Ashwini Gangal

"When it comes to the luxury category, Chennai and Mumbai are at par": Puneet Sewra, TAG Heuer

Recently, TAG Heuer revived a global ad campaign that was first launched by TBWA in the early 1990s - 'Don't Crack Under Pressure'. The new, international ad film has been created by CLM BBDO Paris.

Locally, the campaign will feature Bollywood actors Shah Rukh Khan and Ranbir Kapoor across print, outdoor and digital media. A TVC is on the cards too, but, interestingly enough, it won't feature either star.

In India, TAG Heuer competes with brands like Omega, Rado and Rolex. "No brand in the luxury segment has a strong tagline. We don't have a 'Just Do It' in this industry," says Puneet Sewra, marketing director, TAG Heuer.

Edited Excerpts.

Edited Excerpts

Today, most brands are targeting a younger TG. Is TAG Heuer doing so too?
"When it comes to the luxury category, Chennai and Mumbai are at par": Puneet Sewra, TAG Heuer
Yes, the brand is undergoing a transformation. We're talking to a younger audience. We're getting into bold dynamics on the product, positioning and store layout fronts.

We target 18-35 year olds. Though 18 year olds may not be able to buy the product, we want to create an aspiration for the brand such that they will want to buy it whenever they can afford it. Though not an 'actual buyer', the 18 year old is what we call our 'preferred buyer'.

Even the 21-22 year old, who may lack purchasing power, is a strong 'influencer' in his/her family and is capable of making/changing the purchase decision.

Does this transformation reflect in your pricing?

No. It's not like we're getting into a lower price range. While the chunk of the business still comes from our Rs 2 lakh+ pieces, we have seen a lot of growth potential in the entry level price band in the luxury category. We want to expand this 'premium category'.

Premium, to me, is a rung below luxury. To put a figure to it, a watch worth Rs 30,000-40,000 is what I consider premium. Below premium lie 'fashion brands' like Fossil, DKNY, CK ... these are not watch manufacturers. A guy who knows the business of watch making would never by a watch sold by a fashion brand.

Our product offering starts with Formula 1, then there's Aquaracer, then it moves to Carrera, and then there's Link and Monaco. Carrera is by far the best seller, followed by Aquaracer. Going forward, we do not plan to reduce our share of Carrera; we plan to increase our share in Formula 1 and Aquaracer.

India is the only market in which TAG Heuer is endorsed by two celebrities. Evidently, the two belong - and appeal - to a markedly different demographic...
"When it comes to the luxury category, Chennai and Mumbai are at par": Puneet Sewra, TAG Heuer
There's no research to prove it but I would love to believe our Carrera buyers - those who spend Rs 3 lakh+ for a watch - do so because of Shah Rukh Khan. People often come into my store and ask for 'the watch Shah Rukh is wearing on that hoarding'.

Our younger audience - guys in their late 20s, in good positions, those who have been earning well for the past two years - tend to look up to someone like Ranbir Kapoor. They're the guys who're likely to buy a Formula 1 or an Aquaracer.

How much of this newfound young TG hails from non-metro India?

There definitely is growth potential in the non-metros but as of now, business for the luxury category comes mainly from the main cities.

Many of the multi-brand outlets (MBOs) that are opening up in tier two cities sell premium - not luxury - watch brands. There's still time for luxury watch brands to move into tier two cities.

Having said that, I'll add - there are certain cities that have always had the wealth for luxury brands. Take Coimbatore, for example. Even though it is a very small city, it has a lot of potential. A lot of luxury watch brands including Rolex, Omega and TAG Heuer are retailed there.

Even Chennai. Though it's not a small city, for most brands in general, Chennai doesn't really feature in the list of 'top three cities'. But when it comes to the luxury category, Chennai certainly features in the top three! In fact, it is pretty much at par with Mumbai... which is quite surprising.

Other cities that are doing well on the luxury front include Chandigarh, Pune, Lucknow, Kanpur and Kochi.

What is TAG Heuer's approach to mass media advertising?

It's not like we don't advertise on TV; we do. We did a TV campaign with Shah Rukh Khan few years back. But we're not overtly present on TV, because when we're talking to a 'luxury audience', there's a lot of pilferage of my marketing dollars that happens on TV.

Even when we do advertise on TV, we're selective about the kind of channels and screens we get into; we only choose HD channels, we do not do SD screens. Even on HD channels, I only take English genres, sports channels, etc.

Only around 10 per cent our media budget is earmarked for TV. Print has the lion's share, with over 50 per cent. Digital is at around 10-15 per cent.

How has TAG Heuer's media mix evolved since it entered India in 2002?

Over the last 10 years or so, there has been a significant shift from magazines to newspapers. Earlier, like most luxury brands, we used to advertise a lot in magazines. But over the years, while our magazine spends haven't gone down, our spends in newspapers have gone up. The magazine segment has not really grown that much in India. Moreover, while magazines give you the right 'environment' for your ad - I'd love to be present in a GQ or a Vogue, for instance - they don't give reach. Reach is something I get when I advertise in a daily like Delhi Times or HT City.

We are increasing our presence in some mini-metros. This is partly the reason our media plans have changed of late. If I have a boutique in Jaipur, I have to advertise in a leading Jaipur newspaper because not everyone in Jaipur reads Vogue or GQ.

Could the shift from magazines to newspapers be a reflection of the way in which luxury has gone mass in India?

Yes. I'd put it differently, though - luxury has become more affordable and accessible. A couple of years back one would think twice before shelling out one lakh rupees on a luxury watch... but not these days.

A few years back 'luxury' meant a store in the boutique of a five star hotel, but now it has now moved to a mall. Earlier you'd see a TAG Heuer boutique in say ITC Grand Sheraton or Taj; now you'll see it at a Palladium in Mumbai or a DLF Emporium in Delhi.

(In a move to do away with the impracticality of physically winding a luxury watch, today, almost all the watches launched by TAG Heuer are either quartz-based or automatic chronographs).

Have news to share? Write to us