All the successful launches in the Brand Derby over the last three years are brands that have had a heady mix of innovation, features and styling coupled with great marketing and promotion. Industry peers have handpicked the winners that have struck a chord with consumers and the best performers in the last three years have come from three categories - automobile, smartphones and movies.
The top successful brands of 2011, just to jog your memory, were Volkswagen Polo, Ford Figo, Dabangg, Nokia N8. Circa 2012, Samsung Galaxy Note , Apple iPhone 4S, The Dirty Picture and M&M's XUV 500 made the cut. And as of 2013, Renault Duster, Samsung Galaxy Note II, Maruti Ertiga, Dabangg 2 are at the top rung of Brand Derby.
The automobile launches that made the cut in Brand Derby in the last three years - Renault Duster, Maruti Ertiga, M&M XUV 500, Volkawagen Polo and Ford Figo - offered great mileage apart from being high on styling. In the fuel guzzling, high-priced SUV category, consumers had been waiting for a product that would be economical at the same time offer great mileage - Duster is the surprise that filled that gap in 2012. Maruti Ertiga is a complete family vehicle - a seven-seater and easy on the pocket too.
Interestingly, over the years, the products that our industry experts have chosen as winners in the Brand Derby have got a thumbs-up from consumers too - all the cars launched have done exceedingly well in their segments. Even big-ticket brands such as Audi Q3 and BMW X1 have sold like hot cakes in the luxury segment.
Smartphone winners in the Brand Derby - Samsung phablet this year and the year before or the Apple iPhone 4S and earlier Nokia N8 - were all great products despite their gravity-defying prices and have posted good numbers riding on innovative features, utility and styling.
Even the movies that have been winners are complete value for money. Whether you look at The Dirty Picture, Dabangg 1 and Dabangg 2 or Singham - they have all provided unadulterated entertainment.
Lesson for brands who did not make the cut in Brand Derby: Get the product mix right,find where the gap is, think out of the box, and remember the Indian consumer is a value seeker.
In top gear
A successful brand is distinctive. Whether in its name, logo, imagery, spokesperson, service or any other element, it should be considered different from its competition or should aim to offer something unique to the consumer. Such uniqueness can be based on real or perceived differences; but such distinctiveness is a key factor in keeping the brand in the mind of the consumer and eventually ensure its survival.
This year's top brand in the Brand Derby is Renault's Duster, a robust, easy-to-drive sport utility vehicle (SUV) that went on to completely reposition other brands in the category. From look-and-feel to its price (Rs 7.19 lakh upwards), the Duster represented a complete break from industry trends. The result is evident: In April 2013, the Duster clocked sales of 6,300 units, ahead of top selling Mahindra Scorpio (4,700). Duster sales till now is more than 60,000 units.
Sold internationally as Dacia, Renault Duster's success in India can be attributed to a combination of factors: great pricing, stylish looks, an affordable diesel variant and the effective advertising strategy that tied in with cricket - the Sri Lanka One Day Series last year and the Extra Innings in this year's IPL. What's more, the company built up the launch momentum over a period of time.
Its pre-launch communication strategy was relenetless. Keeping in mind the "unstoppable Indian", Renault Duster concentrated on a range of activities, including television commercials, radio spots, out-of-home and digital media activities, burning roughly Rs 30 crore in the process.
Three weeks prior to the launch of the vehicle, a pre-launch digital campaign was launched (with different montages of weepy men and a statement "our apologies to those who brought a sedan"). Alongside, the company bought a huge amount of billboard space across the country to announce what was in store.
The company also encouraged auto reviewers, journalists from auto publications, even bloggers, to test drive the vehicle and write and speak about it. The launch event had all the hype and chutzpah to live up to the curiosity generated before the launch. In Delhi, for instance, a special "Renault Lounge" was created at a five star hotel, complete with an LED entrance arch, circular stage with LED screens, white leather couches for guests and a long ramp that doubled as a strategic driveway for the Duster.
Speaking about the product's success, Marc Nassif, managing director of Renault India, says that with Duster, the emphasis was never on volumes. "We realised what was needed was a good quality product so our brand could be noticed by the consumers," says Nassif. "We also understood that to live up to local requirements, we had to evolve local skills and yet have an international feel to the product without comprising on the sturdiness and performance of the vehicle," he adds.
How was Renault able to keep the price of Duster so low? First, by cutting down on the frills. It is a 4X2 and it doesn't offer a lot of the off-road tech such as hill descent control or ascent control and the general gizmos that accompany these cars. Second, by making localisation the cornerstone of its India strategy (the Duster carries 60 per cent localisation).
