Tata Nano: Fashion on wheels

By Ashwini Gangal , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Advertising | August 12, 2013
Rediffusion-Y&R's new ad for the Tata Nano positions it as sprightly and fun car. The film has started gaining traction on TV and online.

It's a bird. It's a plane. No wait! It's an ad for the Nano. And look, the brand is back from a trip to the beauty parlour. One look at this ad and the Nano as we knew it is pretty much gone. Poof! Just like magician Ugesh Sarcar's tricks in the film, an audio-visual melting pot of vibrant colours, a peppy soundtrack and lots of glamorously dressed PYTs (pretty young things).

The new Tata Nano TVC

The most decipherable word in the foot-tapping song is 'Awesome'. Towards the end of the film, bold supers on the screen read: 'Celebrate Youness. Celebrate Kickassness. Celebrate Epicness. Celebrate Magicness. Celebrate Awesomeness.'

Suddenly, the humble Nano - that urged scooter owners from Tier 2 and Tier 3 towns to upgrade to a car a few years back- has upgraded itself. Remember the ad for State Bank of India that showed a bus driver driving a Nano to the bus depot? Well, the refresh button's been hit, and how!

From an auto category perspective, the Nano has, since its inception, owned several labels (not all by its own admission). The most memorable ones are 'the small car', 'the one lakh car', the inexpensive car' and 'the rural car'. Suddenly, it's 'a fashionable car for the privileged urban brat.'

Down Makeover Lane

Delna Avari

Sam Ahmed

The Nano has tried different tacks in the past. Recall the brand's Khushiyon ki Chabi launch campaign that afaqs! wrote about in January, 2011; it evidently addressed consumers from semi-urban India, specifically families for whom owning a car is a dream and those looking to replace their two-wheelers with a car.

Then there was the youth-centric campaign with a new look and feel. It showed a bunch of young adults (presumably in college) taking long drives in the Nano. The car's product features were promoted heavily in this leg of advertising. And now, we're looking at a fresh new burst of communication; one that uses bright imagery and portrays the Nano as a chic, ultra urban car for the very first time.

In fact, the film even shows a lady (fashion designer Masaba Gupta) ripping off the 'skin' of a Nano to unveil a brand new one underneath. And maybe we're reading too much into it but the Nano that she tears away is orange in colour, just like the one shown in the brand's previous spate of ads. This could easily be interpreted as a conscious attempt to show people that the brand is turning over a new leaf.

And sure enough, on the product front too, as conveyed by Delna Avari, head, marketing communications, passenger vehicle business unit, Tata Motors, the Nano has evolved. The new edition of the Nano has new colours, enhanced driving comfort, revamped interiors and new features such as an Integrated AmphiStream Bluetooth music system.

"We made the Nano's big personality bigger. It is increasingly being seen as a smart, peppy, and fun car to hang out with. Our new campaign celebrates this awesome spirit of the Nano -- of living life on your own terms," says Avari, according to whom the brand's attitude comprises doing things "bigger, better, and differently."

In the words of Sam Ahmed, chief creative officer and vice chairman, Rediffusion-Y&R, "The youth today is way smarter than the previous generation. They'd rather subscribe to an attitude the brand represents than to the attributes and features of the brand or its product offering."

Test Drive

Jitender Dabas

Rajesh Lalwani

Some experts feel it's risky to change a brand's stance and TG (target group) this frequently. Some caution this could be viewed as a struggle to find the right TG. Others say it makes the Nano come across as a 'confused brand'. As far as the ad goes, it appears as though it's a 'love it or hate it' kind of film. Jitender Dabas, executive vice-president, planning, McCann Erickson, prefers not to mince his words. "To begin with, it leaves me confused to decide who is more 'Awesome', Cinthol or Nano? What are they trying to sell? A fuel efficient people's car for the Indian middle class for 1.5 lakh? Surely not," he says.

About the shift in TG, Dabas adds, "So they now seem to be targeting the youth and trying to create a magical 'world of Nano' which shows the car almost as a fashion accessory than a four-wheeler. But a car in India is still a very high-value, considered purchase and as a buyer it does not make rational sense to buy a Nano at 1.5 lakh. I don't think even the youth they are targeting will want to buy a Nano from their pocket-money."

On the other hand, Rajesh Lalwani, founder and principal, Blogworks, a brand consultancy, opines, "I don't think it's a 'confused positioning'; it's about changing the strategy and addressing a new market. When the Nano was launched, it was the 'under one lakh car' brand, addressing the large mass of people in small town areas. The promise changed because that was a strategy that clearly did not work for Tata. Which is why the brand adopted 'urban messaging' around a year or so back. And today's campaign is in continuation of that. "

Affordable to Aspirational

Interestingly, Blogworks recently released the first edition of 'India Auto Social Index', a monthly social index for auto brands in India. Recent findings reveal that Tata Motors is one of the three 'most mentioned auto brands online' in June, 2013; the other two are Ford and Audi. Further, the firm's study of the 'sentiment' around the Nano in the month of June shows that among the most positively talked about aspects of this car are its looks, design, features, fuel economy and mileage. "And that's what they seem to be driving in this campaign," says Lalwani.

He notes that the current campaign attempts to shift the Nano on the proposition curve. "It used to be positioned as 'the first buy for someone who could not afford a bigger car'. Now, the Nano is being positioned as an 'aspirational buy'. This campaign seems to be suggesting: 'Even if my father can buy me a bigger car, I'd rather buy a Nano, because it's cool'," he analyses.

Moreover, Lalwani points out that the influx of young girls in the film presents an opportunity for girls to "upgrade from their colourful Scooties to the Nano." This is reminiscent of the brand's erstwhile message to upgrade from two-wheelers, albeit for a different audience. "What has changed is the setting. The brand is addressing a more elite audience now. In the lifestyle segment, when a brand does so, it propounds aspiration for the not-so-sophisticated," he says, citing converse examples of brands like Parker and Jockey that transited from premium to mass in the Indian market in the past.

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