Rashmi Menon

Cycle Lia: Puja room to living room

Agarbattis move from the puja room to the living room in Cycle Lia's latest multi-media campaign. Does the communication reflect a major shift in the way agarbattis are being consumed? afaqs! explores.

Can agarbattis (incense sticks) make a mark as an alternative to canned room fresheners or even scented candles? The latest campaign rolled out by Cycle Pure Agarbathies, for its sub brand Cycle Lia, certainly believes so, as it demonstrates to viewers the different usages of the product.

Cycle Lia: Puja room to living room
Cycle Lia: Puja room to living room
Cycle Lia: Puja room to living room
Traditionally, the use of the incense stick has been limited to prayer and religious rituals in Indian households. Outside the home, the product has been used extensively for organised prayer (religious gatherings or festivals celebrated by large groups). However, Cycle Lia, which positions itself as an air-care brand, focuses on the fragrance aspect and encourages viewers to see how the product can act as a mood-enhancing stimulator. The brand draws on the same insight that the art of aromatherapy is based on - that fragrances can transform one's moods and emotions. The campaign paves the way for the humble agarbattis from the prayer room to the living room.

Titled 'Jadoo, Khusboo Ki', the campaign comprises three 25-seconder TVCs, each of which show situations in which a person tries to relax, woo or boost the spirit of his/her loved ones by lighting the right fragrance from Cycle Lia's portfolio. Dentsu Communications Bengaluru has created the campaign.

The agarbatti category is estimated to be valued at approximately Rs. 2,000-3,000 crore. Even the multi-business conglomerate ITC has forayed into the category with its flagship brand Mangal Deep. In 2010, afaqs! had reported on how the incense stick category had seen a growth of 22 per cent. And, according to IMRB International's Household Panel data, the category boasts a very high penetration of almost 85 per cent in Indian households (both urban and rural). Surprisingly, the category maintained stability throughout last year despite the slowdown the FMCG industry faced, the data suggests.

The campaign will run for four months. Besides TV, the campaign is supported through digital, radio and print media.

Evolving Usage

Agarbatti brands are usually chosen on the basis of the fragrance and the 'fragrant imagery' they produce in the user's mind. The sense of smell is deemed to be the most powerful one when it comes to stimulating memories. In fact, people have a 'fragrance dictionary' in their hypothalamus based on the references, experiences or incidents in their lives.

Cycle Lia: Puja room to living room
So, is the brand trying to promote Cycle Lia as an alternative to room fresheners? Arjun Ranga, managing partner, N R Group (which owns the Cycle Pure Agarbathies) is non-committal and says consumers will have to make their choice. While people are slowly using agarbattis for non-religious purposes, the brand is merely leveraging this understanding.

"Lia's fragrances are appropriate for non-prayer usage as well. We are trying to position Lia on the transformation platform and highlight the fragrances that can change your mood and spread happiness. We would like consumers to consider the brand as youthful and vibrant," Ranga says.

Meanwhile, the air fresheners market in India touched Rs. 1.2 billion in 2010, according to a study. While the air fresheners cost between Rs 120 and 300 (depending on the brand), agarbattis are priced between Rs 25 and Rs 80; Cycle Lia costs Rs 50 for 150 grams, the same the other sub brands in the Cycle Pure portfolio.

According to Ranga, the insight for the campaign came from a combination of regular market research and consumption pattern of consumers. In early 2000, the agarbatti category began maturing with incense sticks occupying space in unconventional shops like lifestyle and departmental stories.

By mid-2005, the brand started noticing the extended use of agarbattis. "That's when Lia started becoming a brand story. We started advertising reflecting this consumption behaviour and generating curiosity about the product." The brand's advertising, he adds, was a "paradigm change" in the history of agarbatti communication.

Cycle's Journey

Set up in 1948 by the NR Group, Cycle Pure Agarbathies is the oldest incense stick brand in the organised retail space, within the agarbatti category. The brand's five sub-brands are divided in two domains - prayer and fragrance.

Cycle Lia was launched in 2000 in the fragrance domain; it was available in six fragrance variants, inspired by nature - Santrupti, Jazz, Chandanam, Prim Rose, Nature's Gift and Rainbow. The brand currently has a library of 500 fragrances, all blended in-house. Apart from agarbattis, Lia is available in various forms including air freshener, car freshener, potpourri, etc. These products are marketed under 'Lia', a different entity from the company.

While the category is filled with various non-branded, home-grown, small-scale players, some of the established brands in the organised agarbatti market include Ullas, Ekta Tiranga, Moksh Swarna Champa and Hem among others.

The brand, however, is unperturbed about competition, especially in the case of Cycle Lia.

In comparison to other players, the brand's incense sticks are taller by an inch or two. Also, the brand can be distinguished by its innovative packaging, which is vibrant and colourful, sans spiritual or religious annotation.

Moreover, since the segment is nascent, in terms of consumers consciously using agarbattis for non-religious purposes, Lia is growing the category with focus on young consumers.

Speaking of which, the brand's core target group is women (professional as well as homemakers) between the age of 20 and 40 years in urban as well as semi-urban towns, and places where households follow a progressive lifestyle.

According to Ranga, women are the focus because they have noticed women taking the call when buying an agarbatti brand for their homes. However, consumption of the product has extended and increasingly other members of the family are taking the call regarding the fragrance and brand to be chosen.

Television Foray

This is the company's third TV campaign for Lia. The first was launched in 2005-06; the campaign titled 'Hawa Palat de', created by DDB Mudra, was aimed at creating a buzz around the category.

The campaign, Ranga says, was successful. "We also realised that Lia was creating a new segment and helping the market mature. It (the campaign) also helped the brand capture new markets (North, West and East) and new consumers. Overall, Lia has been able to stand on its own," he states. In 2011, the brand's second campaign, which positioned the brand as one emitting hope and happiness, was launched.

Have news to share? Write to us atnewsteam@afaqs.com