The company says the magic element has been to keep the excitement alive. Moving forward, there will be more media initiatives, a second TVC and more marketing activities to ensure that the vehicle burns rubber on the tarmac with precision and strategy.
WHERE IT STANDS
Launch budget Rs 30 crore
Sales till now: 60,000 - plus
Good looks and performance
Sustained marketing build-up
The script for a successful story
Last year's big sleeper hit Kahaani has almost been the default choice for jurists of every major cine awards in the country. The film, a mainstream Bollywood commercial film, was everything a mainstream Bollywood commercial film wasn't supposed to be, to quote its maker Sujoy Ghosh. It had no hero; a pregnant protagonist; no romance; was located in unglamorous Kolkata; had unknown faces making up the ensemble cast; and its most memorable/catchy song was an old Tagore track. And yet, it grossed Rs 104 crore in box-office collections in the first 50 days. It doesn't get more disruptive than this.
The film's poster was launched in December 2, 2011 and the trailer hit screens a month later. From the first glimpse it was evident that this film was different. The poster and trailer showed a de-glamourised, pregnant Vidya Balan roaming the streets of Kolkata in search of her missing husband, Arnab Bagchi. The pre-release campaign too played on this theme across platforms.
Ghosh credits the marketing team of Viacom18 for the campaign. Led by Rudrarup Datta, head of marketing and operations, Viacom18, the campaign focused solely on protagonist Vidya Bagchi, and not actor Vidya Balan. The posters showed Vidya Bagchi as Durga. The trailers followed Vidya Bagchi as she navigated Kolkata's underbelly. The campaign budget was Rs 5.5 crore.
Between the release of the film's first and second trailers, an on-ground teaser campaign was launched, which generated tremendous word-of-mouth publicity. Missing posters with Arnab Bagchi's photo were put up in public places. The posters made no mention of the film other than a Facebook page. It asked people to visit the page if they had any information. "The idea was sparked by the Missing' updates we share on Facebook. We share the photos in the hope that someone somewhere will recognise them and inform the relative. We like to help. That was what we wanted the public to feel for Vidya Bagchi. We wanted them to become Satyaki, the cop who helps Vidya Bagchi's quest," says Datta.
The idea found favour with Balan too. It was she who suggested appearing in public with a prosthetic belly and the picture and asking for help. One morning before the film's release an in-character Balan arrived at Khar station in Mumbai and went around showing commuters Arnab Bagchi's picture and asking for information. "The surprise and curiosity helped create a lot of recall value," adds Datta. The press conferences, too, stuck to the theme and were held in public places, a metro station in Kolkata, a police station elsewhere.
Kahaani released on 9 March, a day after Women's Day, on 1,100 screens. STAR TV bought exclusive broadcast rights for Rs 80 million, the highest for a female-centric film in India. Social-networking website Ibibo.com developed an online game, The Great Indian Park-ing Wars, which required players to park Vidya's taxi on a street; it received 50,000 hits in 10 days.
WHERE IT STANDS
Budget Rs 5.5 crore
BO collections in first 50 days: Rs 104 crore
Audience connect and relatibility
Vidya Balan's image as a woman of substance
Marketing was true to the story
Creativity on the go
The stage was set following a successful launch of the Galaxy Note in 2011. A year on, Samsung had greater expectations to satisfy. The company needed to do little to stoke the consumer's curiosity ahead of the big launch. The Samsung Galaxy Note II managed to live up to the fanboys' expectations.
Launched in September 2012, Samsung Galaxy Note II positioned itself on the incredibly creative' platform. Samsung realised innovation in converged devices alone is not enough in a highly competitive category. Not surprisingly, its marketing mix for the launch of Galaxy Note II included some of its tried and tested as well as new strategies. Like its predecessor, the Galaxy Note II first reached its customers through on-ground platforms for a first-hand feel of the product. Next, the company took the initiative to a different level with the Incredible Art Piece' - a digital art piece with the largest number of artists ever contributing to a single art piece.
"The Galaxy Note II is based on the concept that inspiration doesn't wait' and the users should be able to express their creativity anywhere, anytime, taking inspiration from anything. So, we hosted on-ground consumer events wherein the audience was given an opportunity to play around with the Galaxy Note II S Pen and explore its potential," says Asim Warsi, vice-president, Samsung Mobile.
