Abid Hussain Barlaskar
Advertising

"A laptop buyer spends almost three months on research": Asus CMO

An in-depth conversation with Paramjeet Singh Mehta, marketing head, PC and gaming, Asus India.

The latest ad campaign for the newly launched Asus ZenBook Pro Duo is inspired by an occurrence from five centuries ago. Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan set out to circumnavigate the earth in 1519. In doing so, Magellan disproved the theory that the Earth was flat and this voyage became popularly known as 'going over the edge of the world'. The new Asus laptop features a 14-inch full HD display along with a secondary 12.6-inch touchscreen display called ScreenPad Plus. The secondary screen can be operated independently or as an extension of the main screen. The ad equates the new feature with the original 'going over the edge'. The ad film has been crafted by FCB Ulka.

The new product is, in a way, the brand's flagship model (priced at Rs 2.5 lakh) at the moment. The laptop segment is divided into entry level (priced at Rs 18,000-30,000), the mainstream (Rs 30,000-5,000), high end (Rs 50,000-90,000) and premium (beyond Rs 90,000). It is again segmented into the consumer segment (for performance and computing) and the gaming segment (priced at Rs 50,000 to a few lakh rupees). The volume of the Indian consumer PC market is close to four million units (sold per year) and is 1.5 times the number for commercial PCs. The average selling price of a consumer PC is around Rs 32,000. The market witnessed a degrowth of over 10 per cent in 2019 making the sales numbers fall a bit below four million. Around 85 per cent of the total consumer PC market is laptops.

But why add another screen to a laptop? It wasn't about high performance, reveals Paramjeet Singh Mehta, marketing head, PC and gaming, Asus India. "Currently, although a laptop is a multi-tasker, it still does only one thing at a time on screen. We have to keep switching between the screens on our PC and smartphone. Personally, while at work, my usage of the phone has been limited to calls since I started using the laptop, the second screen serves as an alternative for apps like WhatsApp and CricInfo," Singh adds.

Paramjeet Singh Mehta, marketing head, PC and gaming, Asus India
Paramjeet Singh Mehta, marketing head, PC and gaming, Asus India

However, while the campaign has been crafted by an Indian agency, it looks like it were designed for a larger global audience. "We plan to use the campaign on digital platforms in the APAC region (Australia and South East Asia - barring China). We are now planning to procure the TVC rights for the entire region," Singh says.

The campaign has been launched with two key purposes - to boost brand awareness and to educate consumers about the new innovation. "Most laptops, barring gaming devices, have a similar look and feel. And it has been so for the last four to five years. We wanted to go above and beyond," he adds.

Kulvinder Ahluwalia, president, FCB Ulka says, "The strategic decision that we took was, to sharply focus on the innovation of the 4K second screen and not be about ticking all the features. That defined the starting point of the creative idea."

Kulvinder Ahluwalia
Kulvinder Ahluwalia

"Magellan came into the picture because his journey was a representation of what happens when one does something for the first time, does something against known convention. While there were different ideas, the Megellan idea stood out for 2 reasons - the sheer scale and audacity of the act itself and the fit with the Asus journey of breaking convention and offering an innovation in a category that has not seen much differentiation in the last few years," Ahluwalia adds.

Speaking of laptop buyers and the Indian PC market, Singh says that the penetration of consumer PCs in India is only at four per cent and the life-cycle of a laptop is around five years. 55 per cent of the total purchase volume are second time PC buyers. "The repeat customers who bought the last PC a few years ago view laptops as bulky and heavy. The biggest ask today is light devices. The next is battery life since the capacity of smartphones have evolved parallely. The third and relatively small ask is the latest technology. This reflects in our lineup of products and 90 per cent of them fall in the thin and light category," he explains.

"Consumers today go with online reviews and most of our devices have a 4+ rating (out of 5). Even then, there would be a huge gap between a rating of our 4.1 against a competitor's 4.5": Paramjeet Singh

30-35 per cent of Asus' business happens on e-commerce platforms and the direct rating and review mechanism on these platforms has changed the scenario. "There has been a major shift from the previous peer to peer knowledge sharing. Consumers today go with online reviews and most of our devices have a 4+ rating (out of 5). Even then, there would be a huge gap between a rating of our 4.1 against a competitor's 4.5," Singh says.

