Maruti: Service, the motherly way

By Neha Kalra , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Advertising | June 26, 2009
In its latest TVC, Maruti uses motherly affection as a metaphor of the care it provides to customers through its service centres. afaqs! takes a look

Service advertising, has, for the longest time, been stuck in the 'We care' trap. However, for advertising its service stations, Maruti Suzuki had, so far, chosen to focus on 'ease of accessibility' instead. With the point being to drum in the company's extensive service network.

Now, in a new branding effort, Maruti has finally adopted the emotional route; but rather than the impersonal and generic 'We care' approach, the brand compares its services to the unmistakable care of a mother.

& #BANNER1 & #afaqs! finds out how the industry rates this motherly attempt by Maruti, and debates whether it is the right time for Maruti to take this leap.

The creative care

The film opens on the setting of an Indian social occasion. Cut to a baby crying loudly. The mother has 'mehndi' on her hands, and is unable to attend to the child. An aunt steps in when the mother asks her to take charge of the situation, but the baby is bawling his heart out. The father, and other aunts and uncles, helpers -- all try in vain to placate the child and get him to stop crying.

At last, the mother gets up and takes the child in her arms. The baby stops crying immediately and smiles at her, recognising the mother's touch. The setting gives way to the message and a voiceover - 'Bring your Maruti Suzuki only to the Maruti Suzuki Service Network'.

The ad has been conceived by Parshu Narayanan, creative head, Capital Advertising -- the creative agency that has handled Maruti Suzuki's corporate account for about nine years now. The agency had also conceived the 'Desert' commercial, highlighting service, in early 2008. Prior to that, Maruti had the famous 'Ladakh' commercial, made by Rediffusion Y&R (previously Rediffusion DY&R) in the late '90s.

Talking about the genesis of the concept, Narayanan reveals that during the brainstorming, it struck the creative team that service is essentially about care. And the highest quality of care is given by a mother to her child, which became the starting point. The film is an extension of Maruti's "unmatched" service quality, says Narayanan.

Sunila Dhar, assistant general marketing, Maruti Suzuki, explains the logistics. "We realise that service is a reason for purchase," she remarks. The 'Desert' film, for instance, talked about reach; but the whole deal is equally about quality. "The quality of our services is something which we haven't spoken about, and which, we thought, was important to bring forth in our message," Dhar says.

She is sure about the emotional connect that Maruti, as a brand, has with its customers. 'Come Home in a Maruti' -- the first ever corporate commercial for Maruti -- was also one of the significant steps in building an emotional bond.

Other members of the creative team behind this commercial include Rupak Mitra and Joy Mohanty, senior creative directors at the agency. The film has been directed by Sainath Choudhury of Corcoise Films.

The industry cares

When afaqs! spoke to some ad professionals about the TVC, it drew mixed reactions.

The story fails to move Deepesh Jha, creative head - Airtel, Rediffusion Y&R. "Analogies work when they are close to the product offering," he says. "In this case, the relationship context -- that of the mother-child juxtaposed with the manufacturer-consumer -- is correct, but the ending is too abrupt and predictable."

However, Jha prefers a 'relationship' message with a human perspective to the banal routine of a freshly-showered mechanic in crisp, stain-free overalls lovingly patting the bonnet of a car -- all of this in a newly-painted, well-lit workshop with spotless floors and brand new cars parked neatly.

Sagnik Ghosh, senior planning director, Grey, Mumbai, is of the opinion that the strategy is bang-on, and finds the metaphor used in the creative just apt. He believes that the 'technical' angle isn't required, because one is trusting them anyway, as they are the authorised service centres.

"Post purchase, service is extremely crucial for a high involvement product such as a car," Ghosh explains. "But, the truth is, car servicing, or servicing for bikes, TVs, fridges, or anything else for that matter, is like a black box to me. You just do not know what happens inside, and terms like additives, etc, are just there to make consumers feel they are in the hands of experts." So, in that sense, staying away from technology talk is just what the brand should do. "Actually, because you love your car, all you want is that someone should love your car and take care of it just like a mother cares for her baby," he admits.

Jha reminisces about the older commercials of Maruti. He refers to two pieces of work on Esteem -- one, the father and son with the report card, and the other, where the owner and the driver argue about who gets to drive. "This new commercial, along with the rest of the newer Maruti advertising, doesn't have that polish associated with Maruti commercials done, say, about 8-10 years back," he maintains.

On a different plane, nothing would make an agency feel prouder than to hear someone else wish they had created a certain piece of work. And that's exactly what Vedobroto Roy, creative director, Cheil Communications, wishes. "I think it is a simple insight, beautifully put," he remarks.

Safe strategy for Maruti?

The question, in Maruti's case, is really this: Is it too early to take the metaphorical representation route? Has Maruti Suzuki Service Network reached a stage in its branding, where functional benefits should make way for emotions?

Narayanan argues, "Advertising is not about rules. When you're a storyteller, you don't follow rules." However, he also accepts that they couldn't have managed such an idea with a brand which was new, or even relatively new.

The fact that Maruti has leadership position enabled Capital to take the liberty to go ahead with such a creative. Any other automobile brand would have to work harder, he shrugs.

Ghosh of Grey senses this commercial is a game changer as far as the service angle in the auto industry (or any industry) is concerned. Until now, this segment had taken a testimonial route (Mahindra and GM commercials, for instance), assuring the customer that their vehicle would be taken care of.

"I have been a Maruti user myself and through the four years that I owned the car, I always felt they took better care of my car vis--vis the service station I visit these days. Being a strong player in the market, and given its delivery, this is a good way in which Maruti and the agency have taken the brand forward," he states.

Talking about metaphors in advertising, Cheil's Roy considers that a metaphor sticks in our head far longer than comparative advertising. "We are a nation of storytellers. We have all grown up on stories that are metaphorical examples of the way of life one is supposed to lead."

Ghosh seconds this opinion, "We cannot escape metaphors in advertising. And we should not even try to. They bring in the much-needed freshness required to take an established brand ahead or make a challenger brand heard."

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