Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Junior should not attach with Chyawan should not attach with Granules

That's a rather strange title to begin with. But not stranger than Dabur's strategy. I happened to see a full-page ad for Dabur ChyawanJunior

Chyawanprash has always associated with Dabur. Chyawanprash is not a Dabur brand though; it's an old recipe based on Indian scriptures. And therefore many other players in the market use the name in branding their products. You have Baidyanath Chyawanprash, Himani Sona Chandi Chyawanprash, etc.

What is Chyawanprash? A dark, brownish/blackish paste-like mixture of edible herbs in specified quantities. What's the benefit? Many benefits. It is said to provide one with many nutrients for one's over-all health. Okay, is there any problem with the product? Not really, just that children/youngsters don't find it tasty enough or good-looking enough to consume.

So, what did Dabur do? Converted the ugly looking, odd tasting paste into liquid (especially milk) soluble granules. So of course, the idea is children could have it with milk. But wait a minute. What do children have with milk? Complan, Horlicks, Bournvita... What do these brands do? They also help in growth and developing intelligence. And they taste great. Suddenly the product (Chyawanprash) which stood as a distinct category is now in direct competition with global brands and on their turf. The battle would be interesting.

So, what could be the future of Chyawanprash granules? More specifically, now that Dabur has branded it ChyawanJunior and described the product as Chyawanprash Granules, what could be said about the strategy?
  1. In the first instance, on hearing or seeing the name ChyawanJunior, one would think that it's a special Chyawanprash for youngsters.
  2. On a little more thought, one who has tasted Chyawanprash could get sceptical of the taste of the new product. One can say that Chyawanprash tastes the way it does because it is made of certain types of herbs. Now if the taste has changed, there's a question: has the mixture changed too? And if the mixture has changed, will it be still be so effective? How is it that Chyawanprash paste suddenly gets converted into granules? The credibility about the effectiveness of the new product could be doubtful.
  3. For the ones who've never ever tasted Chyawanprash in life, it is immaterial whether the product is called Chyawan or not. It could as easily be called something else.
  4. So, is ChyawanJunior a 'cool' name? The first part of the name might not sound as cool to the youngsters.
  5. The name Chyawan also succeeds in confusing coz apart from products of other players with similar brand names, Dabur itself has Chyawanprash, Chyawanprakash, Chyawanshakti and now, ChyawanJunior!
It seems that Dabur could be worried about low acceptability of Chyawanprash paste among the youngsters of today. While repositioning was an option, Dabur chose the path of product innovation. It developed a new form of Chyawanprash. However, for the new form it chose to leverage on the name of the earlier product. If the earlier product was low on acceptability or was on its way down in terms of sales, then making the new product ride on former's name might not yield result. And even if the earlier products were doing well and Dabur needed to increase the market, the riding on the former's name might not yield a great deal since it might be perceived as just another variant instead of a different product altogether.

Dabur and other players in the market seem to have lost an important opportunity to create a new category.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Yamaha into scooters?!

A report says that Yamaha is launching scooters in India. Scooters! Yes, scooters!

Okay, how do people in India perceive Yamaha? Performance bikes, right?

Has Yamaha done well in India? Not really. It just seems to be coming back on track. But has it? Not really, sales have to prove it yet.

What is Yamaha's market share in India? Barely 5%. Can it play the offensive game? Not really. But given it muscle it can at least adopt a flanking strategy. Is it doing that? Yes. Has it met with some success? Yes. What should be the next move? Capitalize by pushing further with the flanking strategy and perhaps go on the offensive.

So, what does it do? Launch tiny scooters! What'll happen? Your guess is as good as mine.

Yamaha needs to focus for the moment instead of getting distracted by launching products totally unrelated to the current perception of Yamaha. Otherwise, it could be staring down into yet another empty well.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Life's a journey. So is building a brand. Accidents happen!

Some time back I saw a few Samsonite outdoor hoardings advertising their range of shoes. These ads made me curious and when I visited malls I made it a point to visit Samsonite outlets. The shoes were impressive to say the least. However, that they are from Samsonite the brand made me a little uneasy. Tough to imagine a situation when I would say that I'm wearing Samsonites!

Brand extensions can often prove dangerous. I was just going through some articles to understand what made the company think of launching shoes under the Samsonite brand. And this is what the president, Samsonite South Asia, said in an article: “We are diversifying from a luggage to a lifestyle brand and may look at an entry into travel-related categories like eyewear, perfumeries and watches in future. The company is hoping the strategy would help it reduce its reliance on the luggage business."

What's happened at Samsonite is that they've confused 'company' with the 'brand'. The company can diversify into other categories but not necessarily the brand. Out here it seems that the brand and the company are considered the same. Look at the statements again:

We are diversifying from a luggage to a lifestyle brand and may look at an entry into travel-related categories like eyewear, perfumeries and watches in future. The company is hoping the strategy would help it reduce its reliance on the luggage business.

Samsonite is a brand and it happens to be the name of the company as well. However, for the consumer, Samsonite means high quality leather bags and suitcases. Now if the company says Samsonite means travel, does the consumer say Samsonite is 'travel'? No way! Travel is an act, an abstract concept. Or, does the consumer think Samsonite means travel-related accessories? Does the existing strongly-entrenched perception of Samsonite play no role? Does the consumer understand that the company wants to reduce its reliance on the luggage business? No way! The only thing that he remembers is that Samsonite stands for high quality leather bags and suitcases and that's why he buys Samsonite.

Also, the power of the brand has been undermined because the marketing think-tank has given into certain concepts like 'lifestyle'. Let me explain this further. What is 'lifestyle'? When you buy a Samsonite bag, do you say to yourself that you've bought a lifestyle brand? Does the consumer understand 'lifestyle brand'? Lifestyle, whatever it means, is a term internal to the marketing think-tank not to the consumer. His interpretation and use of the term 'lifestyle' is quite different. If Samsonite becomes a lifestyle brand, for the consumer it means almost nothing.

