Thursday, May 18, 2006

Chill out… ‘Juicy’ Wars Ahead!

Talking of Warfare, marketers in India are predicting that the price wars would move from the cola battlefield to another one …the Battlefield of Fruit and Fruit-based juices – a nascent market which is emerging as one of the most promising markets of the country, and an equally challenging one..!!

Have talked a lot about health-conscious Indian consumers and marketable elements for them; right from Fitness centers to fairness creams, from Skin healers to healthy food; from lotions to drinks - Health has become the buzz word lately. It was only a matter of time that marketers included this flavor in their marketing mix.

According to an article at TMCnet, Focus of the marketers has shifted towards health drinks, which is growing at almost 20-25% currently. So much so, that the industry experts are predicting a juice war in the market, based on price and variations.

Almost a year back, I had presented an analysis of the Fruit Juice market. Fortunately, most of the assessment and predictions of the market still hold valid. The key driving forces for the market remain to be product innovation, expanding market into niche segments and increased consumer preference for healthy foods – though each of them has entered into a more mature & developed phase.

Marketing initiatives being taken by the Brand Managers are oriented towards demand creation through increasing awareness and educating customers. It is imperative to venture tapping new markets and get new customers! They are also identifying new and innovative touch points, including gyms, BPOs, nigh clubs and other places where “health” and “fitness” are symbolized.

Lately, several niche segments are growing in the Indian markets. For instance, sports drinks (Red Bull & Gatorade), unheard of a few years back, now command an excellent growth potential within the country.

An interesting case study on Appy Fizz highlights the importance of visibility and promotions for the sale of a brand. To summarize, the drink, which started as a brand extension of Parle Agro’s Appy, was targeted specifically at the teenagers. Aggressive promotions, large number of consumption channels and high visibility entailed a well-executed strategy of the extension, overpowering its mother brand, in the market. The drink has positioned itself well between fruit juices and carbonated drinks.

However, Challenges which stood in the way of marketers a year back, continue to be the roadblocks of the market. Price continues to be the biggest bottleneck, since the soft drink market is very price-elastic. Not to forget the quality parameters and low awareness levels.

However, with so many hullabaloos over the quality and packaging against the cola majors (and the resulting controversies), quality has almost become an underlying assumption in the mindsets of the producers as well as the consumers. Therefore, reinforcing quality along with ensuring acceptable price points, and subsequently leveraging both of these using the health platform to promote your offerings… the language of the marketers today – some find the challenge exciting entailing new innovations, whereas some are still grappling with the market conditions.

Various strategies are being worked out in the market today.**
Be it entering into niche markets, interfacing with the corporates, introducing various price points to enter into tier-II cities and towns, introducing brand extensions and identifying more touch points – the fruit juice market has definitely become a much more dynamic and innovative market – with marketers willing to experiment anything to boost sales and create demand.
With new players emerging regularly and experimentation becoming the norm of the day, no wonder, analysts are predicting another price war in the market very soon….

In that case, maybe its time to get some working tips from Mr Hannibal again.
Fruit for thought? ;-)

[Statistics - AC Neilson estimates the overall non-carbonated beverage market to be Rs.615-crore in traditional & modern trade, out of which Rs 112 crore comprises fruit juices and Rs 503 crore for fruit-based drinks. Players in the market – Earlier posts]

**Fruit Juice market would be an ideal case to be studied based on the Ansoff Matrix. With all the 4 quadrants being worked upon – Market development, Market penetration, Product development and Market Diversification – different offerings are operating in different quadrants.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Marketing Strategy - The "Hannibal" Way

Wayne E Pollard, at CMO Magazine, has wonderfully articulated the learnings for Marketers from the chapters of history – from the strategies and planning of Military leader Hannibal Barca, when he attacked Rome between 218 B.C. and 202 B.C.
Though I am not in complete agreement with relating new markets to Battlefields, and marketing as “attacking” and “warfare”, one can still identify the key elements of strategizing to be kept in mind, while venturing into a new market, from the article.
Right from considering the work force to doing the ground work, understanding the competitor and its market perception to forming alliances, the author has perfectly aligned a marketer’s strategic planning to that of a Military leader. An interesting read for sure!

Some of the basic pointers that one should definitely keep in mind are that Marketers need to be aggressive enough before entering the market. This aggression needs to be complemented with dynamism and adeptness to handle the market conditions. Not to forget the ability to customize your offerings and being receptive to the customer feedback as well.
Not only is it necessary to have a comprehensive plan and an aggressive execution, but it is equally critical to communicate the “perception of execution” in the market, something most marketers & potential ones (like me!) understand only on the field !

Monday, May 08, 2006

Folger's Coffee, Manhole Covers and New York..

Folger’s coffee has another medium of advertising in New York City – Manholes!
Printed on Vinyl and steam coming out of it, the tagline reads "Hey the City never Sleeps. Wake up"
[via Coloribus]

A nice comment was given by David Kiley in “Brand New Day” blog of Businessweek.
He has commented on the display with a realistic perspective of the “manhole cover” – though the picture hits the taste buds sensing a hot cup of steaming soothing coffee, due to the place it is put, the steam is nothing but the odor coming out of the manhole! So that’s the “other” side of Advertising!

Talk of Manholes and talk of New York, and a dozen Exporters will be alerted here in India. Most of us might not know this (neither did I, till I read about it) that India is now the world leader in the manufacturing and exporting of manhole covers.