About the brand's e-commerce advertising, Singh says that Asus uses search advertising on Amazon (Amazon marketing services/Amazon search) and Flipkart (PLA - Product Listing Ads). "We normally invest there and it is similar to Google Search ads where we target the pool of interested customers," he explains.

"There is a 13-week customer buying cycle. An average buyer would spend almost three months on research. That's because a laptop is a high-priced device and unlike mobiles, there is little information available in social circles. They spend a lot of time on the internet, e-comm sites, reading reviews, etc.": Paramjeet Singh Mehta

The trick is to be there at the right place at the right time. Singh says, "There is a 13-week customer buying cycle. An average buyer would spend almost three months on research. It is because a laptop is a high-priced device and unlike mobiles, there is little information available in social circles. They spend a lot of time on the internet, e-comm sites, reading reviews, etc."

There has also been a paradigm change in after sales services with a reduction from the former be four to five days' duration to two days. Asus is now trying to put in place a one-day repair mechanism.

The brand assigns two per cent of its revenue for marketing and is inclined towards digital advertising. The brand team is tasked with improving the brand recall with 30 per cent of the budget assigned to ATL (TV and Print advertising). The second target is to improve the brand's visibility across points of sale like Reliance Digital, Croma and e-tailer catalogues. This eats into another 30-35 per cent of the pie. In case of offline channels, Asus sells across 12,000 retail outlets along with 200 hyper retail outlets. The brand also plans to install in-shop premium display areas across 2000 shops. Apart from this, Asus also plans to increase its exclusive outlets from 100 to 200, of which 20 will be ROG (Asus' gaming division) gaming stores. The rest of the pie will be assigned to digital advertising.

The new campaign has been crafted on a project basis. Singh accepts that more brands are choosing the project route and says that there are two key reasons – more of the budget is moving to the digital side of things and brands are becoming more agile in terms of their spends. "The fixed expenditure of an agency into the P&L account of a brand is being readily changed to 'whenever required' sort of a scenario. In this way, brands are able to sustain for longer, because they don't have the liability of a monthly fee. In a way, if I save up two to three months' worth of fees, I can invest in a bigger agency and expect a better outcome. Also, digital has changed a lot of things, mainline agencies are facing a lot of challenges in covering the digital part. Most agencies are busy building their digital arms as well. Even retainer accounts are going to digital agencies that are developing films and mainline ideas," Singh explains.

He explains that in case of projects, a marketer can get more of the creativity, that is, one can attract more pitches and have multiple-idea teams. Speaking of the pros of a retainer, he says, "With a retainer, you always have one agency behind you in case something needs quick attention. In a project, one has to wait for 15 to 20 days," Singh signs off.

Industry speak:

Karthik Srinivasan, communication consultant

It explores the mighty unique concept of the laptop itself (that has a dramatic display never seen before) using an apt analogy of the Earth, its 'corners' and going beyond it.

Karthik Srinivasan
Karthik Srinivasan

However, the analogy is vastly outdated - our current explorations of the unknown are in space. It's like using the floppy image for 'save' when an entire generation has grown up without even knowing what a floppy is. The visual inspiration is obviously the Pirates of the Caribbean, but even in that series, the idea is not searching for the corners of the world, but to seek treasure by plundering other ships. But using such an outdated analogy is not a crime; just that the number of people who may be able to comprehend 'edge of the world' as a concept may be far reduced. If they do, the idea that you can move beyond it (on a laptop) comes across quite well.

Vidhi Goradia, associate creative director, FoxyMoron

Vidhi Goradia
Vidhi Goradia

The ad is interesting, intriguing and extremely gripping. I love how seamlessly the product has been integrated. The entire film is paced to perfection. Each of the highs and lows create a beautiful build-up to the product reveal! Absolutely stunning! It’s quite refreshing to see a brand invest in building such an immersive piece of content to build a mood around the product - more than the product itself! But honestly, it does the job so well! I’m sold!