If Samsonite introduces products like shoes, eyewear, perfumeries and watches under the pretext that the brand stands for 'travel' and 'lifestyle', and spends heavily on letting the consumers know that Samsonite is 'travel' and Samsonite is bags, suitcases, shoes, eyewear, etc. etc. then it might succeed in confusing the consumer in addition to eroding the brand's current position.

Building a brand is a journey. Journeys could be fatal, when you drive thinking you own the vehicle and you own the terrain. Beware, accident-prone zone!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

The power of a name and the need for change

I maintain another blog called FULL TANK. Being a professional in the field of marketing communications and an avid observer of the process of branding, I've always felt that choosing a good name is extremely crucial. Laura Ries has changed the name of the her blog. And these are her thoughts on the change.

I appreciate the candid confessions. It triggered a thought about one of my blogs mentioned above. To begin with, my blog was just another blog. It was a record of my thoughts on very many things. Cricket, Motorcycles, Beauty, Mumbai, India, etc. I observed that I was writing more about two-wheelers. Not just quantitatively but also qualitatively. So I decided to narrow my focus for the blog on two-wheelers and record my thoughts on other things by creating other blogs like FORK (on brands and businesses), Profss Drums (on education, policy-making and governance), etc.

Over the months, I've changed the name of my first blog many a time depending on my mood. Firstly I named it Indusbeats, then Slumberic Memoirs Of an MBA, later disstraction, and then thrillon2wheels, and finally settling for Full Tank. My impatience and a thirst for something more interesting every now and then also played a part in changing names so frequently.

Just when I felt fairly convinced that I had chosen an apt name Full Tank for my blog on two-wheelers, this article by Laura Ries gives me other thoughts. What does Full Tank mean? What does it connote/signify? Many things. Passion for motorcycling, cruisers, perhaps big bikes, etc. Importantly it also signifies the object that holds fuel (petrol, to be more specific) in a motorcycle/ two-wheeler. So what happens if tomorrow the world changes and most of the two-wheelers are battery-powered? Will there be a Full Tank? Will the name make sense? I know for the moment the name's just good. But tomorrow...

So? I'm not gonna change the name yet again :) though I did feel the temptation when I was reading the article. My only point here is to discuss the importance of the process of naming and the power a name (or a brand name) possesses.

What's your brand name?

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Smokin' Joe's Might Smoke It All!

Smokin Joe's is India's homegrown Pizza brand. And seems to be doing well. Says 'Fresh Pizzas'. Seemingly a me-too brand (following in the footsteps of Dominos), it differentiates because it offers good pizzas but at a lower price than the brand it's following.

Having tasted success, this Joe seems to have grand plans. Like? Smokin Lees! What? Yes, a brand positioned to offer Home-delivered Chinese food. There are quite a few question marks here.
  1. Has Smokin' Joe's exhausted all the possibilities of growing the Pizza brand? I don't think so. So if growth opportunities exist, why shift focus from a growing the brand to launching another brand?
  2. Has Smokin' Joe's studied the Pizza brands worldwide, especially the biggies like Pizza Hut and Dominos? Why didn't these two brands extend themselves into any other food category? Don't they have more understanding and wherewithal to undertake an initiative like that?
  3. What does Smokin' Joe's stand for? How does Smokin' Lee's does justice the established brand? When the brands are meant for two different categories of food (and also, when the promises 'seem' different), why is there such a similarity in names?
Smokin' Joe's might end up undo a lot of good work that's gone behind the first brand. Firstly, it shouldn't have taken a chance to shift its focus from the Pizza category. Secondly, even it were to expand in other territories like Chinese Food, the name and the positioning deserved more thought.

Look at the name Smokin' Joe's and the way it is rendered as part of the logo. It reminds you of the wild wild west where the cowboys come from. The word 'smokin' makes you envision the gun-totting cowboys. Now considering this, how does it compare with Smokin' Lee's? What's Lee gotta do with 'smokin'? 'Lee' sure does remind you of China but definitely not the cowboys. The brand manager at Smokin' Joe's must have thought that the common element 'Smokin' might help the new brand establish itself easily. I am not sure of that, but definitely if brand-naming follows any logic (even if not pure logic but perception-driven logic), then this is a clear case of 'anti-logic'. Even if brand-naming isn't about logic, it definitely must not be so obviously 'anti-logical'.

Smokin' Joe's is Fresh Pizzas. Smokin' Lee's is Home Delivered Chinese Food. Do the two sound/mean similar things. May be. May be not. Yes there could be an overlap but the two do seem different things. Then why use 'Smokin' as a common word (or theme). My word, the two brands should've been entirely different with different promises. A brand focussing entirely on Home Delivered Chinese Food is a new happening in the market but Smokin' Lee's might not help to exploit the potential.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Kaun 'Videocon'? The power of a brand name

This post is a short one. When business grows, the brand name starts assuming a god-like status-and-mention in the media. This of course gives a hedonistic feeling to label and sell every possible product under the same brand. There could be many other reasons but the one mentioned is good enough to explain many many brand extensions we see in the market place.

Our home-grown conglomerate Videocon is one such example. But what makes it stand out is the fact that the brand name is 'Videocon'. Isn't it apparent that 'video' in 'Videocon' stands for visual entertainment products? Clearly, being one of the first-movers in the Indian entertainment products industry, Videocon came up with a good brand name for its televisions and also for, now-extinct VCRs, and CD and DVD players. However, to put the same on washing machines, tape-recorders, micro-wave ovens and air-conditioners is not just preposterous but also downright suicidal.

That's quite a statement to make for me but that's the power of a good name. Applied at the right places, it works. But apply it to something that's not a match and you kill yourself. Videocon's share in the market in most of its product-categories has been going down and one of the big reason is its branding strategy.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Sumo tries becoming svelte, or is it?

