Posts tagged ‘Consumer preferences’

Does this smell ring a bell ?

About the link between fragrances, our memories and emotions, and buying behaviour.

Our last post described the phenomenon behind ‘petrichor’- that marvellous freshly wet mud smell, and why we love that smell so much. In this post, we intend to touch upon a few other such fragrances – natural as well as man-made.  But first, a few facts about our sense of smell.

Humans have five to six million odour detecting cells ; if that sounds like a lot, consider the fact that your pet dog has about 100 – 220 million, depending on the breed ! Multiple sources mention that the human nose can sense about 10,000 distinct scents ; though a paper published in the journal Science in 2014 stated that this number was closer to a trillion scents ! Incredible, isn’t it ? So how does our sense of smell work ?

When an odour enters the nose, if affects the olfactory epithelium that is made up of millions of nerve endings ; the nerve endings pass the ‘message’ along the olfactory tract to the olfactory bulb and it then enters the limbic system. The limbic system comprises a set of structures within the brain that are regarded by scientists as playing a major role in controlling mood, memory, behaviour and emotion. This is why fragrances have such a strong link to our memories, emotions, and moods. Hence the soothing influence of some fragrances (e.g lavender) and the energising effect of others (e.g lime).

This article goes a step further and mentions that smell sensations are relayed to the cortex, where ‘cognitive’ recognition occurs, only after the deepest parts of our brains have been stimulated. Thus, by the time we correctly name a particular scent as – for example – ‘vanilla’, the scent has already activated the limbic system, triggering more deep-seated emotional responses.

This explains the phenomenon often noticed in consumer research on fragrances ; even people who struggle to name a fragrance or to describe it in simple terms like fruity / flowery / lemony / woody / musky etc., can often describe how it makes them feel or what they associate it with –their first girlfriend, grandmother’s morning prayer rituals, a sun-dappled garden with rows of brightly coloured flowers, a hike to the top of the hill in the rain, cake baked by mum fresh from the oven, you get the picture, right ? This is noticed far more during consumer research in India than abroad, as our vocabulary for fragrances is not as developed ; everyone recognises sweet / flowery and citrus / lime, but few can tell a woody fragrance from a musky or a green one, making the act of decoding through associations even more important.

To return to the topic with which I began this post, apart from petrichor, which other fragrances are universal ones, that all or most of us recognise ? In India, jasmine would be one recognised by everyone – whether by the name ‘chameli’ in the North or ‘malleepu’ in the South; sandal would probably be another – calm, soothing, eternal. There probably are a lot of man-made fragrances that we all recognise too. For instance, some of the most common scent associations are those related to food. Ever stood near a shop selling freshly-made chhole-batoore and inhaled deeply before reaching for your wallet ? Or walked past Mysore Concerns in Matunga area of Mumbai and felt the fragrance of freshly ground coffee beans waft up to your nostrils and languorously beckon you to the counter? Maybe it’s just me, but I can think of loads more – fragrant biriyani, or cardamom chai (any masala chai, actually), ripe mangoes, the smoke from a tandoor, garlic naan are among the few that come to mind. Some of this understanding is used commercially too – noticed how there’s often a baking smell that you inhale as you walk past a cookie-shop in a mall ? That’s to make you feel hungry and tempt you to loosen your purse-strings.

But not all universal scent associations are food-related. There’s the salty tang of the sea, mild but still perceptible even in the polluted waters off Bombay, the smell of wet khus on coolers in North India during summer, the smoky smell hanging in the air after a lot of fire-crackers have been burst, the strong antiseptic smell associated with hospitals, the warm n’ fuzzy ‘awww’ inducing smell of a freshly powdered baby after a bath.

There are powerful stories and anecdotes about the way consumers’ relate to the fragrances of products and their strong connection with the same. For instance, consider Johnson’s Baby Powder, a product with one of the most recognisable scents in the world. Introduced in 1893 to soothe irritation on plastered skin, it was soon being used to help alleviate diaper rash too. The aroma of Johnson baby powder is so strongly connected to the image of a happy, clean baby that it is often identified as ‘the baby smell’. In fact, close to a decade ago, a baby products brand trying to enter India found this an impassable barrier and had to retreat – while young mothers liked their products and were happy with them, the grandmothers were rejecting them as ‘the baby didn’t smell like a baby anymore’. What the grannies were missing, in fact, was the smell of the Johnson’s baby powder on their precious grandchild, but their identification with it was so complete that it was ‘the baby smell’ to them.

