Namah Chawla

“Want to package the AC as a ‘complete device’”: Panasonic's Shirish Agarwal

The brand positions the AC as a device that deals with today's pain points - health and hygiene. Chat with Panasonic's head of marcomm and brand.

Air conditioner (AC) brands are increasingly trying to differentiate themselves from one another with unique propositions that have little to do with cooling. This isn’t new. Nowadays, when a consumer buys an AC, he/she wants to know what else the brand has to offer, besides cooling.

In 2011, electronics major Panasonic's main proposition for its ACs was ‘eco-navi’, a technology that senses human activity in the room and cools accordingly. Four years back the brand started talking about ‘quality air for life.’ Its air conditioners are equipped with 'nanoe' technology that helps clean indoor air pollution.

Last year, the brand came up with a campaign to highlight how the technology is capable of ‘inhibiting bacteria and viruses, including 99.99 per cent of the adhered novel Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2).’

Also Read: Panasonic AC takes on Covid induced 'spray culture'; tells us to "chill" instead

The latest (2022) campaign is based on a strong consumer insight. Over the last two years, people have come to realise that they may be secure within the four walls of their homes, but not necessarily healthy.

Shirish Agarwal, head of marketing communication and brand, Panasonic India, tells afaqs!, “When it comes to the consumer durable industry, the users now are looking for appliances that can take care of their comfort needs and help them multitask. The key deciding factor now is whether a particular appliance can take care of your health and hygiene concerns.”

<div class="paragraphs"><p><strong>Shirish Agarwal, Panasonic India</strong></p></div>

Shirish Agarwal, Panasonic India

The new ad films are conceptualised by Wunderman Thompson. They use light-hearted humour to highlight that the ACs are equipped with Panasonic patented technologies to ensure a healthier indoor air quality index (AQI).

Agarwal says that this time around, the brand’s endeavour has been to package and present its ACs as a complete device. One that not only takes care of a user’s cooling needs, but also addresses the biggest pain point these days, i.e., health and hygiene.

In the ad film, the brand tries to tackle its direct competitors, as well as another consumer durable category of air purifiers.

The campaign is targeted towards millennials, as they are the main buyers. “We are specifically targeting consumers between the age group of 22 and 45 years,” mentions Agarwal.

Most people under the age of 25 may not have purchasing power. However, the brand has decided to catch them young, as they are the key influencers, when it comes to their family and friends. They also quickly adapt to new trends and technology.

Agarwal points out that the penetration of ACs in India is extremely low, at around just five per cent. The majority of buyers, about 60-65 per cent, still come from the top eight cities, he adds.

“The biggest challenge that a marketer faces today, is to drive the usage and application of the product, when the penetration is this low. The industry is still evolving, and there are new technologies and specifications that we are launching. The task is to package them (the products) in a simple manner that the consumers can understand.”

“The biggest challenge that a marketer faces today, is to drive the usage and application of the product, when the penetration is this low."

The campaign’s media mix has been designed, keeping in mind the major AC markets. While television (45 to 50 per cent spends) takes care of the pan-India reach, digital (30 to 35 per cent spends) will be used to target audiences in the top 8 to 12 markets.

Within television, the brand plans to be extremely selective in terms of the genres to advertise on. It will be present on news genres like English, Hindi and business news. It also plans to leverage the IPL season as it happens during the peak summer months.

There will be print and out-of-home (OOH) ads, depending on the specific needs of the market.

Agarwal says that since people are spending more time in their homes now, they’re looking for devices that can actually help them on a daily basis. “This is a change that we have seen across the range of consumer durable products. For ACs, I think cooling is a must. The consumer expects that if I'm buying an air conditioner, cooling is something that they take for granted. Now the ask from the consumer is what else can you offer me.”

The brand has seen a shift to inverter ACs now, and, within that, people tend to go for smart inverter ACs. An interesting smart feature that Panasonic offers in its ACs now is hourly scheduling. The AC has in-built artificial intelligence (AI) that understands usage pattern and then starts taking calls on its own.

Needless to say, the category is highly competitive, in terms of the number of brands in the market. It’s also a highly seasonal category. Agarwal mentions, “Driving visibility becomes extremely tough for any brand during a particular season because all of us are fighting for the consumer’s attention in a fixed period, starting from March till May.”

The decision-making cycle is slightly longer in the consumer durable category, than any other product category, because if you’re buying an AC, you’re investing in it for a minimum of 5-6 years. Longer product life cycle implies a longer and careful decision-making process, where digital plays an extremely important role. So, digital is something that Panasonic is currently focusing on, as the consumers tend to spend most of their time on the platform.

"Brands need to ensure that they provide seamless experience across all consumer touchpoints."

“Even if a purchase happens offline, e-commerce still plays an extremely important role because of validation. The lines have completely blurred. I think omnichannel is the way to go. Someone who is buying online, is not necessarily moving to the offline channel. They may visit each offline channel, but come back home and buy it online. Likewise, someone who's checking it online, will probably make up their mind, but eventually make the purchase at an offline store. Brands need to ensure that they provide seamless experience across all consumer touchpoints,” Agarwal signs off.

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