Ashwini Gangal

Nestlé: Nest of activity

Nestlé's advertising seems to be singing a different tune lately. Gone are the days of humdrum campaigns, as the FMCG company gets more aggressive for several of its brands. afaqs! finds out what lies behind the change in strategy

The Swiss company, Nestlé has a long history in India; it is also believed to have a great understanding of Indian psyche. However, when it comes to advertising, the general opinion is that Nestlé's campaigns are quite mundane and non-explosive.

Nestlé: Nest of activity
Nestlé: Nest of activity
Nestlé: Nest of activity
Nestlé: Nest of activity
Industry observers do say that most heritage brands tend to get stale. However, in Nestlé's case, it constantly innovates with its products and advertises to inform consumers about these innovations. The problem is that Nestlé's ads never quite generate excitement or interest; they only aim to announce.

Lately though, the company -- though its officials declined to comment on the development -- seems to be moving in a different direction.

The recent Kit-Kat ad -- shot in LA with the post-production done in Dallas -- did surprise many. The company also revamped its brand, Bar One and started advertising it after a gap of six years.

For its coffee brand, Nescafé, the company rolled out a teaser campaign with an episodic storyline, featuring Deepika Padukone and Purab Kohli.

The change is such that even a semi-attentive consumer, who is only half clued into the ocean of brand messages, would be able to recognise that more than a few drops now belong to Nestlé's brands.

What has brought about this change in strategy? With a long list of brands and a turnover of Rs 5,000 crore plus, there certainly wouldn't be just one reason to which the change could be attributed.

Many industry observers believe that this recent flurry of advertising is a reactionary move, due to external pressure and competition. The Cadbury-Kraft and Wrigley-Mars tie-ups or even the Britannia-Danone break-up have changed the competitive environment for Nestlé. Besides, growing competition in one category - the challenge posed by Knorr, Tasty Treat and Foodles to Maggi instant noodles -- is forcing the company to get aggressive in other categories.

But then, another set of opinions deems the move as proactive, rather than reactionary.

Jagdeep Kapoor, MD, Samsika Marketing Consultants remarks, "One would notice that Nestlé is running parallel campaigns, instead of successive ones. The company is now strategically, sensibly and sensitively giving each of its brands due priority, which implies that it's ready to take a quantum leap."

According to Anand Varadarajan, CEO, Added Value (a brand development and marketing insight consultancy), brands grow only if they have vitality and continue to be relevant to the consumers. And in India, brands lose vitality in differentiation fast. Thus, they need to use tactics such as emotional positioning.

Many industry observers attribute this burst of advertising to the generic reason of category growth.

As Richa Arora, founder and chief strategy officer, Five by Six Consulting, says, "There is so much noise in the food and beverage category today. In order to beat the clutter and raise brand visibility, this spurt in communication is imperative."

However, this also implies that Nestlé is reacting to the changing market scenario.

Referring to the latest Kit-Kat commercial, Arora says, "Usually when the ECT (Execution Cut Through) is good, the BCT (Brand Cut Through) tends to be poor; but in this case, it was done in a balanced manner."

According to Anand Halve, director, Chlorophyll, this aggressive advertising could be the culmination of several societal changes, including the acceptance of foods not cooked in the house; the willingness to buy partially-cooked foods; kids' need for variety; a decline in the number of young women who cook; an increase in out-of-home consumption and the need for constant munching.

"Two big social trends today are the encouragement of Maggi as staple diet and the culture of 24-hour grazing. This has made the soil in the snack category fertile. Nestlé is sowing seeds by increasing its advertising," says Halve.

He adds, "The renewed interest in Nescafé is probably to make coffee 'cool' again." After the initial divide of "commoner's chai" versus "elite coffee", which was combated by the appearance of tea in fancier variants (iced, lemon), coffee needed to make its presence felt yet again. "This is why youngsters Deepika and Purab Kohli are endorsing Nescafé today," he says.

However, the reasons for Nestlé's changed communication strategy could be internal as well, such as the recent appointment of a new CEO.

Halve also charts the traits that fit 'Nestlé then', 'Nestlé now' and 'Nestlé next'. If 'Nestlé then' was warm and likeable; 'Nestlé now' is active and admirable; 'Nestlé next' would be charged and exciting.

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