Hero Honda repositions Splendor NXG as 'The Friendship Bike'

By Ashwini Gangal , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Advertising | November 18, 2010
The campaign uses 'life stage positioning' and targets the 21-24 year old youngsters, for whom old friendships are the most salient personal relationships.

Hero Honda, a brand that already has a lot of emotional equity with its consumers, has recently launched an ad campaign (click here to view TVC) to re-position the Splendor NXG. A teaser campaign that rolled out in the first week of October gave way to a full-fledged campaign a week later.

In 2009, the product was positioned as a trustworthy yet stylish bike and carried the tagline 'Bharosa Bhi, Style Bhi'. The current campaign shifts the positioning to 'Yaari ki Gaadi'- the 'friendship bike'.

Aiming to move beyond the transactional aspects of owning a bike, the communication is a marriage of functionality (brand proposition of mileage) with emotionality (a bike that symbolises old friendships).

Anil Dua, senior vice-president, marketing and sales, Hero Honda Motors tells afaqs! that in its Splendor portfolio, Splendor NXG plays the role of a flanker by arresting any leakages from the mother brand, Splendor. "We have integrated the message of mileage with the words 'Jitni door yaari jaye, Utni door yeh gaadi jaye'," he says.

The advertisement uses 'life stage positioning' and targets young adults in the 21-24 years age bracket, who're on the threshold of their quest for creating their own identity. "The TG (target group) comprises youngsters who're living the reality of being away from their homes (presumably in smaller towns), or working in their first jobs (probably in big metros) and are, by virtue of their life stage, closer to their friends than their parents," elaborates Jitender Dabas, executive planning director and vice-president, JWT Delhi.

He adds that the USP of mileage has been downplayed deliberately as "the purpose is to sell the brand, not the product".

Dabas admits, "Agreed that friendship has been used as a context in bike ads in the past; but this is the first time that it is being owned as the positioning."

JWT Delhi has created this campaign; the agency has crafted ads for the company for a long time. The media duties lie with Maxus.

The TVC for the Splendor NXG spells out the story of three close friends, who part ways as children to pursue their own ambitions but re-unite as adults. The film unfolds via parallel scenes of these friends playing in the rain as children and riding their Hero Honda Splendor bikes as adults, on the same street. A sentimental feel to this story is provided by both a male voiceover (VO) and a song.

Besides addressing the features of style and mileage, the VO says towards the end, "Jitni door yaari jaaye, Utni door gaadi jaaye". The song is a remixed version of the old Hindi film song 'Gadi bula rahi hai, Seeti baja rahi hai'; the words have been tweaked to 'Yaari bula rahi hai, Rahein dikha rahi hai' in the ad.

Electric guitars were used for this version to ensure a connection with the young generation. Research was carried out in metros (Mumbai, Delhi) as well as small towns (Jaipur, Agra) to gauge whether youngsters take to this new version of the song and the tagline.

To emphasise the value of friendship, the ad shows how small idiosyncrasies and habits of these friends have remained constant over the years and conversely, the passage of time has been stressed by showing a bystander age through the ad.

The creative team comprises executive creative director, Soumitra Karnik and creative director, Sachin Das Burma. The film has been shot in Kolkata (apparently to get the 'small town feel') and directed by Arun Gopalan. The production house is Story Tellers.

The campaign is a 360 degree effort, complete with TV, print, radio and online innovations. The brand has launched a website, yaarikigaadi.com and also has a Yaari ki Gaadi page on Facebook. The brand finds a fit with the social networking site as both stand for the notion of re-connecting with old friends.

The campaign was kick-started with national press communication, on ground activation, graffiti on walls and banners on Facebook (laden with Sholay's Jai-Veeru associations), Yahoo and MSN. A lot of on ground activation in colleges, malls and youth hangouts is on the cards, as the creative team wishes to "take the brand where friendship exists".

A special 'branded episode' on Hero Honda Sa Re Ga Ma Pa has been carried out, wherein the brand thought has been integrated with the programming content. A few months from now, Phase II of the campaign will be rolled out - this will be ripe with more TVCs and more rational as well as emotional aspects of the brand.

Does the yaari card work?

For Naresh Gupta, director, strategic planning, Dentsu Marcom, it does.

"There is a very evocative insight in this commercial. Biking is a lot about bonding between friends, especially if you are a bunch of people who have grown up together. You then tend to do many things that are similar, including trying to pick the college or the first job. To hook a bike to friendship is very cool," he says, adding, "There are many layers in execution, some very well done and some a bit strange. The pulling up pants scene is a bit strange. The whole locality celebrating friendship is nice."

However, he feels that the stress on mileage gets lost in the overall mix. "With Hero Honda having such a strong equity of mileage, there is no obvious need to stress on it. For me, friendship is a dominant emotion and works very well," he adds.

Quiz him about the song playing in the background and Gupta responds, "I really don't know if the song connects with this generation. The '70s sound and feel of the song may be a bit of a blind spot. May be there could have been a more modern song - or at least a more modern rendition."

Overall, in Gupta's opinion, the ad works. He signs off, saying that it could have done with a little more energy.

Titus Upputuru, executive creative director, Saatchi & Saatchi, speaking about the execution, says, "Biking is a lot about riding together. I remember an old One Show ad headline, 'Misery loves company. Bring a friend'. It was for a cycling championship. Friendship can never be old fashioned," he says, adding that the creative idea is "not bad".

Upputuru adds that the execution "has some good moments" and explains that that rain has been used a lot in Indian bike commercials to heighten emotion. Does he think the revised version of the old Hindi song works? "Bollywood songs always work. The song becomes hummable from the first time you hear it. A new song takes that many more airings," he says.

Ankur Khurana, associate vice-president, Orchard Advertising, says that he has always believed in the power of insight and complains, "I don't know what the big idea is in this, or, for that matter, the insight." Elaborating, he continues, "The film starts with something like 'Jawan style aur dildaar mileage ke saath...' and then, suddenly, it is about 'bachpan ke woh din'. The song supports the video - but that is it."

He adds, "I am doubtful if, at the end of it, one would really remember the brand name. Splendor has a character and, in my opinion, we need to build on that and not abandon it completely. This looks like a wannabe cool bike."

Finally, Khurana confides that he is not convinced with the strategy, adding that the execution is "ok" and "in control". However, he adds that a few nuances in the film look a little force-fitted -such as the girls laughing at the man.

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