It is not the first company to step into the scooterette category. However, TVS claims that it has made the first move in lending the scooter to women with its 13 year old 'feminine' brand positioning. The latest TV commercial for one of its brands, Scooty Streak, widens the way it is taking the scooterette the girly way. The commercial takes the female ego for a trip - not having to ride pillion with men.
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The creative has been put in place by McCann Erickson, Bengaluru. Anil Thomas, senior creative director, asserts that the young Indian woman today is confident, and doesn't believe she is lagging behind in any way. "But when you see imagery of bikes and riding, you always see the typical clichéd visuals of men riding and the women sitting behind - hands extended with joy. That's passé. So, the shift is from the quintessential backseat to the front seat."
S Srinivas, general manager, marketing, scooters, TVS Motors, explains that the brief has always been to reflect the attitude of the modern confident Indian girl. "Being positioned for women, we're always on the lookout for renditions to express the new side of the modern Indian woman - they are getting more assertive and confident about themselves and what they wish to achieve."
He brings out that lending personal mobility to women has been the sole talking point of the brand and its communication.
Anyone for a ride?
"A two-wheeler, for a long time, has primarily been a male domain. The disappointment of the quintessential college guy who has always fancied a woman riding pillion brings a smile and does connect with its target group," he brings out.
However, he considers the splashing of mud in the name of women's liberation as a bit too much.
Bikes for women have been around for very long, so this take of giving them the reins and boys reminiscing is different and interesting, according to Sandhya Srinivasan, senior vice-president, planning, Law & Kenneth. "It is a real insight but from the boys' perspective. In isolation, as a piece of advertisement, it's quite nice. However, I couldn't have said unequivocally that it was for TVS Scooty (or Streak)."
While it's a nice insight, Suchitra Gahlot, executive creative director, Bates 141 Delhi is of the opinion that it's past its prime. "That job was already done with 'why should boys have all the fun'."
With due respect to women, she is of the strong belief that it's time men stopped being the context for a woman's success or her freedom. "Women have moved on in life and advertising to them needs to operate beyond clichés and old truths."
When it comes to communicating about bikes especially designed for women, most creatives talk about women's liberation. It's definitely not new territory, say observers.
"It is contextual like other bikes targeting women - context of boys/men all the time. While the insight of 'Peechay kyun baithna' is a good stimulant to get a woman to feel in control and enjoy riding, the execution places her as a nostalgic memory of some boys. Although 'why play second fiddle' is a cool insight, it is finally only about one-upmanship," says Srinivasan.
Gahlot says that brands now need to move on from the liberation and equality positioning in this category. "So it's great that we have all this freedom, but what are we really doing with this freedom is where advertising needs to go next," she adds.
The feminine journey
The catch was that considering the features, the product was positioned as a scooty, and not a scooter. The brand has also had male endorsers R Madhavan and Aftab Shivadasani before it took to being positioned for women.
However, in 1995, TVS found out that the user profile was heavily skewed in favour of women. "Through our sales, we figured out that due to the features offered by our product, it was being purchased a lot by women. For us, almost 65 per cent of our production is sold to women - the percentage has been consistent over a period of time, and that's why we thought to turn the brand around into one for women," reveals Srinivas.
Accordingly, in 1996, the brand took a turnaround towards women. It brought Preity Zinta on board for the Scooty Pep+ in 2004. It has also had Raageshwari, Trisha Krishnan, Anoushka Sharma and Neha Jhulka as faces for the brand to strengthen the positioning.
Personal mobility in India is as low as 3.5 per cent, out of which 90 per cent is through scooters and the rest is through cars. For women, this issue is undoubtedly more severe. TVS, with its positioning for women, only looks at making it easy for women.
From the late 90's till 2004, the tagline and positioning for the scooterette brand has been My first love.
With the change in the target segment coming into effect, 2006 saw 'Pink se panga matt lena' with Preity Zinta, followed by the '99 colours' communication (in 2007). Towards end of 2007, Minissha Lamba was seen riding the Pep+.
In 2008, Balancing Wheels was released in selective strong markets of the company. Towards the end of 2008, the communication for Streak - Tough & Trendy - was released.
Brand TVS Scooty has been on a roll of celebrity endorsers. "Celebrities immediately communicate a certain persona and attitude, and the task of building a character is much lesser. When the faces are not known, the story needs to be strong," Srinivas states.
However, he is well aware of the chances of celebrities hijacking a brand and the script - "that's why we use celebrities more as characters and not merely for their celebrity status."