If the third one is Tata Sumo, what about the first two... Make a guess.

When Tata makes automobiles, especially consumer utility vehicles or passenger cars, it fights a lot of perceptions. Why? Because of the ubiquitous and lumbering Tata Trucks we've been seeing on Indian Highways since time immemorial. To top that, when Tata launches consumer utility vehicles, it plays with brand names, launches variants, shuffles the brand names based on internally discussed logical plans; the brand managers really work hard. Just that they might not care much for perceptions of consumers who buy their brands or products.

Tata Sumo was launched, it did well in the initial years and then got clubbed when Toyota Qualis entered the market. Wasn't surprising that the majority of the buyers of Sumo were the taxi fraternity. But the brand managers wouldn't give in. The initial success of Sumo perhaps wasn't forgotten.

Since taxi fraternity was going in for Sumo and perhaps the marketing/brand managers didn't really like the fact, they launched a cheaper UV - using the Sumo platform and shape - called Tata Spacio. The idea would've been that drivers would adopt Spacio leaving Sumo for extensions upwards. Show a Tata Spacio to anyone right now and ask that person which vehicle is that. 95 out of 100 would say, "Tata Sumo!"

Extend upwards, they did. They launched Sumo Victa - again using the original Sumo platform and shape. The ad hinted at individualism and luxurious life-style; the parting line was Kuch log Sumo Victa chalate hain with a guy in erect-posture looking at you. Imagine! First name a utility vehicle Sumo (a vehicle with an expansive body, naturally to accommodate many passengers) and then show individualistic tendencies. Victa, from my memory, hasn't done great. Show a Victa to anyone right now and ask which vehicle is that, he or she would say, "Tata Sumo!"

Brand managers didn't give in. So again remembering the success of original Sumo, and the subsequent success of a rival product Mahindra Scorpio, the brand managers launched another vehicle (built on the same platform but with a cooler look) called Sumo Grande. This time, for family. I don't see too many Grandes on the road yet. Grande stands out distinctly from the original Sumo, Sumo Victa or Spacio. Then why is it called the Sumo? Killing your own baby, is it?

Brand Sumo has been messed around with, left, right and center. One needs to understand that Sumo, the brand (or any other brand), isn't owned by the company; it is owned by the people who consider it and buy it. Brand is a summation of their perceptions. It's mostly at the point of inception that the brand manager has complete control over pitching the brand as one thing and not the other. Thereafter, consumers have the right to accept it and reject it. And if the brand turns out successful in a particular way, no matter the brand managers desire or do, it might continue to be perceived in the way that made it successful.

If Grande is for family and Victa for individualistic guys, think what is Tata Safari for? You'll say Grande and Victa are UV's and Safari is an SUV. To elaborate more, you'd say Grande is a luxurious UV competing with the likes of Toyota Innova. Then why call it Sumo Grande? If Victa is for individualistic guys, why is it a UV? Isn't SUV more suited for individualistic tendencies? Loads of questions. Confusing. Jumbled. That's right. Courtesy, the branding strategies applied for Tata Sumo. Do you doubt then that the performance of the brand isn't really as desired.

I suspect brand managers could exercise greater control, especially beyond inception, over brands which failed in the first place. Assumption is that the brand failed because people couldn't quite accept it and therefore do not have too many perceptions about it.

Also, it's easy to bring a 'high-end' brand lower but mighty tough to push a 'lower-end' one higher. Tata needs to rethink about Sumo. Or rather simply leave it for the mass transit purposes. Do some chopping (easier said I know what with all the capex already incurred) and launch new brands to target different segments; that would be better. Perhaps better products would also do better!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Lessons from the streetside vendors

Street hawkers, fruits/vegetable vendors by the roadside - these are pretty common sights in India. I was riding with my wife this morning. At a bend, we noticed a couple of fruit vendors - one was selling lichees and the other, mangoes. We passed the bend and had gone further 20-25 meters when Arti tugged at my shirt and said, "The lichees look good. Let's buy some." We took a u-turn and bought some lichees. And then, as we were about to resume our ride, we bought mangoes as well.

Fruits are very often sold this way - one vendor selling one thing. The sight of one thing stocked in a huge quantity leaves quite an impact. Not only does is it visually attractive, but also makes one think that the fruits are of good quality, fresh, and perhaps, with good taste too. It whets one's appetite. If a good mood coincides with the sight, one ends up buying. Recall your own experiences and you'll notice that the same would occur less often if one vendor has stocked many types of fruits.

What's the import? Focus. Yes, focus on one thing, you'll most likely sell more.

Am a fruit lover. Therefore, to an extent this post is personal. But this small little commonplace occurrence by the street-side, I feel, includes a lesson.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Reliance Fresh: Brand Names, Extensions and Troubles

Here's against mindless extensions.

Organized Retail - of all kinds - is booming in India. And all kinds of companies/ individuals have ventured/ have plans to venture into the sector. Notably the big conglomerates like Tata, Reliance, Aditya Birla, etc. Not that they've restricted themselves to one kind of format. They are exploring all sorts of formats and in different product categories.

Is the above paragraph a little vague. How could it have been any clearer; it's just a reflection of the way things are happening? And the initiatives taken by some big conglomerates haven't been without their share of troubles.

Reliance Group named its grocery retailing (dry and wet) chain Reliance Fresh. Just at the same time Aditya Birla Group also opened its grocery retailing chain under the name More. There's another chain of grocery retail stores - Spinach - which opened within the same time-frame. And of course, Subhiksha was already there. There must be other chains too but not so well-known.

All these chains of stores are doing the same thing. Giving a bigger and better shopping experience for your daily needs while charging almost the same (in certain product categories even less) as unorganized retailers/vendors. In effect, replacing the latter or taking a substantial chunk of their business. No wonder, they (More, Reliance Fresh, Spinach, etc.) would face resistance from the affected community. But it wasn't 'they', it was just Reliance which was at (or got sucked into) center of the storm. And one of the reasons is the name 'Reliance'.

