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Gulp war

business Updated: Mar 27, 2011 21:37 IST
Anita Sharan
Anita Sharan
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

PepsiCo’s 7Up has decided to drop Fido Dido as its communication mascot globally and in India, has signed on Bollywood actor Sharman Joshi as its brand ambassador.

Rival Coca-Cola camp’s Fanta has a brand new logo and an animated, cartoon advertising campaign. And its Sprite has moved away from its ‘Seedhi Baat, No Bakwaas’ ad line to an all-new ‘University of Freshology’.

PepsiCo’s Mountain Dew is pushing masculinity and daring with mass magnet Salman Khan on a skydive, while Coca-Cola India’s masculine statement stays with Akshay Kumar grabbing his Thums Up bottle out of the jaws of a crocodile in the new TV commercial.

Pepsi started the season early with ICC Cricket World Cup 2011, with its ‘Change the Game’ advertising campaign. It will stay associated with cricket into IPL 4, with PepsiCo an IPL broadcast sponsor.

Coca-Cola has taken its core approach of ‘Thanda matlab…’ to an even more fundamental, involuntary expression of ‘Brrr…’ when drinking something icy cold. The ‘Brrr’ ad idea is running across 42 markets globally.

You just cannot miss the ad din by the cold drink brands from Coca-Cola India and PepsiCo currently. Also, this time around, there’s a huge amount of extended noise on out-of-home and digital media and via on-the-ground activation.

Consumer engagement is the mantra this summer.

From the cold drink arch rivals’ baskets, all brands are in strong evidence at the same time. Coca-Cola India, representing the marketer’s viewpoint, calls it a bid for the consumer’s “share of throat”, while PepsiCo India looks at it from the consumer’s viewpoint and calls it “repertoire consumption”.

“As the consumer evolves, his habit expands to frequent consumption, creating different wants and needs from different products in the cold drinks category. As consumption moves to a repertoire base, every segment has to justify itself at functional and emotional levels,” said Alpana Titus, category marketing director (flavoured carbonated drinks), PepsiCo India Beverages.

Both majors are looking a few key factors. First, each soft drink consumer will consume different brands and flavours on different occasions as the market evolves. Second, while India is the third largest market for beverages, the share of branded beverages is small, leaving huge scope for penetration and growth. Third, as consumption habits evolve, soft drinks will be consumed beyond just the summer season’s four months.

That preferences are mixed in soft drinks shows up clearly in consumer preferences: while Thums Up leads the consumption pack, Sprite is in second place, followed by Pepsi in third place. The fourth and fifth positions are occupied Fanta and Limca respectively, according to an industry source. Besides, the mango and lime/lemon categories are growing quickly. Cueing in, both Coca-Cola and Pepsi launched non-aerated lime drinks, Minute Maid Nimbu Fresh and Nimbooz respectively, to combat homemade nimbu paani.

“India is a big juice market in the unpackaged business, with 50% dominated by lemon,” said Ajay Batheja, senior brand manager, Maaza and Minute Maid, Coca-Cola India.

“There is huge opportunity for growth. The more choices consumers have and the more brands there are, the better,” said Srinivas Murthy, director marketing (Thums Up, Sprite, Fanta and Limca), Coca-Cola India. “Indian consumers have multiple needs.”

In communication, therefore, comparative advertising, in high evidence between the two soft drink rivals earlier, may not happen that frequently any longer.

“Increasingly, there is more consumer relevance needed. If comparative advertising fits in within that, then it makes sense. If it helps the consumer make a choice, then it is relevant,” said Sandeep Singh Arora, EVP marketing, cola, PepsiCo India.

With huge scope to increase penetration, all the brands have big plans for creating the critical “consumer engagement” through sampling and activation this summer. “The impact of TV is blunting. While it will remain the lead option to drive reach, the need for engagement with and experience of the brand will drive marketing efforts beyond television,” said Abhijit Dutta, senior brand manager, Coca-Cola India.

So Coke’s ‘Brrr…’ will manifest itself in ‘lounge’ samplings in specially built igloos and via special Brrr buses across India, side by side with an under-the-cap promotion that gives you a free Coke if your cap says “Brrr”. A 50-foot crane drop challenge with adventure sports merchandise as takeaways and drink sampling, supported by a digital initiative, will constitute Mountain Dew’s experiential sampling. Sampling lounges across 50 small towns and emerging cities for a Slice experience will create a sense of mango indulgence.

Fanta’s Funmaster Hunt is already on. Sprite will take its digital Gully Cricket to its next level. The Thums Up Thunder Star Jalsa, a rural activation initiative across 300 towns, will attract engagement via action games and local artiste performances. And Minute Maid Nimbu Fresh will see large-scale retail sampling across semi urban India. PepsiCo’s Slice is driving up modern retail activation.

“We expect consumers to be overwhelmed by Slice at the stores. Our target, the young adult, sees indulgence as an aspiration,” asserted Homi Batliwala, VP, emerging categories, PepsiCo India.

Minute Maid 100%, a range of new, premium juices in three flavours excluding mango, is about to be launched. Several brands have launched new pack sizes for multiple consumption opportunities.

There is competition. Both Maaza (“Jaldi kya hai?”) and Slice (“Sabra ka phal meetha hota hai”) have similar ad messages. Both Sprite and 7Up are based on the idea of think first, then respond after cooling down with the drink.

Both Fanta and Mirinda revolve around ‘fun’ and ‘masti’.

Interestingly, while consumer feedback in India on 7Up’s Fido Dido was that he was too “cartoonish”, Fanta has gone ahead with an animated cartoon ad film this year.

The fight for share-of-throat continues on a larger, multi-brand scale even as strong opponent in mango, Parle Agro’s Frooti, continues with its candid camera advertising, showing people riding a wildly bucking mango till they get thrown off.

As the consumer reigns supreme, the effort is to create, promote and satisfy need states. As Coca-Cola’s Batheja put it: “Whether it’s sparkling drinks, juices, energy drinks or water, with every opportunity covered in packs, pricing and products, the aim is to satisfy every need state of the evolving consumer.”

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