 

fragrance - iconic products, some ingredients 2Scents are such powerful triggers to our emotions – thence to our loyalty, and commercially speaking, our purse-strings – that many iconic brands have kept the initially successful fragrance unchanged for decades or more. Examples of such instantly recognisable fragrances are Johnson’s Baby Powder, Pond’s Cold Cream, Dettol antiseptic liquid, Old Spice cologne, Pears soap etc.  Of course, a challenge faced by such brands is remaining contemporary and relevant to their audience while retaining the physical product attributes such as fragrance. But that’s another story, meant for another post altogether.

  • Zenobia Driver

 

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July 7, 2016 at 12:12 pm Leave a comment

From No-No to Yes-Yes

 

NanoTwist

I’m generally indifferent to cars and know them only as a system with four wheels, steering and seating that get me from point A to point B with minimum effort on my part; yet I’m eagerly awaiting the launch of the Tata Nano GenX. The journey of the Nano has such interesting twists and turns that it rivals a Bollywood potboiler, and as a student of marketing, I really want to see how Team Nano manages the tough task of making consumers warm up to the Nano Gen X. ( I’m hoping it succeeds and wishing the Nano Best of Luck, by the way). Meanwhile, in the run-up to the launch (until I have fodder for another post, that is), here’s the story of the Nano thus far :

Phase I: The people’s car The 1 lakh car

Launched in 2009, the Tata Nano was supposed to be ‘a people’s car’, the savior of the Indian middle class family which relied on a scooter or bike to transport all four members, offering them a safer and more comfortable alternative. To ensure affordability, the initial price was brought down to as low as Rs. 1 lakh per car through frugal innovation. Watch this ad to get a taste of what this brand was supposed to stand for and the role it was expected to play.

However, most of the hype around the car was focused on its cheap price and it became known as ‘The 1 lakh car’. For the middle class, both urban and rural, owning a car is a matter of pride and self-esteem. So, rather than gladly discovering that this fantastic upgrade from a two-wheeler actually had a reasonable price, Nano’s portrayed image put the product in the situation of being viewed as a compromise , not an upgrade.  “Ek prestige view se thodi down hai,” as one respondent expressed it during a transportation related research a few years ago, while another respondent termed it ‘the No-no’. Dangers of letting a low price be the defining feature of your offering!

Mr. Ratan Tata gives a crisp explanation in this article , “I always felt the Nano should have been marketed towards the owner of a two-wheeler because it was conceived to give people who rode on two-wheeler an all-weather, safe form of transportation, not (the) cheapest,” Tata said. “It became termed as the cheapest car by the public, and [also] I’m sorry to say, by the company when it was being marketed,” he added.

Another problem that the Nano faced was that of high expectations from those who did see it as an end to their transportation woes. During the same transportation related research mentioned earlier, we also found that the same Indian family that would uncomplainingly seat four people on a scooter or bike and balance their shopping bags too, somehow morphed into a demanding set that wanted adequate boot space in their car to keep luggage – just in case they had to drop a relative to the station.

The performance problems with the initial batch of cars did nothing to boost Nano’s image either. Soon after the cars hit the road came reports of some of them catching fire, which was seen as an indicator of low quality and a lack of reliability. While only a few such issues were reported, we’ve found that some people still mention these spontaneously when the Nano is mentioned.

Phase II:

Here’s where the change begins and the marketing team begins explicitly targeting a different TG –  young professionals in urban centers ; you can click on the links here  , here and here to view the ads and see for yourself  the distinct change in tone and style of ads from the earlier people’s car ads. By now, the no-frills car also had some add-ons such as the ‘best – in –class A.C.’ mentioned in the print ad shown below.

nano pic 3

 

Phase III :  Launch of Nano Twist – from ‘cheap car’ to ‘smart city car’

This is when an attempt was made to radically alter the Nano’s positioning in order to make it appeal to the new TG of urban professionals. The ‘you’re awesome’ campaign targeted  young urban folk and tried to showcase to them the new stylish Nano – new colours, better interiors, a car that could seat a couple of friends , a fun n’ smart car to hang out with. Did it work? I recall discussing this campaign and its effectiveness with a young colleague early last year and she felt that it was having some impact, two of her friends had noticed the ad and actually purchased the Nano Twist. Multiple news reports also mention that the customer profile for the Nano had indeed changed over the years, a heartening sign – the proportion of Nano buyers in the 24 -34 years age bracket had expanded to 40 percent, from the earlier 15 to 18 per cent.  Another interesting change happening in the Nano script is the growing base of women. Today, they account for 28 per cent of its customers, a substantial jump from 12 per cent in the earlier ‘people’s car’ phase.

