Ashwini Gangal

Murugappa Group bets for awareness

The Murugappa Group has launched a nine-film corporate campaign titled 'Bet We've Met' that attempts to promote the lesser known mother brand on the back of the group's better known sub-brands.

Chennai-headquartered, multi-business conglomerate Murugappa Group has launched a new corporate brand campaign titled 'Bet We've Met' on September 16. Unlike most brands' one-film corporate campaigns, including the one Murugappa had released last year, the group has released a nine-film corporate campaign comprising eight independent brand-led films in addition to one composite film.

Murugappa Group bets for awareness
The campaign aims to achieve several goals. Firstly, it is an attempt to promote the mother brand, Murugappa. It leverages the popularity of the group's better known sub-brands, such as BSA, Hercules, Parry's, Chola, Coromandel and Parry Agro, amongst others, to promote the lesser known parent brand, Murugappa. The films demonstrate how each of these companies touches consumers' lives and more importantly, belongs to the Murugappa umbrella.

Each of the eight brand films features one of the major brands of the Murugappa Group. A common visual element (of a visiting card) connects all the advertisements and builds the foundation for the composite film.

Murugappa Group bets for awareness
Speaking about the objective of the campaign, Suresh Kailaash, creative director, Interface Communications Chennai, tells afaqs! that the goal is to tie the group's individual companies back to Murugappa, the mother brand. "Last year, we did one corporate film. Post-campaign research (Nielsen Brand Awareness Audit) showed that somehow, the connect between each specific brand and the group wasn't so strong. People couldn't tie back these companies to the parent brand. That's why we thought that this time, we'd do specific ads for each company; ads that tie the companies strongly back to Murugappa," he explains.

While Murugappa, the mother brand, is known to be a big conglomerate, it is somehow perceived as a 'typical South Indian' and 'conservative' group. In reality, it is different, claims the team. "In truth, the brand is 'prudently conservative'. "The company has many dynamic and profitable brands," Kailaash adds. The campaign, therefore, aims to increase awareness about the nature of the company and give consumers a peek into the width of Murugappa's presence.

The insight used in the campaign is a very 'real' one, as most people have found themselves in the kind of situations shown in the ads, namely, of running into someone they've met before but not being able to place exactly when or in what context. The brand has used this insight to demonstrate how it has been a part of customers' lives through its constituent brands, without them actually realising that those very brands (especially the non-consumer facing brands like CUMI) are a part of the Murugappa Group.

Given the nature of Murugappa's product offerings, the campaign is both, B2B as well as B2C. The TG (target group) comprises lay consumers as well as potential business customers, talent, partners and potential investors. This is why a lot of the ads are being aired on financial channels.

While Murugappa is using its individual brands to strengthen the parent brand, we've seen companies do the opposite in the past. For instance, a couple of years ago, Bajaj Auto made a significant shift from corporate brand level positioning to individual brand level positioning for its two wheeler brands Pulsar and Discover by dropping the Bajaj brand name from both the ranges. Murugappa seems to be doing the opposite by reminding its TG that the brands they use and interact with actually belong to this particular parent group.

"It's not about going against the tide as much as it is need-based. We're trying to build the connect between the parent and sub-brands so that they can all contribute to each other's strengths," Kailaash explains, "The task is to make Murugappa known and create something to pull it all together."

Speaking of needs, experts feel that the brand's aggressive media push with nine corporate ad films and presumably high media spends are characteristic of pre-IPO behaviour. "From a media point of view, it appears to be a very expensive, pre-IPO strategy," reasons a brand expert.

D Vijayalakshmi, head, group corporate communications, Murugappa Group, tells afaqs! that the media spends are in line with the group's commitment made in 2010. At the time, 25-30 crore was earmarked across three years. This amount comprises more than 55 per cent of the group's total budget. It may also be recalled that in September 2010, the brand underwent a logo change and identity revamp.

Refusing to comment on how the campaign could signal an IPO, she goes on to tell afaqs! that the group has been in its 'brand building phase' since 2010. About the current campaign, she says, "In the mind of the general public, the whole is not always a sum of its parts. This piece of communication addresses this gap. We want to change partial awareness to complete awareness."

Vijayalakshmi adds that internal communication and fostering a feeling of 'one-ness' amongst Murugappa's employees is a parallel objective of this campaign.

The campaign is a 360 degree effort. The films will be aired across a mix of business channels, general entertainment channels and region-specific channels. The media mix also includes digital, business periodicals, outdoor and POS (point of sale) branding across customer touch points of the group companies. This communication will continue to play till March, 2013.

Does the campaign work?

While the ad fraternity appreciates the thought that led to the campaign, the creative execution has evoked criticism.

Murugappa Group bets for awareness
Murugappa Group bets for awareness
According to Charles Victor, national creative director, Law & Kenneth, while there are various reasons for this kind of advertising - that is, promoting the prowess of the parent brand by using sub-brands -- none of those reasons justify this particular campaign.

"The 'insight' of bumping into a stranger and recognising him/her from somewhere is sadly more of a truism (and is nothing that's new or interesting) than a deep, refreshing understanding of behaviour. And unfortunately, the truism has literally been translated into creative with minimum effort. I wonder what came first, the creative or the insight," he says.

Victor goes on to critique the creative execution as well. "On the creative itself, I'm a little baffled. The execution looks bland and forced. For instance, is the woman carrying her visiting card while cycling? I can just go on and on with all these baffling questions. Also, something about the English voices seems really wrong," he critiques.

"On the whole, the one thing that seems like it has potential is the thought itself; that everyone has perhaps encountered the Murugappa Group at some point in their lives. But sadly, instead of making a creative product that brings this alive, this creative product ensures I don't encounter the group's advertising again," Victor sighs.

In the opinion of Jitender Dabas, executive vice-president and head, planning, McCann Erickson, the campaign is a very straight, obvious, over-simplified and factual way of executing a corporate message. "This doesn't appear like communication that is targeted at consumers directly, which is why I am surprised that the brand attempts to aggregate the equity of all the group companies with the help of a single consumer insight," he says.

Though he agrees that from a consumer's point of view it helps to know that an individual brand belongs to a powerful parent, from a creative perspective, he finds the ads far from striking. "The campaign doesn't engage at all," he says.

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