products, the shelves that they are stocked on often have a 1-2 inch high railing to prevent the products from falling off the shelves. These railings hide the bottom of all packaging – in such cases also vertical branding is not recommended.

On the other hand, in a chemist shop, a consumer seems the products from a 2-3 feet distance making it easier to read vertically oriented names. Also chemist shelves don’t run all the way to the floor, making it easier to view. Chemist shop shelves are generally glass shelves with no railing in the front, hence avoiding covering any part of the packaging.

That said, while vertical branding works better in chemist shop environments vs. general retail, I would not use vertical branding for prescription products. Prescription products typically have very direct and precise content – for instance, dosage instructions, ingredients, side effects, etc. – that needs to be communicated in a clear manner. On the other hand, in case of an OTC product, apart from such medical oriented content, it may need to convey the same message in a consumer friendly manner too, wherein a lot more imagery and symbols could be used to convey the message. In such cases, vertical branding could be used.

Several products are available in very small pack sizes and in such cases also vertical branding would work especially if they are in a bottle. Say for example, the small 20gm pack size of talcum powders. The bottles are so small that if they continue to use the same packaging design as the regular sized bottles, the logo and imagery used really suffer. They need to be downsized to such a degree that it becomes difficult for consumers to read.

In a more formal corporate setting, vertical logos do not work, but when it comes to packaging it is fine to use a vertical orientation. Industries like fashion, photography, foods and beverages are more open to and use exploratory ways of showing their name, while you’ll hardly find any Fortune 500 company with a logo not oriented horizontally.

 

RJ: Could you give me some examples of vertical branding where you think it has worked well?

PB:Nowadays I am seeing several beauty and skin care products using vertical branding like in the case of new Sunsilk hair care range called Keratinology. Contrast this to their regular line of hair care which has its branding horizontally oriented. The new packaging is using taller, slimmer bottles and hence vertical branding works better here.

 

RJ: Do you think vertical branding is the new trend in packaging design?

PB: Logos need to last, they need a certain degree of longevity and therefore one shouldn’t move with trends. Orienting the logo is more about being appropriate than being trendy.

Vertical branding is not the latest trend, it’s been around for a while; given its nature and constraints, it needs to be deployed with sensitivity for optimum results.


 

  • Roshni Jhaveri

 

September 27, 2012 at 3:54 pm 2 comments

Rest In Peace, Verghese Kurien

(Note from Ed : This post is reproduced from another blog – with the author’s approval, of course. Here’s a link to the original post)

The news this week in India is full of tributes to Verghese Kurien, the father of the “white revolution” there. Thanks to his life’s work of helping form milk cooperatives throughout the country, dairy farmers thrived, and India went from milk deficiency to production titan over the last several decades.

Kurien’s death on September 9 even caused the Amul girl to shed tears – she’s the cartoon mascot of the Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation who anyone who’s bought butter in India knows well.

The Jester believes the story of Amul is exactly the kind that the development community needs to tell more of: helping those at the roots of the global economic tree self-organize so as to improve their bargaining power with respect to those who control the trunk. It’s notable that in awarding him the World Food Prize, the committee cited “his recognition that feeding the world’s citizens includes coordinating breakthroughs in production with effective management and distribution strategies” (NYT Sept. 10, 2012). The Jester can almost hear the sound of one hand slapping… the collective palms of the WFP officials striking their foreheads when they realized it’s not just chemicals, new seeds, and artificially inseminated cows! You need effective management and distribution strategies! Whoa, what an idea! Did you hear that, Rich Philanthropists and Multilateral Policy Makers?

Apparently, Kurien didn’t stop at milk: In the 1980s, he began working to expand vegetable oil cooperatives. If there were a Kurien for every smallholder farm product, “international development” might very well go the way of “groovy” and “far out” in the American lexicon.

“Thanks, Jester, for stating the obvious,” the old-hat reader might say. “But why is this topic of interest to the Jester?”

What caught the Jester’s eye was a little sentence buried in an obituary by the New York Times (thanks to Melissa Ho for sending). It said, “Mr. Kurien returned from doing graduate work in mechanical engineering… and began working at a government research creamery.” That’s right — Kurien studied mechanical engineering!

Looking back from 2012, it’s incredible that Kurien didn’t feel the crushing internal pressure ”to put his technical skills to use for society” as the Jester all-too-often hears from idealistic technology graduates (who are obviously not reading the Jester’s archives!).

It’s amazing that he didn’t decide to design a fancy-but-affordable contraption to milk cows more efficiently (cow-milking machines designed in the developed world are not sensitive to the subcontinent’s local context — there are lots of buffalos in Mother India, don’t you know? And, buffalos from different states respond to different languages, to say nothing of the varying dialects from district to district.).

And it’s absolutely, positively stunning that he didn’t invent a wireless udder monitor that sends cattle owners an SMS when their cows are due for a milking, thus saving dairy farmers the arduous task of squinting to see if an udder is full. (Then again, Kurien had the great advantage of having been exposed to the challenges of dairy farmers well before time division multiple access communication protocols.)

Yes, that’s right — it is actually possible to apply the problem-solving skills that one hones through a good engineering education towards helping people organize, own, and manage their own production capacity, as opposed to helping design fancy gadgets that streamline production capacity that otherwise barely exists.

This week, the Jester’s hat flies at half mast. Verghese Kurien — the Jester wishes that you are resting in a deep, profoundly well-deserved peace.

(Note from Ed : For more posts by the same author, here’s a link to his blog)

September 18, 2012 at 4:07 am Leave a comment

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