That’s only part of the story though; take a look at the sales data for the rest – as per this article, in the April – December period of ’14-’15, Nano only sold 13,333 units, down 18.64% from the same period of ’13-’14.  

What could have limited the impact of such a high decibel campaign? NanoTwistWell, one reason could simply be that the impact of the initial launch advertising and PR campaign in ’08-’09 was so strong that the ‘cheap car’ story could only be over-written over the long haul , and it’s not a task that one ad alone could shoulder. Another could be that while the ‘You’re Awesome’ campaign did have a smarter , more stylish feel to it, there was no over-arching product story communicated about how the Twist was better than the earlier version of the Nano, neither about how it was better suited to city travel than other cars. While some shots in the ad did imply easy maneuverability, it was not explicit enough, and got overshadowed by the messaging on style and aesthetics ; the ‘smart city car’ benefits were explicitly mentioned only in print ads. When a repositioning as drastic as this one is being attempted, consumers probably need to hear that the car has improved significantly too.    

Phase IV: Launch of the Nano Gen Xnano pic 2

And thus to the eagerly awaited launch of the Tata Nano Gen X later this month! Now clearly aiming for the ‘smart city car’ tag, the Gen X has a host of improved features, see details here here and here

But has the 2013 campaign succeeded in erasing memories of the 1 lakh car launched in 2009? Will the Nano get to make a fresh start? Only time will tell…  

 

  • Zenobia Driver

May 14, 2015 at 10:57 am 8 comments

The Curious case of Superdry- Britain’s youngest fashion super brand

superdry pic 1

What does it take to be a super brand in the world of high street fashion? If selling in over a hundred countries, clocking an annual turnover of approximately £400 million with pre-tax profits of over £ 50 million and being worn by A-list celebrities like David Beckham, Leonardo Di Caprio, Kate Winslet, Zac Efron and even Pippa Middleton is all it takes, then it is imperative we call Superdry, the British fashion label founded in 2004 a super brand. In today’s post, we profile Superdry, the British brand described famously as “vintage Americana meets Japanese graphics meets British fits” and track its rise to being one of the world’s youngest and trendiest fashion super brands.

Origin: The story behind the origin of Superdry is a very fascinating one as it explains to a large extent the design philosophy behind their brightly colored clothes and accessories. Many people who look at Superdry’s range automatically assume that the brand is of Japanese origin. The Japanese script visible on almost all their designs and even on the logo may be the reason for this confusion, but the brand’s tagline, “British Design. Spirit of Japan.” is the shining light here as it clearly points out that the brand is embellished with only the “spirit” of Japan. In fact, most of the Japanese characters and words used are used inaccurately and seem to be translated with the help of a dictionary rather than by someone who actually speaks Japanese.

The real story behind the label is that it was conceived in 2003 by designer James Holder (founder of skatewear brand Bench) and Julian Dunkerton (founder of university fashion brand CULT clothing) on an inspirational trip to Japan, where they merged Julian’s fascination for vintage Americana with James’ love for Japanese style graphics and tailored fits. The first design they came up with was the vintage OSAKA 6 T-shirt which is still in production 10 years later and has been their most iconic product till date. They then founded Superdry as a label with Theo Karpathios in 2004 (who headed the international and wholesale division until 2012 when he decided to quit).

superdry pic 2

The Rise:  Superdry started out humbly as a brand retailing mostly through multi brand outlets and through CULT stores in university towns everywhere. The brand was slowly gaining popularity amongst students and urban hipsters until the moment came that changed Superdry’s fortune- David Beckham wore it in his annual calendar. David, who was at the pinnacle of his footballing career then, was one of the most influential fashion celebrities at the time and he wore the fledgling label in three different pictures from the same calendar.

