Mumbai: The commercial for the latest Chevrolet Spark variant, Spark Muzic, rides more on its audio system than on the car’s on-road prowess. The ad focus for the car from General Motors India Pvt. Ltd is its audio unit with a hi-fidelity four-speaker system.
As product categories evolve in a slowing economy, product differentiators touted in ads are getting either more unusual or more trivial, or at times, are not directly linked to the main proposition offered by the brand. In the case of the Spark Muzic special edition, it is positioned as a car that’s full of life, says Ankush Arora, vice-president (sales and marketing), General Motors India. “After all, music is something that everyone loves.”
In essence, there’s just that much anyone can say about a car or a hair oil, without sounding stale and turning off tougher-minded consumers. So yes, the Suzuki bike has many features such as LED (light emitting diode) tail lamp, among others. Parachute coconut oil pitches the “revitalizing hot oil” benefit in its spots. And diapers brand Pampers has gone beyond dryness and super protection for babies to talk about aloe vera as a product add-on.
New tacks: Advertisers are turning cartwheels to be different as consumers need new things everyday, says Santosh Padhi, TapRoot India.
Advertisers are “turning cartwheels to be different because consumers need new things everyday”, says Santosh Padhi, founder of advertising agency TapRoot India. “It’s human behaviour to want more. Some consumers need to change cellphones every three-six months.
“Especially during a slowdown, you need to give the impression of added value for a brand,” he says.
Even traditional ideas about product categories are being turned on their heads in the product differentiation melee. Pickles as a category have always talked about mother’s recipes and love. Nilon’s pickles, however, takes a different tack.
The ad shows a boy with an extra long index finger, which helps him impress girls and gives him other advantages while swimming or fixing things at home. The final ad frame: Nilon’s pickle and Swaad ka asar dikhe ungli par (the effect of the taste on your finger). “This one’s trying really hard to get edgy; to be some kind of a youth brand,” says Manish Bhatt, senior vice-president and executive creative director, Contract Advertising (India) Pvt. Ltd.
“Most products have reached parity both in pricing and overall qualities. You need to be a purple cow in order to stand out in the world,” says Ashish Khazanchi, national creative director at Publicis Ambience Advertising Pvt. Ltd. “In the quest to be out-of-the-box, people will try and do meaningless things.” Then again, the product would be meaningless as well if you can’t find a genuine differentiator, he adds.
In his view, more brands will try and do what Godrej Consumer Products Ltd did several years back. When the soap market was saturated and everyone was talking about germ-killing properties, Godrej launched a soap called Ganga which claimed to have Ganga river water, considered to be holy by many Indians, as one of the ingredients. Khazanchi says brands striving to get recall and sales conversion in these tough days could increasingly get innovative in their differentiators.
Out-of-the-box differentiators can give an edge to comparative advertising. So Chocoliebe took on the chewiness associated with éclairs by showing a cop eating an éclair on the day of his graduation at a police academy. It gets stuck to his teeth and he is unable to salute his senior officer. Had he had a Chocoliebe instead, this would not be the case, is the underlying message.
This ad, created by Leo Burnett India Pvt. Ltd, is in the opinion of its national creative director K.V. Sridhar, a category breaker as it did not talk about the taste of the product. Chocoliebe’s tag line: Don’t atko, Chocoliebe gatko (Don’t get stuck, pop a Chocoliebe).
To be sure, experts worry whether some of these differentiators being scooped out are out of sync with a brand’s values and whether these would actually enhance the overall brand image and sales.
Sumanto Chattopadhyay, executive creative director, South Asia, Ogilvy and Mather India Pvt. Ltd, agrees that brands trying new and different tacks in advertising is a manifestation of greater competition in the market. He feels that Pampers’ aloe vera add-on is a good differentiator which has no disconnect with the brand.
In terms of the Spark spot, though, he wonders if it is perhaps a tactical ad or a teaser ad leading to something new.
This marketing challenge is encapsulated by Aniruddha Banerjee, president and chief operating officer, Publicis Ambience: “If the consumer’s buying less, he would only buy products that offer some genuine difference. Differentiations for the sake of being different will not work.”