Marketing

Riding on aspirations

Chitra Narayanan | Updated on February 09, 2018

Unveiling the future (From left) Guenter Butschek, CEO & MD, Tata Motors, N. Chandrasekaran, Chairman, Tata Sons and Tata Motors, and Mayank Pareek, President, Passenger Vehicle Business Unit, Tata Motors, at the debut of the H5X concept at the Auto Expo – The Motor Show 2018. At left is the 45X.

Tata Motors’ new brand promise comes into focus at the Auto Expo

The crowds come to see the cars and bikes and what the future holds for the roads. From that perspective, the big story of the 14th edition of the Auto Expo was green mobility, with over 50 electric vehicles on show. The other big story was Kia Motors roaring into India, wooing consumers by inviting them to take selfies with brand ambassador Rafael Nadal (no, he was not there – just some trick photography) and crowdsourcing names for its first car in India.

But from a marketing perspective, making an impact at Auto Expo 2018 which kicked off on February 8 at Greater Noida was Tata Motors’ new corporate brand positioning of Connecting Aspirations.

Unifying identity

It came together beautifully at its sprawling pavilion with the theme of Smart Mobility, Smart Cities that painted a future of electric vehicles and a green commuting ecosystem.

The storytelling and thought behind the branding and theme was a refreshing change from its rather clumsy ‘Made Of Great’ campaign in the previous edition. But then it’s the group’s 150th year, and it also fits into the grander Tata celebrations around a 150 years of nation-building.

It was in August last year that Tata Motors had unveiled its new unified brand promise of Connecting Aspirations that would encompass both its commercial vehicles and passenger vehicles divisions.

Drafting in consultancy Futurebrands, Tata Motors took some time to arrive at this positioning, keeping in mind its vision for the present and the future.

“Though we hired a brand consultant, a lot of it was our own intuition really, ” says Vivek Srivatsa, Head, Marketing, Domestic Passenger Vehicles Business, Tata Motors.

A symbolic tagline, Connecting Aspirations represents the brand as an interconnected system of mobility solutions that are intelligent, perceptive, warm and expressive. This certainly shone through at the pavilion, which had buses designed to suit the differently-abled, had an environment focus, and so on.

The idea behind the new brand positioning, explains Srivatsa, was that even though Tata Motors had been selling commercial vehicles for over 60 years and passenger vehicles for nearly 20 years there was no core philosophy to connect the customers buying the brand.

“Also, we needed a unified message that was relevant to both categories,” he points out. Commercial vehicles (CV) are all about making money, earning a livelihood and ROI (return on investment). Passenger vehicles (PV), on the other hand, are driven by emotion. “On the CV side it is making business dreams come true. On the PV side, it was about fulfilling the design aspirations.”

Explains Srivatsa, “We constantly track RTB (reason to buy). We found that design had become the compelling feature to buy a passenger vehicle. Earlier cost and fuel efficiency were the top two reasons. But in the last two or three years the top RTB was design.”

Design-driven

The minute design becomes the top RTB, emotions come in, and the future also becomes important. “We find that the consumer, even as she is buying a vehicle is thinking about what to buy after five years. So we had to keep this in mind too,” he says.

The two new cars that were unveiled at the AutoExpo - the H5X concept, a luxury 5-seater SUV and 45X concept, a premium hatchback – are built on Tata’s new design language of Impact 2.0, says Srivatsa.

Once Tata Motors had established that design was grabbing the attention of Indian customers, even in mass segments, it launched its Impact Design language in 2016. Tiago, Tigor, Hexa and Nexon were built on Impact Design philosophy.

Now, the company has stepped up a gear with Impact 2.0. “The technology architecture of both these launches (H5X and 45X) is future-ready,” says Srivatsa. So the electronic engineering that goes into it allows voice-activated control. This means when you get in, you can tell the car “take me home” and the car will auto-switch the GPS navigation to home instantly.

Future pillars

Srivatsa says three pillars driving Tata Motors in developing passenger vehicles are design, safety and infotainment. So on offer will be handsome cars with high-quality infotainment in a connected environment with special focus on safety, such as insistent beepers if you don’t put on safety belts. Srivatsa says segments such as hatchbacks and sedans are getting sub-segmented. So precise marketing is necessary to get the right customers. Therefore, Connecting Aspirations will be the umbrella brand tag line. Each car will have its product-specific positioning for the targeted customer profile.

He points to how Hexa, which should logically be getting older consumers given its higher price point, is attracting younger customers who, one would imagine, would choose entry-level cars. “We are selling over 1,200 Hexa units a month,” he says.

Brand consultant Giraj Sharma says that as a thought Connecting Aspirations is apt as it is a show of intent. “From a brand purist point of view I will say, it is a nice, clean thought. As an internal motivator it will charge employees.” However, he is not so sure about how it will resonate with consumers and feels it will need some more messaging.

Santosh Desai, MD & CEO of Futurebrands India, says ‘Connecting Aspirations’ actually came up after extensive engagement with consumers of all categories and hearing their expectations. “The intent is already being translated into delivery in terms of product development,” he says. Consumers have to see Connecting Aspirations manifesting in the product experience. “We have started seeing product rollouts with a different mindset already,” he points out.

 

From the Nano to the H5X concept due to be launched a year later, Tata Motors has travelled a long way – and it’s not always been a smooth journey. Will the future offer a better ride? Certainly, there is clear direction now.

Published on February 08, 2018

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