A brew for the young

Last Updated: Sun, Oct 03, 2010 21:40 hrs

Nescafé’s new campaign tries to connect with the youth to drive sales and grow the category

Nestlé has come out with a new campaign for its Nescafé instant coffee with actors Deepika Padukone and Purab Kohli. The campaign unfurls a silent emotional play between two neighbours — one a celebrity, Padukone, and the other the guy next door, Kohli — and talks to the youth of urban India. "It seeks to draw out the emotional relationship between the beverage and its consumers," says Nestlé India Marketing Manager (coffee) Chandrasekar Radhakrishnan.

The story of the two neighbours will unfold over several commercials. The television commercial has been shot as a series to engage the consumer in a manner that he or she becomes a part of the protagonists’ lives as the story pans out. The print idea is also atypical. It has illustrations of cobwebs in the mind and the tagline says that clarity can be induced with a cup of Nescafé. The Nescafé red mug is also visible at all the touch points and connects the pieces of the campaign. Radhakrishnan joined Nestlé some months ago from Bharti Airtel. There, he had come out with a similar story-led campaign for the company’s DTH service with actors Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoor.

The coffee market in India is unique. The country produces 5.3 per cent of the world’s coffee but consumes only a fraction of it. Clearly, the coffee growers depend heavily on the overseas markets. The per capita consumption is just 72 gm a year, way below 1,540 gm in the US and 1,245 gm in Norway, Sweden and Denmark. At the same time, all the coffee sold in retail is branded. This leaves a huge upside for brands like Nescafé. But, admits Radhakrishnan, the market for instant coffee is growing in single digits. One way to drive consumption and grow the category is to connect with the youth — they after all form almost half of the country’s population of 1.2 billion. This is where the new campaign fits in. "This campaign is a key initiative to accelerate the sales of Nescafé and grow the market," says Radhakrishnan.

Building a connect
Nescafé is the leader in the market. Radhakrishnan does not disclose the size of the industry and Nescafé’s market share, but industry estimates suggest that the category is worth Rs 1,300 crore per annum and Nescafé’s share could be as high as 62 per cent. Its closest rival is Hindustan Unilever’s Bru. The two brands together account for almost 95 per cent of the branded coffee sold in the country. Some other companies that tried their hand at the business failed to dent the market dominance of Nescafé.

The question is does the Padukone-Kohli campaign promote the cause of instant coffee in general and Nescafé in particular? "The campaign is simple, uses new faces and seeks to up Nescafé’s awareness. In many ways, it also says subliminally, ‘Never mind if you don’t make friends with Padukone, you at least have your Nescafé!’ What is covertly read out of this ad is more important than what is overtly read," says Harish Bijoor Consults CEO Harish Bijoor. To be sure, Bijoor is not new to the coffee business. In the past, he has worked with Tata Coffee.

"With lifestyles beginning to change, this campaign reinforces Nescafe’s brand equity with consumers in the manner that engages them the best," says Radhakrishnan. The campaign does not go about telling the traditional product and product benefit story in the usual manner. The initial teaser, the possibility, and then the final connect generate the desired attraction and, for the time being, Nestlé seems to have been able to achieve its goal. "For this campaign, we explored a new route and the creative treatment of the communication is unconventional. In this case, we focused on the potential dynamics that is generally experienced among neighbours. The commercial also highlights the fact that it is the cobwebs in our own minds that stop us from being our best," Radhakrishnan adds.

Keep it fresh
A collaborative effort between the Nestlé brand team and McCann Erickson, the television commercial was shot by Vinil Mathew of Footcandle Films and the photography was done by Atul Kasbekar. McCann has been the international agency for the brand for many years. "We work with our agencies as our partners, and this campaign is a collaborative effort of the marketing team and the McCann team," says Radhakrishnan. "A new campaign was necessary as consumers in this market get bored easily with the old. Constant re-invention is a must. This is a part of the entire process of staying contemporary with contemporary faces and contemporary brand stories," adds Bijoor.

There are two issues here. One, coffee happens to be an item of discretionary purchase, usually by the housewife when she makes her weekly or monthly visit to the grocer. Will the campaign appeal to her? "A lot of upper-income housewives emote with advertising vicariously. The mind of the Indian housewife is quite a complex one. What you see is not what it really is. Advertisers understand this. The ad works beautifully on this score," says Bijoor. In-home coffee consumption today is driven by the dominant imagery of out-of-home consumption of coffee. And out-of-home consumption of coffee has been driven by the high imagery created by the cafe revolution in the country. As of this day, there are a total of 1,926 cafes in the country, Bijoor estimates. Each of them has driven the concept of coffee as a drink to be cherished, a drink over which lots happens. This imagery makes for robust in-home consumption.

Two, doesn’t the presence of Padukone, one of the highest-paid Bollywood actors and brand endorser in the country, overshadow the brand and the message of the campaign? Radhakrishnan says: "Padukone is successful and vibrant, and reinforces the values of our brand. Nescafé is an iconic brand and Deepika is appropriate for the new brand communication." Adds Bijoor: "I do believe that brand Nescafé is larger by multiples than brand Deepika. No one single star can erode or rob the gloss of a brand such as Nescafé."

This still leaves a tough challenge ahead for Radhakrishnan and his team. Coffee consumption in the country is skewed heavily towards the southern states. While per capita consumption in the North is 6.6 gm per annum, it is as high as 352 gm per annum in the South. Hindustan Unilever and even Tata Coffee are strong there with variants suited for that market. Nestlé has come out with its own variants. But the task ahead would be to take the rivals head on in the South.

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