New kids on the block get creative

Roudra Bhattacharya Mumbai | Updated on July 07, 2011



What does a new company do when entering a very competitive market where the incumbents are well established? Maybe take a new approach to brand-building by taking a road not travelled before.

A similar strategy is being adopted by some new global carmakers that have entered the hotly contested Indian small-car segment over the last few years. In the world's second fastest growing auto market after China, this segment accounts for over 70 per cent of the cars sold.

Japanese carmaker Nissan, which operates a plant in Chennai with its French alliance partner Renault, has roped in second year MBA students to help market the Micra hatchback among their peers. The ‘Nissan Student Brand Manager (NSBM)' programme, which is being handled by its Indian marketing partner – Hover Automotive, has expanded in its second year of operations to 15 cities from four last year.

“We thought of this a while ago as we were one of the last entrants. Our primary focus was to build a brand and MBA students are aware of the basics of marketing and management. We want to popularise our cars in the youth segment,” said Mr Dinesh Jain, Chief Executive, Hover Automotive.

This year, 20 NSBMs will be chosen from over 3,000 applicants who will promote both the Nissan and Micra brands through organising various brand-building activities like student competitions and creative initiatives. These individuals will also get a certain monthly stipend for six months of participation and an additional amount for the activities organised. There is an additional incentive of a possible job with the company – two of the 11 NSBMs last year found a job at Hover.

“In the next 3-5 years, we would like to be in the league of Tier II car companies in the domestic market such as Honda and Toyota,” said Mr Jain from Hover.

Companies such as Volkswagen, Ford and Toyota, which had hitherto been focussing on the more premium segments, have also entered the small car market in recent times. Two more players, Honda and Peugeot-Citroen are also expected to now follow suit.

In order to carve out a substantial market share, these new entrants are trying various innovative marketing and branding strategies.

Ford, which has sold one lakh units of its first small car in India – the Figo, in the first 15 months, has now embarked on a pan-India road show across 1,000 cities and towns. The purpose of the ‘Bharat Yatra' is to drive the brand beyond the top metros and tier II cities and into the hinterland.

“The route has been meticulously crafted to ensure that the car not only goes to Tier I and II cities, such as Pune and Asansol, but also to more remote towns such as Gadchiroli, Hinganhat and Korba,” a Ford company statement said.

Toyota, before the launch of its first mass model – Etios, had also under taken a nationwide brand-building campaign highlighting the quality of its products – something Toyota is well known for globally. Meanwhile, Volkswagen has chosen to focus on events like motorsports to drive the popularity of the Polo hatchback brand. With the Polo positioned at the premium end of the market, it organised the ‘Polo Cup' one-make racing championships. It holds similar competitions in other markets as well.


Published on July 07, 2011

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