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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A face to sell the tall car

Prof Arindam Chaudhuri of IIPM on MF HUSAIN‎

The Indian automotive industry has been associated with Bollywood for a long time now. While Shahrukh Khan has been able to wave his magical wand around Hyundai, Aamir played to perfection the role of a sweet boy next door driving in the family car Innova. What’s more, within four years of its launch, Santro became the second largest selling car in India, convincingly displacing Maruti’s Zen. Now that’s what we call effective use of celeb to multiply brand promise. However, the market leader Maruti, except for a few occasions has steered clear of roping in a brand ambassador. So the million dollar question remains why Maruti has roped in Madhavan now and why for a best seller like WagonR? Does Maruti Suzuki actually need a brand ambassador to endorse its products when many believe that its brand equity is strong enough to pull volumes straight away?

With a steady stream of launches, innovative schemes, attractive finance options, Maruti has been able to keep competition at bay. And more recently with the launch of Swift, A-Star, SX4 and Ritz, the company has made a definite attempt to change its position from a people’s car maker to a more radical and technologically advanced carmaker in the consumer’s mind. However, barring A-Star the rest were bereft of any brand ambassador. “Brand ambassadors are required to create a new category, as, with them being associated to a particular brand; chances are that the product will gain initial volumes easily. We did the same with A-Star, as it was aiming to create a new category in the hatchback market,” clarifies Srivastava. But then, one can always put a question on Maruti’s move to rope in Madhavan for WagonR as it is almost a decade old brand in the country. “Madhavan is very famous in the southern region of the country and as the company is focusing on this region/belt to garner high volumes, Madhavan surely fits the bill,” avers Srivastava. In fact, the company is also planning out aggressive BTL activities in the southern parts of the country to bank more volumes and if experts are to be believed then these attempts will only make the market leader much stronger in the southern domestic market.

Maruti, however, has no plans to rope in a brand ambassador for the launch of every new product. Rather, the automaker plans to follow its clearly designed approach of using a brand ambassador in case of creating a new category in the industry. “Maruti enjoys a very high brand recall and has equally good amount of brand equity but after a certain extent the brand is not good enough alone to pull volumes and that’s where an association with a known face comes into picture,” affirms Srivastava. And now the grapevine is abuzz with the news of Maruti roping in a brand face for the refreshed SX4, simply because the power packed sedan is trailing behind the segment leader Honda City. The marketing honchos at Maruti feel that with a brand endorser coming in the picture, it may bring SX4 at the top of the C+ segment. Although the company did not confirm, in all likelihood hunk John Abraham will be the face for the new SX4 as his machismo personality matches the all male SX4. The appeal of John and the tag line, ‘Men are Back’ are in complete sync.

Be that as it may, it will be interesting to see how the sales figure of WagonR and SX4 behave in the coming months as a lot of it will reflect in the marketing strategy of the upcoming Maruti brands.

For more articles, Click on IIPM Article.

Source : IIPM Editorial, 2010.

An Initiative of IIPM, Malay Chaudhuri and Arindam chaudhuri (Renowned Management Guru and Economist).

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