Small wonders

Written by Avik Das | Avik Das | Updated: Jun 30 2010, 01:59am hrs
XXX is an energy drink.

Aroma Mobile is a mobile handset brand.

Hi5 is a deodorant.

These are three different brands in three different functional areas. But what's common to all of them is that all three are small brands that hit the bull's eye with their sponsorship of different teams in the last season of the Indian Premier League (IPL).

Over the last year, new, small-sized brands have emerged on the marketing landscape, and quickly taken centrestage. The reasons are many. In the midst of the meltdown, when big brands were finding it difficult to keep themselves afloat, these brands were gearing up for mega launches.

Explains Kunal Bahl, CEO of Jasper Infotech, a multi-channel direct marketing solution provider, During the recession the smaller brands realised the value of conserving cash, and hence their propensity to spend upfront on marketing and branding went down significantly. However, their propensity to spend heavily on sales conversions led marketing campaigns went up dramatically, as an SME brand understands that if its product/service is good, the customer will bring high lifetime value to its business.

Add to this the higher purchasing power of the burgeoning middle-class which has displayed a willingness to adopt newer non-iconic brands, and we see why new companies are eager to identify niche segments and exploit them.

Back to cricket. This game has reached such a level that it's impossible to ignore it when we talk about marketing in Indian markets. IPL has become a marketeer's paradise since, for the first time, even SME brands have started getting a place on the players' jerseys for small bucks, which was till then unthinkable. Events like IPL or award functions provide fabulous opportunities to come to national attention by taking aggressive short bursts on event-based programmes, says Amer Jaleel, creative director of Lowe Lintas.

So, XXX, the energy drink brand from GT&T India Pvt Ltd, a part of JMJ group was the official sponsor of the Kolkata Knight Riders team at IPL 3. The brand had earlier been launched by Shah Rukh Khan. XXX had earlier been the title sponsor of the Commonwealth Boxing Championship held in New Delhi in March this year. And Aroma Mobiles was the official mobile handset partner of Kings XI Punjab at IPL3.

The IPL's third season provided the perfect platform for these brands to kick up some dust. According to data from Adex India, a division of TAM Media Research, most of the advertisers in IPL 3 were from the cellular phone category. What's more interesting is, new brands in this sector were responsible for a major share of the advertising revenue: Spice QT series, Maxx Mobile and Micromax top the table, followed by more renowned brands like LG, Samsung and Videocon.

For example, Micromax had been a non-descript entity some two years back. But primarily on the back of marketing, it has become the third-largest handset manufacturer in India. The stint with IPL has been very fruitful for our brand. From now to up to say September-October, whenever India will play, you wont be able to overlook the presence of Micromax even if you try to, says a spokesperson from Micromax. The company had spent Rs 16 crore for marketing in the IPL, bulk purchasing air time paying Rs 8 lakh for every 10-second slot.

After tasting success with brands such as Spinz and Jovan, CavinKare launched deodorant Hi5 and chose IPL for its mega launch. The Hi5 brand reflects a sense of adventure which is synonymous with todays youth. With cricket a religion and cricketers being larger than life icons, we tied up with Kings XI Punjab. The brand is inspired by high-fives on the cricket field, which are a sign of success and teamwork used by the youth all over the world, said Vineet Trakroo, vice-president, marketing, personal care, CavinKare. The brand also created an online contest to give an opportunity to consumers to interact with select players of the Kings XI Punjab team.

According to Impact Marketing Services founder and managing director, Rajesh Menon, these small brands have adopted a two-pronged marketing strategy. Besides these popular events, SME brands typically adopt two strategies when it comes to grabbing market share--providing for a much higher distribution margin compared to established brands in order to ensure a higher distribution and retailer interest in the brand and secondly, celebrity-led endorsement for gaining quick consumer engagement with the brand. Impact Marketing has been instrumental in expanding the footprints of companies like Toshiba and Virgin Mobiles when they decided to foray into India. The company also manages events, sales promotion and direct marketing of SME brands such as Kohinoor Foods, Rohin Stone Impex and VKL.

So, it's no small wonder that we see Bollywood actor Aamir Khan offering one and all extra-large T-shirts in a potato chips ad Monaco Smart Chips, while rival superstar Shah Rukh Khan fights it out in a chyawanprash ad (Sonachandi) or action hero Akshay Kumar turns a kitchen upside down as he plays games on a Maxx mobile. More recently, Amitabh Bachchan has been roped in by Zen Mobile to endorse the handset brand.

It wasn't easy for these small brands to stand up to the might of the deep-pocketed big brands. AISECT Ltd, an IT education provider, too felt the heat as it tried to build credibility and make itself visible. The brand connected with students at the district and block level through below the line (BTL) activities. Our advertising campaign was a combination of print, outdoor, radio, local television and SMS (short messaging service). We also ran mobile IT vans during our IT Yatra events, which were basically solar-powered, computer-fitted vans which go into rural India. Apart from this, we held an annual IT quiz, said Santosh Choubey, chairman and managing director of AISECT. The marketing spend when the company was launched in 2006 was Rs 25 lakh, this year, it is expected to be somewhere around Rs 1.5 crore.

For an SME brand to succeed, it has to do two things. First, the brand needs to identify and occupy a largely unfulfilled niche that exists in the need landscape of the consumer. Second, they have to overcome the lack of credibility they are associated with, said Rathin Mathur, CEO and founder of Wellscience, a direct marketing company selling wellness products.