Selling Nano in the time of Facebook, Orkut

Selling Nano in the time of Facebook, Orkut
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First Published: Tue, Mar 17 2009. 12 14 AM IST

Online drive: The Tata Nano. Ramesh Pathania / Mint
Online drive: The Tata Nano. Ramesh Pathania / Mint
Updated: Tue, Mar 17 2009. 12 14 AM IST
New Delhi/Mumbai: In an advertising campaign that borrows from the low-cost philosophy of the product being advertised, Tata Motors Ltd has used a digital marketing campaign to rustle up interest for the Nano, the ultra inexpensive car.
And so, after spending Rs24 lakh, which can buy someone a little less than three-quarters an entry-level Mercedes, India’s biggest auto maker by revenue has been deluged by enquiries by the thousands from far and wide.
Online drive: The Tata Nano. Ramesh Pathania / Mint
Through an eponymous portal, www.tatanano.com, which has been up since January last year, Tata Motors has been spreading the message of the Nano, and extended this to online, high-traffic properties such as Facebook and Orkut.
To be sure, this is not the first time that an Indian firm has used online techniques to market wares and ideas. Indeed, the likes of Microsoft India Pvt. Ltd, organizers of the Indian Premier League cricket tourney and, even, political parties such as the Congress party have done so, some beginning as early as 2006. And, even auto makers such as General Motors India Ltd (GM) or Yamaha Motors Ltd took to social networking in their marketing overdrive.
But the scale and scope of expectations worldwide is different this time. At the Nano page on Facebook, the response is gushy, almost. And so you have Darlene who says: “Please bring this car to Toronto, Canada!!!”
Then, there is some gratuitous advice for the future in case the Tata company planned a manufacturing beachhead in Americas. “You guys should make the Nano in Colombia since it would be a good place to produce them; we are in the middle of the American continent so it can be easily transported anywhere from Canada to Argentina at a lower cost; we have ports in the two oceans and many international cargo airports; we also happen to already have auto maker plants in Colombia too,” says Luis.
Tata Motors, in reply, said it had no immediate plans to export or manufacture Nano— described by The New York Times last year as a product of “Gandhian engineering”—in overseas markets.
On its own website, Tata’s marketers also discuss sales strategies for what the firm bills the people’s car. “Conventional automobile wisdom says that if a car dealer is any way required to complete the transaction, a Web-based option is a mere information window. It can never really be an alternative to a ‘brick-and-mortar’ dealer,” writes Subodh Marathe, head (marketing services) at Tata Motors.
“But in this age of e-commerce where you can even buy a house online, selling a car online cannot be ruled out. The option of online car sales is certainly worth exploring,” Marathe concludes on a blog with a thread focused on online sales of the car with some 70 comments.
Tata Motors’ sales push on social networking sites makes for smart marketing even with India’s low levels of Internet penetration, says Sandeep Singh, business director at Quasar Media Pvt. Ltd, given that half of India’s online population of some 50 million users are touched by social media platforms.
Demographic overlaps make it even more compelling, another expert says. “The average age profile of a car buyer (between 25 and 46) matches with the members logging in to the social networking sites. It hence becomes an appropriate medium for car manufacturer to build brand,” says Pankaj Patel, chief executive of car portal Carazoo.com. If the campaign is successful, Tata Motors stands to benefit from a “strong word of mouth” that swings car buying decisions, he adds.
Such buzz on social media could help Tata Motors save money in the otherwise cash-strapped times. “Tata Nano is relying on social media heavily which is why their digital advertising budget will not run into crores,” says Sidharth Rao, founder and chief executive, Webchutney Studio Pvt. Ltd, the agency handling Tata Nano’s online account.
A Tata Motors spokesman declined specific comment on the firm’s exact targets through the online push. “As a company it only makes sense to have the communities’ link on our website.” At www.tatanano.com, the company is running a contest where visitors are asked to guess the price of different Nano models. The prize: an invite to the Nano launch function on Monday.
Between now and then, Quasar’s Singh says that the company would do well to monitor its online presence. “Social networking sites are sort of word-of-mouth advertising and like messages can be misconstrued—so can online activities. You have to monitor it well otherwise it could lead to a vicious circle of negative perception especially for brands that are yet-to-be launched.”
“Information on prices and features of the product if miscommunicated could kill the product itself.”
priyanka.m@livemint.com
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First Published: Tue, Mar 17 2009. 12 14 AM IST