afaqs!

Metro Shoes turns on the spunk

By Ashwini Gangal , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Advertising | December 18, 2013
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Through its latest campaign, the shoe brand addresses today's fearless and confident 20-something consumer. A look at the marketing strategy.

Metro Shoes has undergone a revamp, one that reflects in its product line, ad campaign, positioning stance, and overall look and feel. Previously positioned as a 'family footwear destination', the brand is now being promoted as a 'fashion footwear destination'. The new catchphrase goes 'Shoes for a New Race'. It is being popularised through a multi-media campaign comprising print, outdoor and digital platforms. The marketing budget allotted to this revamp is Rs 20 crore, of which a large part has been dedicated to this particular campaign.

Metro Shoes' print campaign

Metro Shoes' print campaign

Metro Shoes' print campaign

Metro Shoes' print campaign

afaqs! learns that this is a conscious effort to lower the age of the brand's patrons. Calibrated research by the brand revealed that its most loyal consumers belong to the 30+ age group. While these loyalists are happy with the brand's products and services, there is a clear gap in the satisfaction levels of its consumers in the 20-30 years bracket. The research showed that the brand was perceived as lacking on several parameters such as the extent to which it experimented with colours, heels and styles. The revamp campaign is an effort to address these gaps.

Lavina Rodrigues, marketing manager, Metro Shoes, explains the need to include 20-something consumers into the brand's fold. "We are one of the oldest retail outlets in India. We face this issue of being 'a 60 year old brand'. The parents, maybe even grandparents, of today's generation might have been to Metro. Among the youth, there's a sense of 'My father has been to Metro; it's his store'. We want to be more relevant to the current generation," she explains.

Going on about the psychographics that characterise today's 20-something consumer, she adds that he/she is probably just finishing education, starting to earn, with more disposable income than responsibilities, and is independent enough to make his/her own decisions. "We want to target this group and want a major chunk of our business to come from this group," Rodrigues says.

The brand's research also revealed that the 20-30 year old shops for shoes more frequently than does the 30+ consumer. "Overall, we see our loyal customers (30+ bracket) coming in to buy shoes at least three times a year. But we believe that for the younger segment (20-30 bracket) this figure could go up to five times a year or higher," Rodrigues shares.

It is this fearless youngster that the brand refers to in its new tagline 'Shoes for a new Race'. In the words of Farah Malik Bhanji, managing director and CEO, Metro Shoes, this new race of youngsters doesn't believe in following age old norms. "The visual grammar and language" used in the campaign is bold, hence captures this attitude of the youth, she says. The copy in the campaign comprises remixed (read: rebellious) versions of conventional sayings: 'Leap before you look' (a spinoff on 'Look before you leap'), 'The meek shall inherit the dirt' (instead of 'The meek shall inherit the earth'), 'Good things come in all sizes' (a clear reference to shoe sizes, in place of 'Good things come in small sizes') and 'Don't be safe nor sorry' (a defiant rendition of 'Better to be safe than sorry').

Commenting on this unapologetic and non-conformist stance, Sameer Makani, managing director, Makani Creative, the agency that has created the ads, says, "A study of the Indian youth revealed that this is a generation with strong convictions. They value relationships but don't lug around emotional baggage; they live in the present. Their career choices are driven by passion, which may be a departure from conventional options."

The brand's previous campaign featuring actors Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoor served two purposes: it grabbed mass attention and "aesthetically elevated the brand," as he puts it. Having done so, the next step was to drive home a very specific message to a very specific target group, shares Makani.

New Positioning - Shoes for a New Race

Lavina Rodrigues Pinto

Shot in London, the current campaign features white models. While consumers figure out whether the connection to the tagline -- Shoes for a new 'Race' -- is intentional or incidental, we ask Makani whether using Indian models would have reduced the desired impact in any way.

"No, it wouldn't have," he answers, "However, we want to portray that our product line can give global brands a run for their money and can appeal to the world at large." According to Rodrigues, the white models give the brand a more "up-market, international and aspirational look."

There are mass brands and there are luxury brands. Metro Shoes -- that is more expensive than Bata at the moment - seeks to strike a balance between the two and targets what it calls the 'affluent masses', including consumers belonging to SEC A, A+ and B+. Rodrigues explains the oxymoron: "We are a little bit aspirational but also affordable. Metro Shoes is something the common man or middle class consumer can certainly work up to and afford, unlike some luxury offerings priced at Rs 50,000 and above that only 1-2 per cent of the population afford."

The media mix of the current campaign doesn't include TV. For a national brand with over 175 stores across 60 cities, why is TV not part of a major repositioning effort? "Since we are a 'mass affluent' brand, we're not for everybody. Besides, we found better ROI with print than TV. Outdoor also works beautifully for us; with outdoor we are able to help a single store market itself to the right audience," Rodrigues explains.

For Metro Shoes, different parts of the country yield different results. The West is the brand's strongest market, followed by the South, then the North and lastly, the East (where it is present in Kolkata and Guwahati). Further, while the brand is popular in Tier 2 cities, it faces tough competition from newer brands in the metros. "Metros are our focus. People here want to 'flirt' with newer players and experiment," says Rodrigues, about her agenda for 2014.

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