During the launch, film director and scriptwriter Imtiaz Ali screened a short video which he had made using the Galaxy Note II. It highlighted the camera feature and its creative aspects. Samsung also placed caricature artists at select Smartphone Cafes during the launch phase to highlight the creative aspects of the device. Ramanujam Sridhar, founder CEO, brand-comm, says the creative positioning of Samsung Galaxy Note II placed the consumer ahead of the device. "Samsung offered the consumer a device that can work for her (consumers) the way she wants and supports her creative expressions, " Sridhar adds.
If online reactions and user blogs are anything to go by, consumers really appreciated the expansive high-resolution smart screen, along with smartphone portability and on-the-go usability. Innovations around pen-input technology, called the S Pen, combined with Galaxy Note II's full touch screen enhanced user experience.
According to Sridhar, investments in such innovation also proved critical. "The context should also be studied against the then forthcoming launch of Apple's iPhone 5, which Samsung Galaxy Note II is designed to compete with. Samsung can't afford to settle with a lesser product while competing with other top brands. The price of Galaxy Note II, which was a kept a bit low, also made an impact. Indian consumers are still value seekers. The average Indian consumer feels good about buying a product with comparable features from a good brand and at a competitive price. The fact is, the competitive pricing can be seen as the icing on the cake," concludes Sridhar.
The well-orchestrated plan worked for Samsung. A Gartner report indicates, in 2012, Samsung sold 384.6 million mobile phones, 53.5 per cent of which were smartphones. Riding on the Galaxy Note and Galaxy Note II, Samsung ended the year in the number one position, in both worldwide smartphone sales and overall mobile phone sales.
WHERE IT STANDS
Launch budget Rs 30 crore
Emphasis on innovation
Expanding customer interface
For the long haul
After wooing the Indian consumers with its luxury crossover SUVs (sports utility vehicle) Q5 and Q7, Audi decided to bring the smallest member of the Q family to the country last year - Q3. Equipped with 2.0 TDI quattro engine, the SUV was unveiled at the Auto Expo 2012 in January followed by the launch in June. While three months of planning went into the launch of Q3, Audi also decided to make use of the lessons it learnt during the launch of Q5. "Q3 seemed a perfect offering for someone who's buying a compact luxury SUV for the first time. The pricing of the SUV (Rs 26,21,000 onwards) made it an attractive option," says Michael Perschke, head, Audi India.
With a launch budget of Rs 10.7 crore approximately, a 360-degree media plan was put in place focusing on print and digital. The launch strategy was anything but path breaking. A separate website (http://www.audi-q3.in/) was launched for Audi Q3 to drive a stronger connect with youth. The website featured the "Start Young" Music video starring actor John Abraham, one of the many Bollywood stars who own an Audi.
Going back to the Auto Expo last year, Katrina Kaif was called in for the unveiling of the vehicle. This was followed by the launch of Start Young Music Movement', a contest for youngsters to make music videos for Audi Q3 starring themselves. The best three videos were selected by a panel of judges and showcased to the world. The winner got to keep a brand new Audi Q3 for a month. Special customer drives were undertaken at various cities to give 800 prospective buyers a chance to experience the car. They not only got an opportunity to test the vehicle on city roads but also on soft, off-roading tracks that were created specially to give them a chance to test Audi Q3's capabilities. In the one year since the launch of Q3, Audi has taken its total number of dealerships from 17 to 27.
Despite a run-of-the-mill launch, Audi Q3 was a hot seller from Day 1. According to the company, the first batch of 500 vehicles was booked within the first week of the launch. So far, 2000 Q3 SUVs have been sold in India. Perschke believes word-of- mouth worked fantastically towards building brand desirability. "The average Audi buyer is 30-35 years old. We have a young and a young-at-heart portfolio of buyers, who are largely self-drivers," he adds.
Though luxury compact SUV segment is around 1 per cent of the overall passenger vehicle pie, experts are unanimous on its high potential in India. Says VG Ramakrishnan, managing director, Frost & Sullivan, South Asia, "I believe it all started with the launch of BMW X1. The SUV shook the category in India and paved the way for other vehicles in this segment. As long as a brand maintains a tone of elitism and chooses the right celebrity associations, there is no reason why consumers won't pay attention."
Brand expert Harish Bijoor observes that foreign automobile players tend to adopt what they do on their home turf and fail to adapt according to the local markets they expand into. "When you do a launch in a niche category in a developing market, there is enough demand initially. The first batch of inventory can be sold without coughing up millions in advertising. The real challenge for Audi Q3 begins now as they move from one side of the spectrum (creating awareness) to the other - customer satisfaction," he says.
