The BRIC Branding Survey, a representative survey of German brands in the emerging BRIC countries commissioned by Germany-based brand and marketing communication consultancy globeone, found how nearly half of the urban Indian population has a positive perception of German brands, showing a healthy preference towards them.
The survey found that while 42 per cent of the respondents did not have any definite preference, 33 per cent said that they liked German brands and 16 per cent said they liked German brands very much, while only 9 per cent expressed their disapproval.
The appeal of foreign brands, particularly those with German origin, is strongest for consumers from the upper middle class and higher income segments (with gross monthly income above Rs 42,000), with 71 per cent and 63 per cent, respectively, saying that they prefer German brands. Interestingly, half of the surveyed Indian middle class consumers (with gross monthly income of Rs 18,000-42,000) like German brands, pointing to a huge potential for German products and services among the rising urban affluent in India.
It was found that 59 per cent of the urban Indian consumers could spontaneously name one or more German brands. It is noteworthy that the brands with the highest awareness are sportswear bellwether Adidas (79 per cent), consumer goods brand Nivea (73 per cent) and insurance player Bajaj Allianz (68 per cent). Automotive brands BMW (65 per cent) and Mercedes-Benz (60 per cent) followed.
What is interesting is the fact that despite some leading automotive companies hailing from Germany, only BMW and Mercedes-Benz made it to the top five most popular brands among Indians. Other auto brands among the popular ones included Audi (53 per cent), Skoda (46 per cent) and Volkswagen (42 per cent). This surely must raise a few eyebrows considering the amount of marketing spends the auto brands pour into the Indian market.
Nonetheless, 69 per cent of the respondents associate German brands mainly with the automotive industry. Machinery (49 per cent), pharmaceuticals and medicine (43 per cent), home appliances (42 per cent) and football (39 per cent) follow.
Indian consumers from the upper middle class and higher income segments rank German brands highest on the attributes of excellent quality, high durability and outstanding design, the study revealed. However, many do not rate brands of German origin high on meeting local customer needs and favour Indian brands that they find to be better value for money, providing good after-sales service, suggested the survey.
Despite the good reputation and consumer-identified preference of German brands, they are purchased infrequently in many product categories. The relatively high prices - about 68 per cent of Indian consumers consider German brands to be expensive - and, in many cases, the positioning of German brands in luxury and premium segments seem to be the likely causes.
"In India, it is important to also address the aspirations and needs of the expanding middle class. A company must be willing to reconsider its brand proposition and even extend its brand universe, in order to appeal to the varied demographics in the country - not just the top earners but the consumer who may be earning Rs 42,000 a month," says Tina Marie Monelyon, country manager of globeone India.
According to the study, a major chunk of the Indian consumers relied on word-of-mouth through family and friends to learn about foreign brands in India. While 24 per cent relied on such testimonials, 23 per cent revealed how they still rely on television for information on brands of foreign origin. Print (18 per cent) and internet (14 per cent) followed.
Digital information channels (internet search engine and social media) still have low relevance in India compared to the other BRIC nations.
The BRIC Branding Survey suggests that success in India requires a dedicated action and clear stategic roadmap - a 'one world strategy' that considers the BRIC countries and specific consumer needs in BRIC at the very heart of the corporate strategy. It also hints that a transfer of developed market strategies would rarely work in India and the almost continental complexity of the country remains a key challenge.
"Compared to many other global brands, German brands tend to act very conservatively and are often reluctant to invest in building brands in India. In local communication, the strength of the label 'Made in Germany' should be used more often or emphatically," Monelyon remarks.