What about it? Reliance has gone about branding each of its business areas as 'Reliance _______'. Until the point the company got into sectors (with the name 'Reliance') which were new, niche or additional to the economy, everyone smiled. The moment it sought to replace (under the brand name Reliance) an existing business community, it faced resistance. Obvious isn't it? A threat to your subsistence would make you sit up and react, won't it? Unorganized retailers/vendors did the same. Natural! More so when it is India, where people try so hard to live a simple life.

Reliance is perceived to be massive. All know what it is. They might not be aware of the numbers but they know its might. You might not know how heavy an elephant is, but you know its might when you see it. Indeed, when it got into grocery retail, small vendors would've shuddered thinking about the loss of business. They know the power of 'Reliance'. Here's where extension of the brand Reliance creates problems.

What if the chain was called 'Morning Fresh'? What if the brand 'Reliance' were simply kept away from the chain store brand. Perhaps, it wouldn't have stirred the imagination of small vendors/retailers so violently. They would've known the adverse impact but would've just considered it like 'More' or 'Spinach'. The moment one hears Reliance, it only conjures up an image of elephant - huge, massive, dominating. When it gets mad, it is trampling! Not just that, Reliance name has become all pervasive. Wherever you go, you find something that is Reliance. Is it a God? Is it trying to play God? We don't know but people might think so; they'll react in the same spirit - in the way they best know. Medium is the massage. When all the places are painted with Reliance and all the places you buy from become Reliance, I'm sure you're gonna lose it one way or the other.

So, it would have been more appropriate, for various reasons, for Reliance to use a different brand name, especially when it seeks to so conspicuously replace the existing businesses and small businessmen. Telecom was new (new in people's lives), something additional. Naming it Reliance brought in kudos for the company. Context matters. Understanding the context matters as much.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Abstractions in Extensions

Abstraction is tough to sell. It's easier to imagine the face of a girl if you've met/seen her. But if you hadn't seen her, you wouldn't be able to figure out even if I described her features in the best possible way. Sounds similar to "A picture is worth a thousand words." Words are abstract, visuals are a little less. Isn't it also similar to saying "Actions speak louder than words."? Pictures are more tangible, more concrete. Actions have greater impact, are easily felt.

Let me explain through some concepts through a lollipop exercise:

Imagine 'Soft'. What happened? Difficult? Easy? What did you imagine? Velvet, Sofa, Fur, Fairy, Child or something else... Fair. You can imagine many many more things.

Imagine 'White'. Fairy, Milk, Soap, Fur, Feather, Swan, etc. You can imagine many things.

Imagine 'Beauty'. Aishwarya Rai, White Marble, Taj Mahal, Lake, Sea-shore, Smile, etc.

These words can represent many things at the same time. Said in isolation, they would conjure different images in different people. Yes? You would agree. Different minds would converge to one image only if there's another word (added to any of the above words) which would force them to think in one dimension. For example, if I say 'White Feather', you can't imagine any other thing than 'a feather which is white'.

Now comes my assertion: When a brand is extended, 'whatever the brand stands for' needs to be made an all inclusive concept, which forces the concept to become abstract; the end result of which is lack of clarity about 'what the brand stands for' in the consumer's minds. The more the extension, the more the abstraction. The more the abstraction, the lesser the understanding among consumers.

Consider the brand Dove. Typically, if I ask someone what is brand Dove, I would get a reply like 'Soap with Moisturizing Cream'. And the image in the mind would be a 'white-colored soap' in 'bar' form because perhaps moisturizing cream has come to be associated with 'white' or perhaps Dove always highlighted the white color of the soap. So, that's Dove for you. Soap with moisturizing cream. And we have plenty to say about how successful a brand it is.

However, some marketers are bent on extending it. In fact, they have extended it to include other variants of bar soap, body wash, shampoo, deodorant, etc. Ask them what does Dove stand for? To give an umbrella concept, they'll say Dove is 'Softness'. Or perhaps something else, if they are able to fetch the right word that is. In other words, consumers would now have to think of Dove as 'softness (or whatever else)'. As abstract as that! Definitely with all these offerings, consumers can't say Dove = Soap with Moisturizing Cream. For if they still say that, then Marketing Managers of Dove have failed. And, if they don't say that, then the Marketers have successfully replaced a concrete concept like 'Dove = Soap with Moisturizing Cream' with a rather vague one like 'Dove = Softness'.

But the concept of 'softness' is different in different products, therefore difficult to realize (for consumers) for each of the product categories. Marketers will try and force it down the consumers throats the idea of 'softness'. Why? Because the former have intellectually and logically inferred what Dove is and now they assume the right to teach the latter what Dove is. Wow! The consumers will have to accept it, isn't it. They have no choice. They have to watch television, they have to watch soaps. But on the retail shop-floor they have a choice to ignore the shampoos, deos and whatever you have.

Have doubts? Then, try answering what is the brand Dove? And if you come up with an answer, you know what Dove is, and it isn't. Is it just 'softness'? Do you buy its deos, shampoos, etc? Perhaps. Will you continue to buy the same in future? May be, may be not. But will you buy the soap in future? Definitely.

Thankfully for Dove, it might thrive on people's belief in the 'Moisturizing Soap'. But in other cases, through the means of needless extensions, marketers might be successful in making the brand abstract, thereby obliterating the existing equity and eventually, killing the brand.

Brands need less extension, less abstraction. Less abstraction by itself will lend concreteness to the brand, help solidify its position and therefore, facilitate easy understanding and memory among the consumers. Think before you extend.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Papa John's has better ingredients and the right message

Pizza wars are interesting to watch. It's hotting up here in India. More brands are getting launched

Have just come home after having a Red Hot Pepper Pizza at the newly opened Papa John's Pizza outlet here in Powai. Don't want to talk much about the experience, perhaps doesn't fall in the purview of this blog-post.