superdry pic 3

This endorsement was soon followed up by celebrity sightings everywhere. In Malcolm Gladwell’s words, the tipping point was reached and Superdry started trending. University students everywhere were wearing Superdry and talking about it on campuses. Superdry took themselves way more seriously as well, creating stores which won several design awards for recreating the grungy, greasy, earthen chic mood that so well represents the brand.

superdry pic 4

Superdry’s marketing also pushed the brand into college towns by offering special discounts to college students and hosting exclusive student nights with live DJ’s and goodie packs for student shoppers. Their marketing concentrated on tie-ups and support for young and upcoming music artists and a very interesting design collaboration with Morgan, the British vintage car company to produce a limited range of “Superdry Morgans”- A classic Morgan three wheeler with Japanese style graphics and design in the Superdry way. These innovative marketing methods coupled with an effective social media and PR campaign led to an unmistakable buzz surrounding the brand and demand grew exponentially.

superdry pic 5

As demand grew, Superdry expanded quickly, both within the UK and internationally until bravely, they decided to file an IPO in 2010 after only 5 years in existence with 55 stores in the UK and 53 more internationally.

To their own surprise, the IPO was well received and their stock was trading at £ 18 per share within a year of being offered for 500 pence per share. This accelerated Superdry’s growth story and by 2012, Superdry was available in more than 400 exclusive stores worldwide. In fact, store of Julian Dunkerton’s CULT brand have also become Superdry stores.

 The Customer: Superdry’s evolution into a global fashion super brand within 10 years of launch points to the arrival of a new kind of customer: One willing to experiment with abstract concepts and brave ideas and also willing to pay a premium for it. These are customers who have been described by experts as the “New Luxury Millenials” and they are instrumental in Superdry’s growth story, as also other new age brands like ASOS and Zara.

superdry pic 6

NLMs are described by retail consultants Sheridan & Co. as people born between 1980 and 1999 who spend a large portion of their disposable income buying brands and luxury products. These individuals have been shielded from the global recession to a large extent by the wealth of their parents and are expected to drive growth in the luxury segment at least until the next major financial crisis. Superdry has tapped these trend sensitive customers from the outset and keeps them coming back for limited editions it releases regularly in collaboration with designers like Timothy Everest and luxury shoemaker “Joseph Cheaney & Sons.”

These NLMs are the customers driving market trends today and the brands of the future must take a cue from Superdry’s experience in tapping this segment.

  • Rahul Sharma

February 18, 2014 at 8:55 am 1 comment

Desh mera rangrez hai babu

A few months ago, I was one of the faculty at a programme that imparts training in the basics of business to micro-entrepreneurs from rural areas (CREAM training programmes run by Tree Society). The audience comprised villagers running simple businesses such as a cycle repair shop, furniture making, honey collection and selling, beauty salon (or, as they pronounced it,‘saalun’), barber shops, a wedding decorator, etc. Most of them were between 20 to 30 years old, all but 3 were men.

During one session, we were trying to illustrate the importance of adding product / service features that consumers value the most rather than others, given the ever-present constraints of cost and resources. We’d made our point using several simple examples and the audience seemed to have grasped it too, however they seemed slightly somnolent after a heavy lunch and we wanted to wake them up with before we began the next topic which was math-heavy.

So we decided to use an example of a product that was ubiquitous even in villages and used by everyone, that was feature-heavy, and from a category where the fortunes of companies selling the product had gone through ups and downs. One product fit the bill – a mobile phone. We began by asking the audience to tell us what features they wanted in a mobile phone, and which of those were must-haves and which were nice-to-have. Internet and multimedia were amongst the first few mentioned by the audience, followed by aspects related to how long the phone would last – sturdiness, a warranty, good battery strength etc. Basic features such as call quality, sms etc. were mentioned much later, almost as an afterthought.

What almost every person below 30 in that audience wanted was to be able to access songs and video on his mobile phone; even if they didn’t know how to download them, they knew that they wanted to be able to store and listen to them or watch them. Many didn’t really know exactly what internet and multimedia meant, but they did know that such phones guaranteed them access to songs, clips, pictures and games. Many of these young men already had cheap smartphones, those that didn’t were quite clear that affordability was the only reason for not buying one. In hindsight, maybe I should have expected this given the lack of entertainment options in a village, and that a lot of these people ran businesses where they spent significant amounts of time just waiting for customers to visit their outlet.

