When cine star Amitabh Bachchan and son Abhishek Bachchan introduced Maruti Suzuki's Versa to the Indian public, they flocked to the Maruti showrooms in droves and asked for test drives. However, the enthusiasm of these people did not translate into actual purchases. The reason? Indian consumers have an inherent sense of price-value equation, and in the case of Versa, it was not commensurate, they felt. Much to Maruti's dismay, Versa sales were nothing much to write about. The company sold 1,330 units of Versa in the financial year 2001-2002 (it was launched in October 2001). In 2002-2003, the number rose to 1,953.
Versa's improved sales in 2002-2003 over the previous financial year was a ray of hope for the company. To get a grip on what exactly was plaguing the growth of Versa, Maruti launched a group survey. "Two things emerged," underscores Ravi G Bhatia, general manager, marketing, Maruti Udyog, "…people were not aware of the price reduction and second those who had bought Versa mostly hailed from extended or joint families. The fact of the matter is, even in Indian metros today, 26 per cent of the households are joint families (IRS 2002). That was an important find for us." Versa, which was sold at Rs 5.15 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi) when it was launched, was re-priced at Rs 4 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi) with effect April 2003 following the reduction of excise duties.
Thereafter, Maruti and its agency Lowe had two issues to address. First to create awareness of Versa's new price and second redirect its gaze at a different target group. Both the issues are being tackled through a multimedia campaign. While the TVC pitches Versa as a car that facilitates family bonding owing to its size and space, the press campaign draws the attention of the prospective consumer to the revised price and details of loyalty bonus.
Lowe has worked on three TV commercials that are debuting today. The commercials have also been made into four regional language versions besides Hindi.
The first film opens at a wedding that has just got over. The parents of the bride are shown accompanying her to the groom's car. The girl, weeping, sits in the car, but finds it hard to let go of her mother. The bride gestures for a hug and the mother reciprocates. The mother looks at her husband suggesting her helplessness to leave her crying daughter. The father takes this as an opportunity to get into the car. The groom and his brother are quite confused at what is happening. Meanwhile grandma and the kids join the others in the car. There is room left for one more person. The groom, witnessing the drama from outside the car, is offered his seat. The ad ends with voice over saying: Ek gadi mein saath saath jaane ka maaza aur hi hai (travelling in company in a car has its own kind of fun).
The second ad is about a south Indian joint family hurrying to the hospital to see the newborn member of their family. On the way to the hospital, family members come up with various names for the baby. Cut to a few years later. A small boy is seen turning towards the screen as the grandfather calls for the boy: "Bala Gopala Murali Krishnan Swami inge vaa (hurry up)". The grandfather has obviously incorporated all the suggested names.
The last ad is a glimpse of life in joint families, where romance finds expression usually behind closed doors, but where young and old members alike try not to give up on the moments of stolen kisses too.
The three ads are far removed from the exhortation of plush interiors and the banter of son and father that marked Versa's launch ad. Clearly, the focus is on family bonding. "Versa was the first multi-purpose vehicle in India and there was an element of affluence attached to it. But as we dropped the price, our target group changed. It became wider. And based on our survey, we found that people living in large families were opting for it. That gave us the cue for our communication," explains Bhatia.
Once the profile of the target group was clear, the task for the agency was to establish an emotional connect between Versa and the large family. "For that target group to buy Versa we had to think of the right stimulus that will trigger the association with the car. A wedding, for example, allows for people to get together and rejoice, the togetherness is more pronounced. Versa is just not targeting members of a joint family, but also driving home the point that whenever there is an occasion where people get together, Versa makes room for that togetherness," says Santosh Kumar Sood, executive vice-president, Lowe.
Incidentally, 'Shradh' - the Hindu practice of remembering deceased ancestors - comes to an end today, marking the beginning of the festive period, which is eagerly awaited by marketers, as sales increase manifold. Maruti is timing its marketing push on Versa to coincide with the season of family festivities and marriages with the launch of its new campaign.
After the revised rates, in the last five months, that is, April-August, 1,560 units of Versa have been sold, "…which is double the number of Versas sold last financial during the same period," informs Bhatia. "And during the festive period we expect the sales to go up three times than last years."
Hopefully, in the second lap, Versa will claim some of its lost glory. Â© 2003 agencyfaqs!