If you look at the message, it says "Better Ingredients. Better Pizza." Pizza Hut for 'having pizza sitting in a restaurant', Domino's for 'home delivered pizzas'. It wouldn't make sense to be yet another Pizza brand for 'having pizza sitting in a restaurant'; there had to be something more to differentiate and clarify the positioning of Papa John's. So the brand focussed its message on 'ingredients' - one of the most important aspects of any recipe, especially pizzas. Better Ingredients. Better Pizza. That does it. Nicely positioned, nicely differentiated.

Since it was the opening day of the outlet I visited, it had many attractions to engage the children. That made me realize that the name is 'Papa John's'. Is it like a McDonald's for pizzas? Probably. McDonald's offers burgers and targets children. Papa John's is for Pizzas and targets children? Could be.

Papa John's, by the way, also delivers at home though they chose not to highlight it. Different from Domino's? Yes. Different from Pizza Hut? Yes - simply because of the message, because of the focus on 'ingredients'.

Let's see, how does this category of Pizzas evolve and diverge further in India. I'll keep a watch, I like pizzas.

Monday, April 7, 2008

What's the aura around Orra!

Yesterday evening, I visited the Hiranandani Galleria - Powai. The market has quite a few jewellery shops, one of them being en exclusive Orra outlet. As you can see in the picture, Orra says it is THE DIAMOND DESTINATION.

Firstly, it 's a rather weak differentiator (in fact, it is no differentiator at all). Aren't there plenty of shops around dedicated to making and selling diamonds and diamond jewellery? If they are satisfying the consumers well, who needs an Orra? At best, Orra will do only as well as other diamond stores are doing or perhaps a tad better since it spends a hell lot of money into mass-marketing (though I have my doubts how effective mass marketing turns out to be in jewellery).

Now specific to my visit yesterday, I noticed that the Orra outlet was running a 25% discount on all the products! 25%! Imagine. Where buyers in India are so accustomed to calculating the worth of their jewellery by calculating the weight of the metal and precious stones used (because they are actually precious!), here there's a brand which offers 25% discount on nothing less than pure diamonds. In which case, what is the consumer likely to think? That Orra was charging unreasonably high to begin with? Or, that the quality of metal and diamonds is rather dubious?

If these are thoughts that arise in mind, a jewellery brand is doomed. A local jewellery shop runs on a lot of trust. How many times have you seen your local jewellery shop run a discount scheme? Not very often. If it starts running discounts to the tune of 25%, will you trust it in the same manner as you earlier did? Perhaps not.

Orra's aura doesn't seem so blemishless.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Extending your hatchback might not be a great Dzire!

How does that look? It's Swift Dzire - latest launch from the Maruti Suzuki stable.

Another company which pulled off the stunt is Tata Motors. Yes, they stretched Indica to make an Indigo. What happened? Indigo looks still as bad. The sales have been dropping consistently.

In fact, before Tata it was Opel which played around with its Corsa brand and rather unsuccessfully. Opel, right from the start, couldn't do much anyway.

Extending the brand stays tricky as always. Even where products are low-involvement, brands find it extremely tough to successfully pull off an extension. Here it is a high-involvement product like car. On the contrary, someone can say that since it's a high-involvement product, it would be wise to extend an already successful brand like Swift; people might trust and accept the new product faster. Perhaps. But longer term success, extremely doubtful.

Look at the picture. Does it inspire a 'wow'? Swift, when first launched, inspired that. But Swift Dzire doesn't. Swift was a radical departure, more on the design front than the performance. The design really differentiated it from all the available cars - big or small - in India. The performance only substantiated it as a real good premium hatchback (and therefore, a smallish) car. Yes, I repeat, a real good premium hatchback car. Rather, the best premium hatchback car of India. Hope you would agree.

With the launch of Swift Dzire, are we saying that the hatchback has transformed into an entry-level sedan? It seems Swift was originally conceived to be a hatchback. The perfection in design suggests that it was meant for a hatchback. Extension into a Dzire seems more like an after-thought. The picture suggests that. Swift isn't sedan. It's a hatchback and it's great at that. Swift is premium, Swift Dzire is entry-level (in their respective segments). There's an inherent contradiction.

Tata did a similar thing with Indica. Indigo hasn't been a success. In fact, Indica is an economy hatchback car and Indigo is an entry-level sedan. Indigo also, to my opinion, was an aesthetic disaster since it was more like an after-thought. Indica wasn't designed originally to be transformed into a sedan.

Having said this, I wouldn't claim that Swift Dzire won't sell. Of course, it will but I doubt it would be any great a success. Extending brands is always tricky. All the good work done by the original brand might get endangered. Your heart might desire Swift, not Swift Dzire!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

TVS, where dost thou go? (Part-3)

Alright, so the Chennai High Court verdict has gone against TVS. Consequence: TVS can't produce and market TVS Flame in its current shape. If the engine is replaced (rather rendered in a way that it isn't seen as theft of Bajaj's patented technology) then, of course it can still sell Flame. It's a dampener surely for TVS. This gives me one more opportunity to take a dig at TVS's marketing strategy; though, only for its good.

I've been watching more Apaches on the road. They are also more noticeable and better representatives of TVS; Apache is a good product (mind you, not brand; I said 'product') to say the least, or that's what I make out from various magazine reviews, that's what I make out when I compare it to earlier products like Fiero, and Victor etc, that's what I make out when I compare it to other products in the same category.

Apache has also helped improve TVS's market share. In its category, it's second only to Pulsar! Wait, wait. But then how many other brands are there? Achiever, Unicorn, Hunk... Any more?

