In the 8-million-units-per-annum Indian automotive battery market, it is the 'replacement market' that holds the key to every battery brand's success. One look at the sales pattern tells you why. Replacement batteries account for approximately three-quarters of all battery sales in the country, while OEM (original equipment manufacturer) units constitute the remaining 25 per cent of battery sales. Naturally, the brand that enjoys the highest salience rules the replacement market. And, by default, the overall automotive battery market.
But it's not as simple as that. Simply because, the conscious purchase of a brand - whichever the category - is also a function of consumer involvement. And this is where battery manufacturers in India usually run into this big, solid wall. A big, solid wall called consumer indifference. The Indian car owner displays a remarkable apathy when it comes to replacement battery purchase, and prefers leaving this decision to his car mechanic or service centre. To add to this, close to 60 per cent of the local battery market is in the hands of the unorganized sector, giving little comfort to the organized players.
It is in this context that the latest television commercial for battery brand Amaron (manufactured by Amara Raja Batteries Ltd) needs to be viewed. The commercial, created by O&M, Mumbai, is a clear attempt at breaking clutter and increasing brand salience, in the hope that Amaron stays top-of-mind in every conscious battery purchase.
The commercial, executed entirely using the claymation technique (even the pack-shot at the end of the ad is in claymation), borrows from the Ramayana while telling the tale of a dyed-in-the-wool Indian politician running for election. No, wait… That's not how it should be said. Here's how the voiceover (rendered by Chetan Shashital) in the ad tells the story.
"Kumbhkarana the big politician/Always in sleeping position/Constituency ne bahut jagaaya/Par Kumbhu toh sleeping bhaaya/Election time came by/The opposition gave a war cry/Kumbhu got up darr ke maare/Rallies karoonga bahut saare/But his gaadi did not start/Lost his deposit to the lot… Moral: If you want to sleeping long/Make sure battery is Amaron/Lasts long… really long."
"Long life is a positioning that Amaron has held on to right from the very beginning," says Subhrajit Kar, management supervisor, O&M. "Almost every battery brand that has been trying to break consumer indifference has just these two propositions to talk about - long life or hassle-free performance. But what we have consciously been doing is create communication that says the same thing in a more engaging manner."
"If you look at it, Amaron is a radically different product for the category," continues Pushpinder Singh, creative director, O&M. "Product-wise, it is far ahead of the competition. And the very manner in which it has been retailed on shelves is different - very FMCG-ish. Everything that Amaron has done is different from convention, so the advertising too had to reflect that difference. Nobody has raised consumer consciousness about the need for a long-lasting battery, which is why we are attempting it."
That Amaron was at it was evident in its first-ever television commercial ('desert'), aired in 2000. Subsequently, in 2001, the brand ran what is termed as the 'silver' campaign, which had a man in a lab giving a vivid demonstration of how a leg of chicken wrapped in silver foil remains intact - and edible - despite being dunked in acid. "Amaron was the first to give its long-lasting claim a believable substantiation by saying that its SilvenX technology (a paste concocted by Amara Raja Batteries' US-based partner, Johnson Controls Inc) prevented the corrosion of the battery plates," says Kar. "And that ad, despite being very different from the first ad for Amaron, tied in well with our claim."
The 'silver' campaign, which went hand-in-hand with Amaron's national launch, saw a 300 per cent increase in sales, claims O&M. That, of course, could be attributed to the brand going national, but a perception study done around that time shows that the campaign had its desired effect. On almost all parameters, the brand achieved superior scores (to pre-campaign scores) in both Mumbai and Delhi.
"The most significant aspect of those findings was that Amaron was perceived as a superior product," says Singh. "So the client wanted to press home the advantage by doing some clutter-busting work. In fact, I must admit that for our latest ad, the client forced us to think of a unique treatment. The brief was simple enough - break down the indifference on the part of the car owner."
The idea itself is fairly simple. An old fable mixed with a memorable character from the Ramayana, with a contemporary political twist to the whole thing. "The fable route lends itself to interesting and exciting executions," says Singh. "And fables are much easier for people to associate with. All we did was give it a contemporary setting." He adds that the agency is already working on a second fable commercial.
The treatment (claymation) was also very much a part of the idea. "Once we had drawn up the script, we realized that claymation could do the trick the best. You can achieve so much more with claymation." And claymation, by itself, is pretty clutter-busting. In fact, there are only as many claymation ads around as there are fingers on one hand to count with.
The animation was the work of Famous' House of Animation. "The brief was to illustrate the script, but keep it simple," says Vaibhav Kumaresh of House of Animation. "It was a less animation-intensive ad as there were no backgrounds or detailed animation. This was a conscious decision as the focus was more on character behaviour. So all we wanted to do is communicate the idea clearly. Which is why, despite a lot of exploration in audio, there are no audio effects, no soundtrack. Even the voiceover has a very cold, flat 'newsreader' feel to so that we cause least distraction." Incidentally, the character of the voiceover here has strong shades of the voiceover from the Times of India ads (that was also Shashital).
Clutter busting, the ad certainly is. But it'll be some time before car owners start making battery purchase decisions by themselves. Yes, with more 'new-age cars' taking to the roads - and car care consciousness on the rise - it's only a matter of time before more car owners take their own purchase decisions. That's when brand salience will really matter. But it'll be some time… Till then, it'll have to be long lasting communication.
Agency : O&M, Mumbai
The Team :
Creative : Pushpinder Singh, Sagar Mahabaleshwarkar, Naren Multani
Servicing : Subhrajit Kar, Amit Seth, KumarSubramaniam
Animation : Vaibhav Kumaresh, E. Suresh
Voiceover : Chetan Shashital
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