According to an article in Indiatime, all of the new 600,000 odd manhole covers in New York come from the low-cost Indian market. Reasons? (Source:Yahoo News) With the cost almost a third of that in the US, Indian manufacturers have started getting a major chunk of the “Manhole manufacturing” business. So much so that Manhole cover export to US is spoken in terms of another element of “Indian outsourcing” (by Jim Coyer)

Manhole covers have long been given a lot of importance and admiration due to the artistic styles and intricate designs on them. Most of the early ones are as early as the 18th century, some of which have been collected and presented pretty nicely by individuals. Have a look. Looks more like an ancient coin collection – Each one of them is unique and elegant in their own way. Some of the samples taken from a unique collection are shown here!

New York has something with the manholes, be it Manhole advertising, Manhole Covers, Manhole Tables, Manhole Lamps, Manhole Designing and recently, a Manhole seminar! (“The World Forum on Manhole Covers” involving artists and experts to discuss manhole covers in New York)

Of late, Manhole covers are being translated into tables and lamps. According to a recent article in Voice of America, Michael Miller (tables) and Michele Brody (lamps) are the key people behind these innovative initiatives. And guess what – these designs are being used in a public works project to commemorate some of New York City's history (there comes the place again!)

Back to the sub-continent, talk of Manholes and not talk of Manhole Theft?
In Manhole cover theft has become a serious problem in many countries, especially India and China, with expenses incurred by the local municipalities and danger to the residents. The main purpose being resale as scrap, manhole covers have become endangered withing the India–China region, so to say. In China in 2005, almost 4000 manhole covers were stolen and resold as scrap metal. The hazardous implications has forced the authorities to take stricter measures and look at non-recyclable and non-metallic materials.

Finally, did you know that “Manhole” term is now regarded as a “sexist” term in some areas? According to Wikipedia,

In some areas the term "manhole" is now regarded as a sexist term, especially now that woman are increasingly working in the utility sector, and using the devices. The term "maintenance cover" is used by some cities, as a nonsexist term and to correspond to the traditional abbreviation "MH" on old engineering diagrams.

Interesting. I wonder what are the women going to say for the “Man-made devices” now? ;-)

[Source of Images of Manhole Covers: Danheller]

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

"Heavy Weight" Billboards....Literally!

I had earlier spoken about Fitness centres using innovative application of traditional media - Billboards. That time, it was about Silberman Fitness Centre. Have a look at 2 more billboards, reinforcing the flexibility this medium offers. Great creatives indeed.

(Thanks to Ilya - Billboardroom!)

What is the key to marketing this service of Fitness and weight control?
In both the billboards, attention is grabbed by building around the same concept - a fat man deforming the shape of a billboard. However, on second thoughts, I believe (I could be wrong though) that the key emotion to be tapped laterally is "embarrassment" - to trigger people into feeling conscious about themselves and start using the products advertised. Crudely put, it does not communicate that "you need to become this from this" but "you better NOT be this". No Promises, No hopes, No aspiration values picked. Just highlighting the problem and asserting your capability - Simple, yet Elegant. Just push the people out of their habits and start using your brands. Interesting concept, nonetheless.

Traditionally, marketers used to draw a contrast between "before" and "after" stages of people, and the difference attributed to the advertised brand. Thereby, the aspiration value was tapped and hopes attached. Most of the people aspired to be identified with "good looks" and here was a brand that promised to take them there, with demonstrated results. This last bit was what was instrumental for major portion of sales.
This advertising technique was one of the major marketing platforms for the most famous Indian fitness centre - VLCC.

In India, over the past 10-odd years, fitness and weight loss has become almost synonymous with VLCC (Vandana Luthra Curls and Curves), with the company enjoying probably the strongest Brand Recalls in the country. Be it rapid weight loss, skin care treatment, or exercising, VLCC has virtually monopolized the Indian Fitness market and has emerged the Market leader in most of its service categories (not to undermine the other existing players).

The 17-year old business has been regularly expanding its product and service portfolio, to retain its position in the business. The website asserts
"As the market leader across various categories it operates in, VLCC has re-defined the wellness business. Having served over half a million customers since inception, VLCC today has achieved iconic status. Brand recall and awareness levels are very high".

Successful up-selling and cross selling, penetration into middle-income segment and High repeat business are some of its key features. So much so, that it has resulted in VLCC being awarded the 'health and beauty retailer of the year' in 2005.

Jumping on the tagline "Shaping your confidence" created by JWT, VLCC focuses on Direct Marketing through mailers, and boasts of a strong CRM model. This entails high repeatability and in turn, consumer loyalty. Though the services come at a premium, an equivalent quality in service levels is ensured with modern equipment, counseling services and other value-added services.

Beauty and fitness market has quickly evolved in India, with both the genders becoming equally conscious about their appearances and health. This is backed strongly by the rapid rise of the young consumers with high disposable income. According to an old article in Hindu Business Line, the Fitness industry had already crossed the Rs. 1000-Crore mark last year and is growing currently at a rapid pace of 50%. This is further complemented with a strong demand from the corporates and the affluent class for fitness equipment installations and services… Just the season VLCC would dream for ;-) .

Recently, the company has developed strategies for the SME segment and has identified a strong marketing potential in that segment. Need to delve further into the promotional strategies of the company before rambling about it :-).