Marketing men responsible for marketing Apache and the agency (or agencies) responsible for devising the 'brand strategy' for TVS Apache would like definitely like to feel good for themselves - Apache has succeeded coz of them. I am sorry; Apache worked in spite of their strategy! I would like to think that Apache worked solely because it is a good product and, because there was no great alternative other than Pulsar to look forward to in the 150cc category. And so people voted for the Apache; anti-incumbency factor, you call that in Politics. Though note that, Pulsar hasn't been dethroned; so the anti-incumbency factor is only restricted to Politics. Markets are ruled by brands and categories they can believably stand for.

Cut to the point. The current campaign says 'It's now or never'. Say what? What does it mean? How does that represent the bike, the brand Apache? Yes, there would be some convoluted, layered explanation for that line. Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way. Pulsar says 'Definitely male' - amply clear. What's 'now or never'?

Observe Apache and Pulsar a little carefully and you might find a few differences. Or if you haven't observed but read the biking magazine reviews, you would have read that Apache is slightly smaller in size, both in seat height and length (wheel-base) - nothing negative about it though. Also, it looks 'more' compact. It is said to have more power (in 'bhp'; I am not a technical person, so hope you get the point). Also, TVS has a good racing pedigree. Many of its racers and bikes have won national motorcycle racing championships. In fact, it also has a training school for racing.

Marketing men often try sounding and feeling intellectual; nothing wrong with that too but if it comes at the cost of ignoring the obvious, then it can hurt.

In my earlier post (Part-2) of this series, I had suggested three positioning options for TVS. Here's the fourth:

Compact Race Machines

Alternatively, we can just say,

Race Machines

Straight, direct, impactful and converts the so-called negative 'small size' (if it is thought to be a negative) into a purposeful positive attribute. Why 'race'? Coz that's the ultimate arena for performance bikes. Also, it is a silent acknowledgment of the status quo (Pulsar is first, Apache is second) and yet a rebellious powerful intent (come on Pulsar, let's slug it out). It's a challenge. No harm in acknowledging the status-quo and still standing upright. Remember, we like the underdogs (in fact, we relate to them, don't we?) who have the guts to fight it out. Anti-incumbency factor (external) + an inspiring intent (internal) is a deadly combo.

That's too direct, say the marketing men! Then, let me coin something abstract but reflecting the same thought as above:

Packs a Punch!

Let's be honest. Doesn't it sound better? Doesn't it accord a better position to Apache; a position that would justify the beauty of the product and give it the due commercial success? In fact, it offer a strong platform for TVS's future bikes too.

Unsolicited but with good intent.

Friday, February 8, 2008


Read a quote in one of the posts on Mr. Pawan Munjal, CEO, Hero Honda Motors says, "We have focus on all the three segments and more and more on the premium, the youth and on the youngsters."

Amazing how conveniently we can use the word 'focus'. The news is, I repeat, that Hero Honda is going to focus on all the three segments! All the best.

Friday, January 25, 2008

TVS, where dost thou go? (Part-2)

Part-1 ended like this:

With so much working against it and without a lot of money, how is TVS gonna survive this onslaught by the biggies? By focussing and by choosing its category and by being the first in that category. If there's no defined category left empty, then it had better create and define a new category and be the first there. How?

So, how does TVS create a new category? And what could this new category be?

Hero Honda led the foray in the big/premium bikes segment by launching the 150cc CBZ. Around that time, Bajaj had just about decided that it wasn't scooters for them; bikes were their future. Hero Honda was all over the place with its economy bikes; Bajaj was also present in that segment but was only a challenger at best with little success. The premium segment had just been created. Yamaha's 2-stroke performance bikes were losing ground to external factors and were being phased out. So the premium segment was all open and so was the performance segment too. For a while, in the Indian context, think of premium and performance segments as one (for obvious reasons). But back then these were the only prominent segments. What did Bajaj do? While the premium segment was still in the making it launched the Bajaj Eliminator - a 175cc cruiser. Very soon it launched, 150cc and 180cc Pulsars. Thankfully for Bajaj, it wasn't doing anything great in the economy segment. While Eliminator got drubbed with the launch of Yamaha Enticer, the former combined with the Pulsars did enough to place Bajaj as a high-end bikemaker.

In branding, it's always easy to bring a high-end brand to lower levels but mighty tough to make the lower-end brand a high end one. Bajaj hadn't established itself so well in any segment, so when it did something worthwhile at the higher-end, it was perceived accordingly. Hero Honda, on the other hand, suffered partially because of its strong association with economy segment. However, the biggest clincher for Bajaj was the fact that it launched a 180cc variant of the Pulsar; bigger than 150cc CBZ. That built the brand Pulsar. Other elements like price and fuel-efficiency played their part. In other words, the competition was repositioned. CBZ was outclassed.

Can TVS Apache outclass the Pulsar? Pulsar has variants like 150cc, 180cc, 200cc and 220cc. If TVS makes 160cc Apache RTR, it doesn't threaten the Pulsar dominance in anyway. It's simply surviving as a competitor; not calling shots as a leader. Pulsar is perceived as the first to the pole in 150cc to 220cc market and Bajaj has focussed unwaveringly on this segment. Needless to say Pulsar is touted as the brand to aspire for instead of the Karizma which was the first mover but suffered with the strong Hero Honda tag attached to it.

TVS needs to do more. Can it reposition Pulsar by quickly introducing a 250cc or 300cc bike before Bajaj introduces one? If TVS manages to do so, it will be the one to call the shots and therefore be perceived as a leader at par or a little ahead of its competitors. Therefore, option-1 for TVS is to be the first to launch a higher end bike in the range 250cc to 300cc.

Let's get to the option-2 through some pictures. Have a look at these bikes which are ruling the markets right now. Observe the common elements in design:

Hero Honda Karizma 225

Sporty, right?

Hero Honda CBZ Xtreme

Sporty, right?

Hero Honda NXG

Sporty, right?

