New Delhi: Skirting around the expensive job of creating new automobile brands, India’s top carmakers Maruti Suzuki India Ltd and Hyundai Motor India Pvt. Ltd have revived two of their most successful brands established over the past couple of decades. Ahead of Diwali, South Korea’s Hyundai brought back its most popular brand, Santro, with a brand new hatchback.
The revival originated from intense competition in the small car segment from firms such as Maruti and Tata Motors Ltd. The Santro has also established a strong brand association with middle-class Indians since first going on sale in 1998 before being discontinued in 2014.
On the other hand, market leader Maruti Suzuki tried to re-establish the connection with the same segment of customers with a new advertisement for its most popular car, the Alto. In the ad campaign, it tried to showcase the significance and connect of the Alto brand with existing and prospective customers in small cities and towns. The Alto ad also included popular characters who have featured in some of its most iconic advertisements over the past three decades.
Other auto makers have not been as fortunate as Maruti Suzuki and Hyundai, with several struggling to establish their brands, imperative for the long-term success of a product.
R.S. Kalsi, senior executive director, marketing and sales at Maruti Suzuki, said the Alto has been a success over the past 19 years and that it needed to evolve to stay relevant.
“We included some of the characters from our iconic advertisements so that our old and new customers could still relate to the product," said Kalsi.
“Alto as a product has undergone significant changes in the past two decades, and the ways to communicate with customers have also changed. A successful brand always has to walk the talk. We have invested in the brand and have made it popular to an extent that it is still the most preferred choice of first-time buyers," he said.
The latest Alto ad was viewed almost 50 million times across digital platforms, according to Maruti.
Hyundai’s brand ambassador and Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan, describing Santro as a known, trusted and loved brand, said it is good that the firm decided to revive it with a new platform and technology. “When they first approached me, I thought it’s a South Korean company launching a new small car with a strange name, Santro. So, let’s give it a try. Also, I was at the cusp of starting a family and just made it big. So, Santro stood for all that values naturally and it still does. A middle-class boy who made it big and will start a family is thinking of buying a car," said Shah Rukh in an interview with Mint.
In a market troubled by weak consumer sentiments due to factors such as high fuel prices, the Santro garnered more than 20,000 bookings ahead of its launch. “Indian buyers do not have use and discard psyche. In the auto industry, durability, solidity are relevant and consumers are of the use and repeat mindset," said Harish Bijoor, chief executive, Harsh Bijoor Consults Inc.
“Hyundai has tried to reinvent the memory of Santro and Maruti also tried to dig into the past looking for some emotive plugs for consumers for Alto. In auto industry, at the top end, there is brand promiscuity but in the middle and lower end, there is a loyalty factor. That’s the key insight that Maruti and Hyundai have used," he said.