This article from the Mint gives the results of a TNS survey on mobile phone usage in various countries across the world ; while the survey was probably carried out in urban centres, it’s worth a look anyway. Listening to music turns out to be the No. 1 activity that Indians engage with on their mobile phones, the next are playing games, sms/text messaging and taking photos / videos, in that order.

Clearly the villagers that I met reflected a widespread trend.

  • Zenobia Driver

September 17, 2013 at 12:47 pm 5 comments

Colour bombs nail pops – they rock !

This is a post that I’ve been thinking of writing for some time – ever since I made one of my infrequent visits to a small cosmetics store last year and noticed a brand that stood out on the shelf, or in the basket as in this case.

If you’re in India, visit a small ‘gift shop’ or cosmetics shop or bindi-bangle store in your neighbourhood market and take a look at how nail-polish bottles are stocked. Only expensive nail-polishes from premium brands are kept on shelves, the rest that are priced at Rs. 15 – Rs. 50 per bottle are just dumped higgledy-piggledy into a box or a basket – all colours and all brands together, this box is either kept on the counter or under the counter and brought out when a customer asks to see products.

colourboms pic - grouped pic.jpg

As it is, for the vast majority of consumers, nail polish purchase is driven by colour and price, not as much by brand. To add to it, you have staff at the retail counter who often tell consumers things such as this statement, “aapko color jo pasand aata ai woh nikalo, brand se kya lena dena, sabhi same hai, utne hi chalte hai” (“select whichever colour you like, how does the brand matter, they’re all as popular”). Then how does a brand ensure that consumers are loyal to it and pick it up out of the box each time, from among a huge assortment of polishes such as  VOV, Etude, Bo, 8C Lacque, Incolor, Tips and Toes, Caty Girl ( I kid you not !), Bonjour, Priya, Ambar, Blue Heaven, BCC, Miss Claire, Honey Sweet (like the Bond heroine ?), Teen Teen etc. ?

Well, at least one brand focused on understanding their TG, creating packaging that would appeal to them and get their attention, and then communicating the same. Elle 18, HULs colour cosmetics brand for young women was re-launched in Nov 2010 with the ‘Colour Bombs’ range. The brand was positioned as a young, modern, trendy yet affordable brand for its TG comprising 13-18 year olds who are willing to experiment with explosive colors, as the name ‘Color Bombs’ suggests.

colourboms pic 4.jpg

These products were made to appeal to a young woman / teenager every which way, beginning with the name itself – which young lady does not (at least occasionally) aspire to look like a ‘bomb’ ? The range has the bright vibrant colours that are all the rage with young women today, the packs have a shape that’s different from the packs of other brands, with funky illustrations of women on them that utilize the little blank space available on the small pack most efficiently. The imagery and colors used in the new packaging and communication are young and edgy and completely different from the earlier plain-Jane look of Elle 18. I just loved the way the image on the nail-polish bottle – which no competitor has – made this pack stand out and grab attention amongst the clutter of products in the nail-polish box on the retail counter.

colourboms pic 3

colourboms pic 5

Note : While this post has focused on nail polish, the Colour Bombs range has nail paints, lipsticks, lip glosses, black eye-liner and kohl too, all priced between Rs. 45 and Rs. 100.

colour bombs grouped pic 2

p.s Here’s a link to the ad in case you’re interested. Frankly, I didn’t like this ad much and thought it didn’t live up to the excitement and joie-de-vivre of the brand name and the packaging ; but what do I know, I’m not the TG, I’m an Auntyji.

  • Zenobia Driver

July 30, 2013 at 6:16 am 4 comments

Updates

A few months ago, we ran this post about toddlers and their interactions with technology. For those of you who liked it, here’s a really detailed article about how toddlers use the ipad, and their parents’ reactions and concerns towards the same.

A few weeks ago, we ran this post about the innovative offers from auto manufacturers trying to lure customers to purchase. For those interested in the auto industry, yesterday’s issue of the Mint had this article about Japanese car manufacturers tweaking strategies to suit Indian markets.

  • Escape Velocity Team

April 2, 2013 at 7:03 am Leave a comment

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

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