WHERE IT STANDS
Launch budget Rs 10.7 crore
Sales till now: 2,000
Word of mouth, celebrity associations
Higher digital media spends
The tiger strikes again
Not many doubted Salman Khan's box office bankability since his winning streak with blockbusters like Wanted, Dabaang, Ready and Bodyguard since 2009. Those still not firmly in his camp found any remaining shadow of doubt obliterated with hits like Ek Tha Tiger and Dabaang 2 last year. In fact, Ek Tha Tiger's success has been so phenomenal that with its Rs 300 crore-plus box-office collections it made the Rs 100 crore club' seem like child's play, earning the movie a position of pride in the top five slot in this year's Brand Derby.
Is there a formula that has given rise to this almost phoenix-like resurrection of Salman Khan's career, resulting in annual bumper hits? Ashish Patil, business & creative head, VP, Youth Films, brand partnerships, talent management at Yash Raj Films, the producers of Ek Tha Tiger, laughs off the possibility of there ever being one. He does concede to sharing his own take on the formula'. It is the combination of the Eid weekend and the star himself that writes out a success story on its own, says Patil. In case of Ek Tha Tiger, the content delivered too, he adds.
Including the Eid weekend into the success formula has become quite critical. There are a few windows in the calendar like Eid, Diwali, national holiday weekends that work very well from a consumer standpoint. "This trend is a result of business (box office collections) being skewed towards the opening weekend. If a film doesn't get viewers on the first weekend, it may not work. You need excellent content that will bring viewers based on purely word of mouth after the first weekend," says Shailesh Kapoor, CEO, Ormax Media, a research and consulting firm for the media and entertainment companies. The logic spells sense, considering that the film which was made on a budget of Rs 75 -90 crore, raked in Rs 32.92 crore on the opening Friday, going up to Rs 60 crore over the first weekend and ending with the flourish of being the movie to cross the Rs 100-crore mark the fastest, that is, in six days.
Kapoor says the timelines of pre-film marketing have extended to almost six to seven months prior to the actual release with trailer launches, public relations initiatives, teasers, television show appearances, the works. This is, in part, a response to stimuli, the stimuli being the digital medium, that even makes teleporting seem like a long drawn process. Trailer and teaser launches are events in themselves today given the short time it takes for them to travel.
Ek Tha Tiger though stuck to the more routine six-eight week mass media run. Patil says that lead time on campaigns differs depending on the banner under which a film is produced. Sometimes, certain films just build themselves up. To illustrate his point he gives the example of another Yash Raj film, Dhoom 3, where even a casting choice is orchestrated as 'news'.
There was another departure from the routine in case of Ek Tha Tiger. The film avoided crowding brand into the movie. There were only three brands, all for which Salman Khan is a brand ambassador. Suzuki Motorcycles' was the brand integration and cola brand Thums Up (for which Salman wasn't officially the brand ambassador at the time of the film's release) and HUL's Wheel were brand associations. While Suzuki's high-end model Hayate covered the top of the pyramid, HUL's mass brand Wheel's digital campaign restricted to tier 2 and 3 towns worked at the bottom of the pyramid.
It's still early days to speak of a shift from brand integrations to brand associations with regard to films but the time may be around the corner. "Tactical co-branding works better for advertisers who may not have the same objectives for the brand when the film eventually releases. A year-long wait is quite long for brands," says Kapoor. The possibility of the film running into any controversy is also increasingly weighing on the advertiser's mind. Aligning within the star and not the film works better, strengthening the association of the brand with the brand ambassador.
The future of the Ek Tha Tiger brand is still up in the air. There hasn't been any word on sequel yet, but the possibility' hasn't been denied by the stars or the producers.
WHERE IT STANDS
Budget Rs 75-90 crore
Total BO collections: Rs 310 crore
Eid and Salman combination
Salman and Katrina pairing
No brand-association overkill
| Winners and losers |
Call it the slowdown effect or the Indian consumer coming of age, it is the bang for the buck that is making winner brands
This year's grand Brand Derby has thrown up some obvious and some very interesting results. The top five brands are all value-for-money, to use a cliche, but that's the most appropriate way to describe the winners. The message is simple: The Indian consumer has smartened up. The surprise is that none of the high-profile glitzy brands have made it to the top. There is Audi, but it is there for the very same reason - being value-for-money. Ditto for Samsung's Galaxy Note II.
Another key feature is the dominance of movies - 20 per cent of the 50 brands considered in the derby survey are movies. Six out of top ten brands are movies. Two of them have made it to the top five.
