A while ago, Samsung launched an ad campaign for its Galaxy Y Smartphone. Created by Cheil Worldwide, the films targeted the youth and didn't hesitate to antagonise older adults in the bargain. The commercials brought out the product features through dialogues delivered by spunky youngsters that ended in the same snide comment each time, "Aapke paas nahi hai, Uncle?"
Recently, Micromax has launched a series of films that literally pick up where the Samsung ads end; in fact, the last few words spoken in the Samsung ads are the very first words in the Micromax ads. The plot, theme, script and appearance of the ads have been crafted to look similar to the Samsung ads, so much so that at first glance, one assumes it is a sequel of the Samsung campaign.
Towards the end, the VO (voiceover) says, "Micromax Ninja 3.5 and 4.0. Bigger, faster, better; then 'Why Y'?" The phrase 'Why Y' also appears as a super on the screen. No points for guessing 'Y' refers to the Samsung Galaxy Y, the brand that is the object of Micromax's wit.
First Apple, now Samsung
Interestingly, this is not the first time Micromax has taken an overt pot shot at a more premium player in its category. An earlier print advertisement released last year read i - can afford this - phone. Presenting Micromax A70. The affordable Android'. Through this ad, Micromax positioned itself as 'the affordable alternative to the Apple iPhone'.
Brand experts feel the current dig at Samsung coupled with its previous one taken at Apple may serve to position Micromax as 'The brand that mocks premium brands in its category'. While ambush marketing has its own charm, it cannot become a brand's repeat strategy or long term strategy. Aside from communication gimmicks, it is important to have an identity and brand voice.
afaqs! speaks to the authorities responsible for the campaign as well as brand strategy professionals to understand the reasoning behind the effort.
Mocking or contextualising?
Amer Jaleel, national creative director, Lowe Lintas & Partners (the agency that has made this campaign), calls this advertising route a mere case of "contextualisation".
"Micromax has its own voice, identity and promise, but once in a while the brand comes up with a product that stands up in comparison to the existing premium brands. So on these occasions we feel a comparison is favourable. It is not a mockery. It is contextualisation. It is due to the quirky way in which the brand talks that the ad emerges as a spoof. This is called 'advertising contextualising'," he explains.
Why does Micromax keep using the affordability card as a communication crutch? "It is all a relative game," he answers, "Samsung plays the affordability card against the Apples and HTCs of the world. We do the same against players at the Samsung level. Somebody may play the same game against Micromax."
Pratik Seal, head, marketing, Micromax, gives three perspectives - the brand perspective, the communication perspective and the consumer perspective.
He explains that from a brand perspective, it is about doing things innovatively but challenging the status-quo that innovations come at a price. "The basic premise is bridging the price-innovation paradox," he says.
Apparently, through this campaign, Micromax, in part, seeks to avenge the elders that were shown being mocked by youngsters in Samsung's commercials. "From a communication perspective, we're saying: 'Ok, you're looking at a much older person and feeling cool; are you really being cool while doing so?'" Seal explains.
Lastly, from a consumer perspective, the insight used by the brand looks to correct the one used by Samsung. Seal says, "Today, the youth is a lot more inclusive than the way the Samsung ad depicts them. Looking at an older person and saying 'uncle' is an archaic notion."
Does this strategy work?
Will this campaign serve to position Micromax as a friendly, affordable and humorous brand or as a 'Smart-Alec' brand that is trying too hard? afaqs! speaks to brand strategy experts to predict the kind of effect this campaign will have on the way Micromax is viewed.
Kiran Khalap, co-founder, chlorophyll, calls this kind of tactic 'Pakistan Positioning'. "When you ask Pakistan, 'Who are you?' they say 'We are not India'," he explains, adding that it is important for a brand to communicate what it stands for without comparing itself to another.
As regards the 'contextualising' explanation, Khalap cites examples that he feels better define the term. They include Sprite's 'Un-Cola' positioning and Citi Bank's 'Un-Fixed Deposit' positioning. Both sets of communication positioned the products vis-à-vis another category and not another brand. He also names Pepsi's 'Nothing Official About It' ad that took a dig at a competing brand, albeit "without running it down."
According to Gautam Talwar, chief strategy officer, Rediffusion-Y&R, strategically using a competitor to position one's own brand is an extremely self-defeating long term strategy.
"If you confuse consumers with your advertising by copying another brand, you will remind them of the original brand. There's a chance the gimmick may actually work better for the brand you are taking a pot shot at," he cautions.
'Value advertising', Talwar feels, is a tricky and sensitive business. Every time a brand speaks of value, it needs to be mindful of how that is being communicated because its equity is at stake.
Micromax's Seal is well aware of the risks. "We are extremely aware of the fact that one can stretch ambush marketing only up to a certain limit. At the end of the day, it is a business call," he shrugs.