Cold drinks, hot markets

Harish Bijoor | Updated on May 23, 2012

Telugu actor Mahesh Babu now endorses Thums Up _ NAGARA GOPAL

After years, Thums Up has changed its brand endorser. Akshay Kumar is out. What's your take on this? Why the change?

- Smiju N. Thomas, Kottayam

Smiju, every brand of a fizzy drink needs fizz in its advertising. Just as its advertising needs fizz and action, its endorsers need to remain fizzy.

In many ways Akshay Kumar had completed the task for the brand, and his personal fizz-quotient to fit the brand was missing. To that extent, the new campaign moves a step forward. After all, how long can you keep asking the same star, “ Tumne apne Thums Up ke liya kya kya kiya hai?”

Brand endorsers go through cycles of achievement and non-achievement. Brand endorsers have hits and misses. Brand endorsers are human beings with limited life cycles of appeal. And brand endorsers age.

Brands don't. Brands have two choices then. They can either age with their brand endorsers, or they could change their brand endorsers. Thums Up chose.

As of now, Thums Up has many brand endorsers. In many ways, having four brand endorsers versus one, is hedging. Each endorser appeals to a different class of consumer. Every endorser has an appeal that could even be region-specific.

Having four brand endorsers in many ways is the ultimate brand revenge on the brand endorser of the past. Brand endorsers, particularly film stars, are very promiscuous in their endorsements. Some endorse as many as 14 brands simultaneously, changing their clothes, their hairstyles and at times even their accents, tone, tenor and decibel of talk and walk.

Cheekily speaking, the idea is a simple one: if a brand endorser can endorse so many brands simultaneously, why can't a brand take on more than one brand ambassador? After all, this is the best hedge against bets that could go wrong with having a single star. This is a hedge on the popularity of stars, hits, flops, region of appeal and more.

With this change, I do believe the brand is looking peppier by the day. This piece of advertising adds zing to the brand. As Pepsi ages in the Indian market, Coke and Thums Up are looking refreshingly younger and younger in their brand profiles. “ Aaj kucch toofani karte hain” resonates with the young of this country and their current mood as of now. To toofani, then!

Is the Hindi heartland of India becoming an area of focus for the marketer today? Is this a trend? Why?

- Kiran Gaonkar, Itarsi

Kiran, absolutely, yes.

The Hindi heartland is the new market that is just about emerging. What was derogatorily called the ‘cow belt' and the ‘Bimaru states' in the past is a market that is coming to roost in the present and most certainly the future. These States have become very progressive in their development indices. They boast a GDP growth rate that is at times even more robust than the national numbers. This means that these markets will see faster consumer growth in terms of demand and in terms of volumes, value and innovation.

India is a very young nation. These States have a solid representation of the young. These States are, therefore, excellent markets for young-oriented products and services.

The robust growth numbers in the education sector is proof enough. Add to it the entertainment market, the market for mobile phones, gadgets of every kind, clothes and accessories, cosmetics, shoes, physical exercise-oriented products, and you have a solid market of the future emerging.

The youth in these States are real, rustic and aspiring. Each one of them wants to create a better life for themselves. The first effort is at education. Private schools, colleges, centres of higher education such as MBA institutes, professional degree institutions and coaching centres alike are magnets for the young. Then there is the aspiration to dress better, look better and eat and drink better as well.

This is spurring consumption of not only functional products, but products of cosmetic value as well. There is a craving for products that relate to health, well-being and proactive health care rather than just reactive care.

The young in these towns have a far bigger hunger than the privileged young in the bigger cities of India. Here again, I would segment this territory into urban, rurban and rural. The hunger deepens as you go from urban to rurban to rural. The opportunity for marketers, therefore, deepens as one penetrates down this strata.

Marketers need to be careful and cautious, though. Marketers need to stay humble, talk the language of the people, and offer solutions that are relevant, original and innovative.

Marketers need to tailor themselves to the market, rather than take their tailor-made solutions to the market. Bottom-up marketing is the mantra to adopt. Not pompous top-down marketing norms that we have imported, imbibed and practised with lack of success in the past.

(Harish Bijoor is a business strategy specialist and CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc.

Published on May 23, 2012

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