At No. 5 we have Ek Tha Tiger. This is the only high profile brand, in a conventional sense, that has made it to the top five: Salman Khan-Katrina Kaif pot boiler, YRF banner, exotic locales, item numbers and catchy songs. The embellishment was too tempting for the Indian audience. The film had a huge opening on 3,300 screens across India. It became the highest grosser of 2012. And yes, in India, box office rakings is all that matters.
Audi Q3, the lowest priced Audi SUV in India, is at No. 4. A mix of price, performance and the assurance of a leading German brand have done the trick. With a price starting at around Rs 26.21 lakh (ex-showroom Maharashtra), 4X4 drive, great looks and luxury, Q3 is a definite winner.
It might be the slowdown effect, but even the luxury consumer is becoming budget conscious. Or maybe, non-luxury customers are graduating to the luxury segment. Or maybe, it's a bit of both. Well, this could be the subject for a deeper market research, but the Audi has proved to be the dark horse among the Big German trio, the other two being Mercedes and BMW. Aggressive marketing and product customisation have won the company a strong share in the Indian luxury car market.
The first runner-up of the Brand Derby is the real surprise - Kahaani, an offbeat movie with no big-draw cast. The clincher paradoxically was the unconventional characterisation - a pregnant Vidya Balan and a foul-mouthed Nawazuddin Siddiqui among a host of others. What more evidence would you need of a maturing Indian consumer? Is it only a coincidence that both Kahaani and Ek Tha Tiger are spy thrillers? One is a flamboyant, masala movie while the other one is subtle and perceptive. But then the consumer needs variety.
But the winner takes it all. Duster from Renault gets top honours with its out-and-out value-for-money proposition. With an aggressive pricing, starting at Rs 7.2 lakh, this good-looking SUV proved to be a game changer. The product cleverly cut down on fancy features and focused on functionality while offering a bit of luxury. The consumer got only those features she was likely to use, such as 4X2 drive, seating capacity for five, spacious luggage compartment, responsive engine, diesel and petrol versions etc. The insight is that we don't really off-road in an SUV; it is mostly for city drive or driving on well-metalled inter-state highways connecting popular holiday or business destinations. Most buy SUVs for trendiness, looks, space, and for their aspirational value. Duster did in 2012 what Mahindra XUV 500 did in 2011. That's a good way to learn from a broken marriage.
An interesting inference that can be drawn from the Derby is that the Indian consumer is willing to take risk with lesser known brands like Renault (vis-a-vis Maruti Ertiga), Audi (vis-a-vis BMW and Mercedes), Kahaani and Vicky Donor (vis-a-vis Talaash, Jab Tak Hai Jaan), provided they deliver on key parameters.
As we go down the tally, the movies slowly start vanishing, but automobiles are well spread across the leaderboard. The reason is that while both use high blitz to market, automobiles have a longer life-cycle and slower consumer adoption.
The bottom five or six (this makes an interesting study) are dominated by automobiles, to be precise by two-wheelers - Hero Impulse (No. 44), Honda Dream Yuga (No. 46), TVS Rockz (No. 48), and KTM 200 Duke (No. 50). The first two are recent divorcees. Both Hero and Honda, it seems, were in a hurry to launch a product to be worthy heirs to the glorious Hero Honda legacy. These two are very different animals - the Impulse is an attractively priced dirt bike whereas Dream Yuga is an equally well-priced small-capacity commuter bike - but neither could set the pulses racing. Perhaps the consumer is still getting over the Hero Honda divorce and is confused as to where she should repose her trust. TVS Rockz is a crossover (scooter and bike); although priced well at Rs 45,000, it did not get the consumer's attention.
Last but not the least, we have a very European KTM 200 Duke, a handsomely crafted performance bike. Two factors let it down: the price tag of Rs 1.33 lakh and a mileage of 35kmpl. Then we have the two rookies, NGC Traveler by ACK Media and Idea Dual SIM Android 4.0 Ivory. First, let's take the more glamorous one - the Idea Dual SIM Ivory. There are similar phones in the same price bracket from leading brands like Samsung, Nokia, etc. Also, India is not a market for closed phones - an open phone commands a better resale price. Then the NGC Traveler: although it is a perfect product from an established brand but the segment is niche. The product category plays a key role in the ranking tally.
In the final analysis, the consumer seems to have jettisoned the either-or' proposition and embraced the freedom of and'. She wants a well-made product and that too at an attractive price point.
By Anil Nagwani, co- founder, White Fish Communications