Does Maruti need to prove its Indian-ness?

By Rohit Nautiyal , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Advertising | July 15, 2010
With its new corporate campaign, the car maker takes a holistic approach in addressing everything that concerns the Indian car owner

Maruti Suzuki is out with a corporate campaign which, like its predecessors, stresses on the cars' ability to provide the most mileage. However, this time, the company has taken a holistic approach in addressing everything that concerns an Indian car owner -- mileage, maintenance and resale value.

The campaign is the result of a syndicated research and a customer satisfaction survey, which showed that buyers pay attention to the total cost of ownership of a vehicle, and that fuel efficiency is one of the biggest concerns in selecting any car brand.

Three commercials titled Yacht, Juno and Tank have been unleashed on television. In the Yacht commercial, a young salesman waxes eloquent about a luxury yacht to a potential buyer. After listening to a long list of facilities available on-board, the buyer asks, "Kitna deta hai?"('What about the mileage?') The film closes with the talkative salesman at a loss for words, and a voiceover declaring that Maruti Suzuki understands Indians' concerns, and therefore, manufactures the most fuel-efficient cars in India.

The other two films, Juno and Tank show other over-enthusiastic presenters of man-made machines, who are dumbfounded on the big question of mileage.

Sunila Dhar, assistant general manager, Maruti Suzuki, observes that the cost of operation is a big concern for the owner of a car; and interestingly, the younger generation is more conscious of it. "With this campaign, we will be addressing all the facets which add value to a vehicle," she adds.

While these three commercials focus on mileage, Maruti plans to come up with two more TVCs in the next few days, on the resale value of a car and its maintenance. According to Dhar, the 'Indianness' of the films will strengthen the brand's emotional bond with masses.

The campaign has been created by Capital Advertising; the team includes Joy Mohanty, senior creative director and Parshu Narayanan, creative head, along with Papiya Tahiliani and Kunal Sharma. The three films have been directed by Ayyappa of Footcandles Films.

According to Narayanan, the need for a fuel-efficient car is ingrained in the Indian psyche. "Any smart buyer will first consider the credentials of a car maker and later pick the offering. Things like mileage, maintenance and resale value are relevant across the car models of any manufacturer," he adds.

In the past few years, the Indian automobile industry has witnessed the entry of a large number of international players, and the scene is heating up, especially in the premium hatchback segment. Industry experts are unanimous on the fact that cars in this segment appeal to the eye with all their frills, and fuel-efficiency may cease to be the topmost priority with buyers.

Choosing to differ, Tahiliani says, "Once you own the car, the reality hits you in the form of high cost of spares and maintenance. Mileage will continue to be an Indian concern."

The history of Maruti's corporate campaigns goes way back to 1983, when the company started taking bookings for its first car, Maruti 800. The first campaign was all about getting hands-on with the latest technology. While the company continued to build a rapport with Indians through various initiatives over the next few years, its first big corporate ad was for Maruti service stations, which showed how with the help of a local boy in Nepal, two guys on the road are able to locate a Maruti Service Station in the middle of nowhere. Another memorable campaign, 'Petrol khatam hi nahi honda' featuring a cute Sardar boy, was released in 2003.

In its last corporate campaign, the brand highlighted K-series engines, which are responsible for better fuel-efficiency in its cars.

On the right track?

The new set of TVCs has garnered a mixed response from the ad fraternity.

Ankur Khurana, brand partner, planning, Orchard Advertising, says, "The proposition of fuel efficiency is nice, but I am not sure whether the company can stick to this in the long run. In fact, the not-so-fuel-efficient brands in the premium hatchback segment have been well received by the Indians."

To him, it is "high time" that Maruti moves on to another brand proposition for its corporate campaigns. "Talking about environment-friendly vehicles can be one," he muses.

Titus Upputuru, executive creative director, Saatchi & Saatchi, finds the commercials "cool and very un-Maruti". He says, "I really like the casting in the Juno commercial." Sharing Khurana's concerns, he adds, "Considering the entry of foreign players in the car market, is mileage still the single most sought-after thing? I am not so sure about that."

Besides television, Maruti will take a multi-media approach, with digital and print as the other key media.

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