You may be young but you may well be Aunty or Uncle unless you get a mobile phone that's bigger, faster, better, and at smarter prices. That's what Micromax would have you believe with its latest ads for its Ninja phones, which also throw down the gauntlet to Samsung by asking "Then why Y?", in a reference to the Korean major's Series Y smartphones.

Micromax is not hiding the fact that its latest ad has everything to do with Samsung. The company acknowledges it and sees nothing wrong in the comparative advertising.

 “This campaign aims at establishing these two smartphones (Ninja 3.5 and 4.0) by Micromax as superior to rival Samsung’s Galaxy Y. This has been done through a feature-by-feature comparison,” Deepak Mehrotra, Chief Executive Officer, Micromax, told BrandLine.

The company says it has catered to the consumer’s need for the real picture drawn from research and comparison of the two competitors’ phones.

Apart from superior features, the company claims, Micromax also wins hands down on the basis of the extremely competitive pricing.

The Samsung ads themselves took off on the BlackBerry phones, says Mehrotra. In fact, the protagonist went a step ahead and ridiculed an older person by calling him an ‘Uncle’ just because he did not subscribe to her definition of ‘modern’, he said.

“Our understanding of youth today is that they are far more 'inclusive' and tolerant of elders. Our version, therefore, had the protagonist being ridiculed by her peers – a dose of her own medicine,” says Mehrotra.

The branding and marketing of products in the mobile handsets market are taking the form of open challenges. And it is happening worldwide. It is not only the international brands but also the home-grown companies such as Micromax, Lava and Karbonn which are countering the bigger brands head on.

If Samsung comes out with an ad challenging Apple, it can soon expect to find something confronting it popping up, usually a local or low-cost brand. The average urban Indian consumer today is almost as inquisitive or as well-informed as his Western counterparts. When he spends money, he would like to believe he has picked the best within his budget.

The Indian brands, across categories, are striving to deliver products/ quality at par with their international counterparts, without the additional value in cost.

The latest commercial advertisement on televisions of Micromax handsets is a case in point where it claims its features, size and applications of its Ninja series 3.5 and 4.0 are better than Samsung's Y range, and priced cheaper.

Micromax is one of the fastest growing local companies and successful in the Indian market. It is also one of that breed of companies offering value-for-money mobile devices that were a reason for numero uno Nokia's decline in market share.

Samsung, for its part, is not bothered by such ads or companies which want to sell products through similar campaigns.

“Samsung is a market leader in the smartphone segment in India offering smartphones across the Android , Windows and the bada platforms,” Rahul Saighal, Chief Marketing Officer, Samsung India, said.

“At Samsung we are looking at consolidating our smartphone leadership by offering a rich portfolio of innovative products coupled with communication that reinforces the consumer benefits of our advanced technology products as in the case of our flagship devices like Galaxy S3 or Galaxy Note II,” he said.

The company has slogans such as ‘Desh smart ban raha hai, aap dual smart baniye’ for its dual-SIM smarphones.

The Galaxy Y Duos Lite commercial ad’s tagline is ‘Change to Smart’, which shows the Galaxy Y smartphone as an enabler, helping the users emerge on top of situations through the its functionality - in the classroom, restaurant, on the road. There is a clear articulation that those who are using the smartphone are ‘smart’ as against those who have not ‘changed to smart’, says Saighal.

The companies are seeing better sales by defining the kind of users in a particular ad for each handset.

The direct comparison of products by rival brands has been exercised in various forms, since the dawn of advertising, points out the Micromax CEO.

Challenger brands across categories resorting to comparison have benefited, provided the product stands true to the claim. Responses to the ads and the phones have been also good, claim the companies.

And, it is not necessary that the companies hire a brand ambassador for such ads. Many recent ads have fresh faces. This way the companies are saving a lot of money as a brand ambassador would have charged much more.

“The youth is our brand ambassador because they are the ones who are doing better marketing and branding of the products. The products are also more oriented towards young generations,” says Bhupendar Kumar Modi, Global Chairman, Spice Mobiles.

However, even though the campaigns butt heads, there is still a gap between low-cost mobile manufacturers and branded ones.

There are exceptions too - in consumers who do not go the research/ comparison way when they go in for an iconic brand such as Apple or BlackBerry or Samsung.

Many buyers are buying the low-cost brands such as Micromax, Lava, Karbonn or Olive because they look like handsets from Apple or Samsung.

People in India want a ‘Wow!’ factor and many of them want their handset to carry the look and feel of a big brand. For example, a BlackBerry look-alike,” says Sandip Biswas, Director (Media and Telecom), Deloitte Touche Tomhatsu India, said.

He said there is a market for such low-cost phones as India has consumers in different categories and prices, but there is also a place for top brands such as Apple or a Samsung.

Though operating systems such as Google Android and Windows have helped local players such as Micromax or Lava grow their business, there would still be a class of buyers such as Samsung or Apple users, who really buy such handsets.

“Even in the youth or student category, a CEO’s or MD’s kids will continue to use branded handsets such as a Samsung, Apple or BlackBerry and not some low-cost manufacturer’s,” Biswas says. So will it be snob factor that wins or will a more value-for-money sensibility prevail?

(This article was published on October 25, 2012)
XThese are links to The Hindu Business Line suggested by Outbrain, which may or may not be relevant to the other content on this page. You can read Outbrain's privacy and cookie policy here.