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Brand marketers are scrambling to spell out clearly defined, functional benefits in their brands to their consumers who are today spoiled for choice, thanks to the clutter across product categories, reports Rachit Vats.

business Updated: May 03, 2010 00:12 IST
Rachit Vats
Rachit Vats
Hindustan Times

Brand marketers are scrambling to spell out clearly defined, functional benefits in their brands to their consumers who are today spoiled for choice, thanks to the clutter across product categories. Moving away from the more strategic, thematic brand building efforts based on mostly larger emotional values that strive to create stickiness, today's brands are making every attempt to spell out and own functionally relevant product attributes to strike the competitive differentiation.

And so DTH company Tata Sky adds functionally relevant services to justify its premium pricing and positioning in Tata Sky+. “The ‘convenience factor’ is the premise on which Tata Sky+ has been launched. In fact, the advertising agency was given a single word brief: convenience. The Tata Sky+ service is all about putting the power in the consumers’ hands. Post launch, nearly 10 per cent of our sales are from Tata Sky+,” said Vikram Mehra, CMO, Tata Sky.

Almost all the DTH players are following the same strategy, resulting in a mad scramble to own the functional benefit first by launching it first. A look at what Tata Sky+ offers establishes the functional stance — convenience in the form of video on demand, digital video recorder, record from mobile and Internet, TV sessions in spoken English.

Even in their advertising, brands are ratcheting up the functional din over other things such as creative positioning, ambience, atmosphere and other such mood builders.

“Nowadays, brands are more upfront in pointing out the functional benefits of their products. Vodafone’s Zoozoo ads are a classic example of how emotional and functional benefits are woven into the advertising campaign,” pointed out Sukanya Kripalu, brand consultant. The Zoozoos promote tangible services from Vodafone. True, as were Virgin Mobile's.

HDFC Bank claims its ATMs are 40 per cent faster. At the ATM, a user could simply register the most frequently used cash withdrawal amount along with the account and preferred language. Thereafter, to withdraw the same amount, only the pin has to be entered to collect the cash. This reduces the number of screens one has to go through from nine to five, thus saving 40 per cent of time.

“The customer is only interested in the functional benefit. Despite numerous creative themes, we locked on this one. The other strategies, we thought, would have taken a lot of time for our customers to decipher. Since the January launch, 40 per cent of the total ATM users have been using this service. It sure is a big number for us,” said Sanjeev Patel, EVP & head, direct banking channels, HDFC Bank.

VIP Industries rolled out its new range of stain-free, ultra light luggage. Its advertising too has undergone a metamorphosis and is now completely focused on product functionality. “Instead of a general thematic advertising, we used this path. The category, worth about Rs 3,000 crore, is maturing. Travel as a habit is changing. Earlier, the need was to save from thefts but now with the frequency of travel going up, it’s about light and stain-free luggage. The campaign delivers just that,” said Manish Vyas, VP marketing, VIP Industries. Obviously, functional benefits are centrestage here.

Even where brands are going for value-addeds, the trend is towards simpler, tangible benefits that consumers can make a part of their daily lives easily. Health-and-wellness food variants are a good example. So while Kellogg’s corn flakes have “iron shakti”, Nestle India has in recent times turned around its flagship brand Maggi, offering it in multiple variants loaded with nutrients. Earlier this year, Cadbury India phased out Perk, which it launched in 1996, and replaced it with ‘Perk with Glucose energy,’ which the company hopes will help it tap the chocolate wafer segment targeting youths.

Chyawanprash, Dabur’s flagship product, is now available in glucose and honey variants. “The demands for value-adds and tangible benefits are coming more from the young, modern consumer. So our initiatives are also aimed at reaching out to this audience. While modern consumers across age-groups believe in the general goodness of Chyawanprash, they did not find it relevance for themselves. Chyawanprash will be seen in newer formats such as sugar-free and chocolate-flavoured granules,” said Praveen Jaipuriar, category head — health supplements, Dabur India.

Sometimes the value-adds can feel like splitting hairs. Remember Parle's Smart Chips that claims they are roasted instead of deep fried, making it a more healthy option? In its TV advertising, Aamir Khan went around distributing these oversized T-shirts to people eating brands of potato chips other than Smart Chips.

And then there is the Future Group, in association with John Miller, which has launched body deodorants under sub-brands PowerPlay, Flirt and DarkNight. The company claims the fragrances are meant for different activities in a day — office, evening, and party. “Increasingly, consumers are graduating to wearing different accessories and apparels for different occasions such as officewear, casualwear and eveningwear. We capitalised on this insight and developed fragrances that would match different moods and thus drive consumption,” said Devendra Chawla, business head - private brands, Future Group.

And then Brylcreem has a dual-purpose hair gel — remember the “half dude” ad? Again, splitting hairs? Godrej Sara Lee launched Brylcreem Hybridz for urban consumers.

Hybridz has virtues of both the gel and cream.

“Just having a good idea is not good enough. Tell the consumer about the tangible benefits and they start paying attention,” says a marketing expert. To catch consumer attention, spell out the benefits as creatively as you can.

First Published: May 03, 2010 00:07 IST