Bajaj Pulsar 180

Sporty, right?

Bajaj Pulsar 220

Sporty, right?

Bajaj Discover

Sporty, right?

Bajaj XCD

Sporty, right?

Bajaj Platina

Sporty, right?

TVS Apache

Sporty, right?

TVS Star City

Sporty, right?

TVS Flame (will be seen soon on roads)

Sporty, right?

Can design be a differentiator? In bikes, definitely! All the bikes have fairing of some sort, the tank extends from headlight to the tail. Machines seem covered. The bikes exude sportiness, much like the bikes seen in races.

What should TVS do? Bring in 'naked' bikes. Yes, much like RD350 and RX100 that became the flag-bearers for Yamaha. Since they are no longer there in the market, TVS has the ground ready to conquer. In fact, it might be a gold-mine if looked at with serious intent. These bikes could exude street-sport, not track-sport. Got the point? That's option-2.

Any other option? Yes, Bajaj is emphasizing that Avenger is a 'trip' bike. All Royal Enfield bikes are 'trip' bikes. While these cruisers are fighting the battles for the highways, can TVS look at the city-roads? Which means, TVS should launch city-cruisers. Yes, and call them city-cruisers'. Alternatively, TVS can make bikes for easy-riders and leave sport-riders for other players.

It really is now or never for TVS. Are you listening?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Thomas Scott is no bang!

For starters, Thomas Scott is a men’s clothing brand. From what one can gather – based on their advertisements and their retail outlets – it is meant to serve in the office-wear and formal-wear category.

Who is Thomas? Is he a Scott? Well, then who is Peter? Is he from England? Yes, you’ve got the drift. There’s Peter England. So there’s Thomas Scott. A me-too brand. Though it’s difficult to understand what the reference to Scotland means any which way... Did the brand managers or marketing managers consciously even think of the hint of Scotland in the name? Is it just my figment of imagination? Whatever, the name’s pretty indicative. What it means is still unclear. A battle lost even before it started.

Having talked of names, there are other brands too which sound like personal names of some Englishmen- John Miller (private brand found at Pantaloons) and John Players (brand introduced by ITC and endorsed by Hrithik Roshan). These brands have struggled to garner any significant chunk of the market after all the money they’ve spent. I’ve heard people say, “I am wearing a Zodiac” but not “I’m wearing a John Players” and therefore, my conclusion.

There are other brand names – the successful ones - based on personal names. Allen Solly. Louise Philippe. Van Heusen. These names might not carry much power in themselves but they are catering to well-defined segments.

Allen Solly – Friday Dressing
Louise Philippe – Regal Crest (Reference to Kings)
Van Heusen – Power Dressing

What about Peter England? Reasonably priced office wear for young male executives.

So, what about Thomas Scott? The ads say “Attention is inevitable”! Yes, I did pay attention to the ad! Another message in the ad is “A retail group venture of Bang Overseas Ltd.”! Is it? Thanks for informing. So now?

What about John Miller? What about John Players? Does anybody know?

There are many other men’s garment brands which draw inspiration from European names.

Fritzberg. Heidelberg. Oxemberg. Indicative of Swedish-German origins.

Oxford. Cambridge. Reference to English Universities!

Alright. You want great sounding names. European names sound great. Europe is known for great fashion designers and great designs. But then, when you want to sell to masses, you have to stand for something. Unfortunately, you have personal names which sound great but they have neither any intrinsic reference to a definite segment nor have they been consciously attached to definite segments by the marketers.

Bang Overseas Ltd. has come out with an IPO. Going by its marketing strategy in India, it isn’t a great long term bet at the moment. Because marketing is business and business is all about focus. Thomas Scott hasn’t found its focal point yet.

Friday, January 11, 2008

TVS, where dost thou go? (Part-1)

Here's a list of big players in the biking arena. If you are just given a few words to describe what each of these bike-makers stand for as brands, your list might look like this (in alphabetical order):

Bajaj - Exciting bikes
Hero Honda - Economy & Reliable bikes
Honda - ? (Scooters perhaps or perhaps....)
Suzuki - ? (Well, they make 125cc bikes and they've launched 125cc scooter too but...)
TVS - ? (Very likely scooterrettes and they are also making good bikes which can be called performance bikes but... Oh, well they make economy bikes too but...)
Yamaha - Performance bikes

You might agree that Hero Honda stands for economy and reliable bikes. That explains their failure in premium-segment bikes.

You'll debate on the descriptions given for Bajaj and Yamaha. Doesn't Bajaj stand for 'performance'? Yamaha doesn't have anything related to 'performance', then how can it be described as such? I'll clarify these questions by asking a few questions in turn.

Yamaha hasn't launched anything that can closely called as 'performance bike'. Right? Right. But if it does launch something in the range of 150cc to 200cc, will you go rushing to the 2-wheeler dealers? Yes. Why? Because you might think, finally, Yamaha has launched a performance bike. Current understanding is such that higher-end bikes are supposed to mean that. Yamaha's heritage has been just about performance in this country.

Bajaj, on the other hand, has been producing bikes which perform but not at the cost of hurting the biker's pockets. Let me explain the point again.

Take two 150cc bikes - one from Bajaj and the other from Yamaha. Assume your intention is to buy a performance bike. Which one will you buy given a free hand? Most likely, the latter. Now, put a few constraints; you want a performance bike but reasonably priced and with decent fuel-efficiency. Which one would you go for? Bajaj, isn't it? So Bajaj is 'exciting'. Yamaha is 'performance'. Yes, that's the power of the brand. In spite of doing practically nothing for almost a decade, the brand owns that word (if not the category) and that's its biggest asset.

Only three brands have defined the segments clearly. The other three aren't interested in defining but they are interested in fighting hard in the battlefield! Wow!

