The Indian cricket team captain, Mahendra Singh Dhoni has a problem. He just cannot hold on to his mobile phone, which apparently is coveted by many, and has an uncanny habit of getting stolen. Little surprise then, that the Indian skipper appears on television screens during the DLF Indian Premier League 2010 matches, urging people to get their own phones and leave his alone.
Dhoni is the brand ambassador of Maxx mobile phones, one of the latest entrants in the mobile handset market in India. Mumbai-based Maxx Group started operations in 2004 as a mobile accessory maker, before foraying into low-cost handsets in 2008.
Leading the campaign is a series of three television commercials created by Pickle Advertising, which feature the brand ambassador. The three ads show Dhoni at an airport, café and a shopping centre, boasting about his 'stolen' phone's features, and eventually, requesting the public to stop stealing his phones.
Maxx is banking on its products' sharp features, competitive prices and a wide network of service centres across the country to give the brand the competitive edge, says Ajjay Agarwal, chairman and managing director, Maxx Group.
"We are focused on growing our brand, rather than competing. We provide quality and service at an affordable price," Agarwal says.
The IPL blast, but obviously, was a strategic decision, given the potential reach of the tournament. "We had to convey the message that we are a serious player. And with IPL, you just have to do it in the biggest possible way," says Mir Rasool, general manager, marketing, Maxx Mobile.
On the choice of the ambassador, Rasool says that Dhoni being a home-grown boy who made it big, made him a good connect with the audience, for a domestic, mass-market based brand like Maxx.
The campaign launch also coincided with the campaign for Micromax, another handset manufacturer. Thus, there was the added task of ensuring that one brand would not be confused with the other.
The dual challenges have been satisfactorily met, claims Jauhari, as the commercials have been talked about aplenty. "The IPL blast has helped. Dhoni further helped the differentiation," he says.
Besides having to stand out amid competing brand campaigns, there sprang confusion over Aircel's ads of INQ social networking handsets featuring Dhoni. The cricketer is also the brand ambassador of the mobile service provider. Eventually, the INQ ads featuring Dhoni were pulled off.
Besides, significant help for the campaign came from the fact that Maxx is one of the lead sponsors of IPL's multiple properties. It is DLF IPL's Strategic Timeout Partner (two-and-a-half-minute time-outs taken during an innings) and the Official Playoff Partner.
Agarwal says that ad spends have been stepped up significantly for the financial year. "Last year, we spent around Rs 13 crore in nine months. We have earmarked ad spends of Rs 250 crore for this year. We have already spent more than Rs 50 crore in the last 50 days," he says.
The current commercials will run for at least another couple of months, before fresh commercials are aired. Beyond television, Maxx is also using the print and radio medium extensively. The brand has tied up with Big FM, besides other spot buys. Following the IPL, the brand plans to get into outdoor promotions, on-ground activation and other BTL activities. MPG handles the media duties for the brand.
The company has launched around 45 models in the market, with more than 35 currently available. Maxx will continue to offer accessories and after-sales service to customers. The company intends to set up over 1,000 service stations in India, of which over 400 are already operational. It also plans to set up manufacturing units for raw materials. Also on the cards are high-end phones, which the brand might introduce towards the last quarter of the financial year.