I would like to think for the best underdog in the Indian biking arena. TVS. But why TVS? It is the third biggest bike marketer in the country, behind Hero Honda and Bajaj but ahead of HMSI, Yamaha and Suzuki. The first two are making tonnes of money, in hundreds of crores. The last three are Japs and are sitting on huge successes, global reputations and of course, loads of money to splurge even when they would make losses. TVS, the odd man, made a profit of just a few crores on their hundreds of crores of sales. As exciting as the biking industry is in this country, it also requires lots of money to put into R&D and new product launches. In such a scenario, TVS looks to be in trouble in spite of good bikes. And that's because its space in the India biking industry isn't defined. Churning good or superior products isn't a problem. But if those good products are in the category where there are established leaders, then you have little to gain .

TVS is spread too thin. It makes Star City in the economy segment. Star claims better mileage than Splendor but sells in the ratio 1:10. It has Apache in the 'exciting' segment but Pulsar seems to outsell it 5:1. It makes scooterrettes (where it has been fairly successful with Scooty and its upgrades) but fights against the likes of Honda. In fact, Scooty was earlier defined as a proper scooterrette but these upgrades have only taken it closer to the scooter category where Honda has dominance. Another strategy which could force the company downhill. TVS also has Victor GLX and Flame in the premium commuter 125cc bikes segment where it fights with Bajaj (which is leading the pack currently with a lot of innovation), Suzuki, Hero Honda, HMSI and Yamaha. With so much working against it and without a lot of money, how is TVS gonna survive this onslaught by the biggies?

By focussing and by choosing its category and by being the first in that category. If there's no defined category left empty, then it had better create and define a new category and be the first there. How?

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Peter England, who?

The other day I met a friend who holds the distributing rights for one of India's very well-known garment brand Peter England. On the occasion of an alumni meet, he had set up a display kiosk for Peter England ELITE at Entrepreneurship Development Institute of India.

Talking about brands and branding strategy, in response to a rather skeptical remark regarding the fate of ELITE by one of our friends, he retorted, "Do you know how much it takes to create a new brand in the market? Rs500 crores!"

I agree. You would also agree. However, it isn't just about money. Or if marketing managers think that branding is just an easy way of minting money, then brands are doomed and consequently, companies too.

Peter England has been around for many years now, perhaps at least a decade. What is Peter England? One would say an inexpensive and smart formal/office wear brand for young male executives. Then what's Peter England ELITE? Well, it is likely to be expensive formal/office wear brand for young male executives.

Okay, so what is Peter England after launching Peter England ELITE? It is expensive and smart and inexpensive formal/office wear for young male executives! Add to the confusion; ELITE is just one of the latest extensions of the brand. Read the story below. This little article published in THE HINDU is worth reading:

Aditya Birla Nuvo’s Peter England Fashions and Retail Ltd is to launch Peter England family stores housing men’s, women’s and kids’ wear and accessories by mid-next year, said Mr Aloke Malik, President.

“The work for the stores is in progress and we might finalise something by December. We will open a limited number of large format mid-value stores of 10,000 – 15,000 sq. ft. and want to leverage the equity of Peter England,” he said.

The store is targeted at age-band of zero to 35 years and will house the company’s brands in segments where they have a manufacturing facility. For kids’ wear, it might have to outsource the garments, he added.

“We have an aggressive retail expansion plan and aim to grow in quality as well as additional stores,” said Mr Vikram Rao, Business Director, Textiles & Apparels.

Peter England forayed into the premium and sub-premium segment of shirts, with Peter England Elite, targeted at young office goers.

Aggressive ad campaigns are in the loop to promote this new range through outdoor media, print, on ground methods and the Internet, said Mr Venkataramani K, Brand Director, Peter England. Ranging from Rs 995 to Rs 1,395, the shirts and trousers of Peter England will be available in its flagship and select retail outlets. The new brand is concentrating on the mid-priced aspiring customer.

The first phase of Peter England Elite is being launched in Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Pune and Nagpur, while countrywide distribution will be in place by next 6-8 months.

The company garnered revenues of Rs 270 crore in the current fiscal and plans to create a Rs 500-crore Peter England brand within the next 3-4 years, said Mr Malik.

Fantastic! What grand plans! Make a Rs270 crore brand into Rs500 brand in 4 years. Wow! How? Leveraging the equity of Peter England... And how is that? Have a look at what the messages include: 1. Aggressive retail expansion 2. Grow in quality 3. Additional stores 4. Peter England family stores housing men’s, women’s and kids’ wear and accessories 5. The store is targeted at age-band of zero to 35 years and will house the company’s brands in segments where they have a manufacturing facility 6. For kids' wear, it might outsource the garments...

Helloooooo! It's unbelievable. Whoever asked the marketing managers and brand managers to meddle with Peter England... Ask a common male office-goer about Peter England and he might tell you what it is - inexpensive and smart formal/office wear brand for young male executives. After all the strategy given in the article, what will Peter England be? A family retail store with expensive/ inexpensive, economy/sub-premium/premium formal/office wear for young male office goers, with some garments for women and with some garments for kids and with some accessories also! Imagine! How creative and multi-faceted!

It's an amazing story of how a brand created with so much focus and such clear definition over almost a decade is now being torn apart left, right and center. Excuse? Leveraging the equity! Make it Rs500 crore brand! Sir (Management/CEO at Madura Garments), you might want to do anything with it but Peter England's gonna mean the same thing as it has meant to consumers. If you force a change, do so at your peril. Short-term you might raise consumer's interest and curiosity and perhaps your sales, medium-term or long-term you are gonna kill what the brand has so strongly stood for and lose your ground as well as leadership to more focussed and opportunistic competitors in a growing market. Let Peter England be what it is. You want to capture other segments, do so by launching a new brand or wait till it is an opportune time to launch something new. Meanwhile stay with Peter England (the way it has always been), Allen Solly, Van Heusen and Louise Philippe and enjoy the fruits.