Benita Chacko

Maruti Suzuki is open to female brand endorsers: Shashank Srivastava

  • Maruti Suzuki is shifting from male-centric endorsements and considering female brand endorsers amid a growing female consumer base

  • To build trust with female consumers, it has launched 'Arena Journeys,' featuring short films

  • The initiative, directed by female filmmakers, aims to spotlight women's transformative experiences with cars

  • On International Women’s Day, Maruti Suzuki released a special 'webisode,' previewing the upcoming series

Historically, Indian automobile brands have predominantly opted for male celebrities in their endorsement campaigns, featuring figures such as Shah Rukh Khan for Hyundai and Hrithik Roshan for Tata Motors. This trend, however, saw a shift in December 2023 when Hyundai enlisted the endorsement of Deepika Padukone.

Maruti Suzuki has showcased a roster of male faces including Varun Dhawan, Rajkummar Rao, Ranveer Singh, R Madhavan, Amitabh Bachchan, and Abhishek Bachchan over the years. Now, Shashank Srivastava, senior executive officer, Marketing and Sales, Maruti Suzuki India, says the Indian automobile giant is also open to considering a woman endorser. 

“Earlier, a woman would not even be in the consideration set. But the possibility exists now. We need to evaluate who that will be and for which brand,” he says. 

Srivastava notes that the traditional perception of the automobile industry as a male-dominated domain is swiftly fading away. Maruti Suzuki, as an exemplar, actively embraces diversity, evident in its workforce where over 5000 women contribute substantially on the showroom sales floor and play vital roles on the shop floor. “This shift mirrors broader societal changes, where empowerment, independence, and inclusivity are increasingly valued—a trend evident in the strategies of marketers,” he says.

This evolution has come at the back of the increasing number of female consumers for the brand. Maruti Suzuki Arena has sold more than 9 lac vehicles to women in the last six years. With a penetration rate of 12%, significantly higher than the industry average of 7-8%, women buyers are crucial for it. Notably, in models like S-presso, Alto, and Celerio, women buyers make up nearly 25% of purchases.

This higher penetration among women buyers is attributed to their significant emphasis on brand trust, the company’s research found. With nearly 30% of their decision weighted towards trust, women place a larger importance on trust when making purchasing decisions. In comparison, men give more importance to performance and design. 

Maruti Suzuki Arena's female consumers
Maruti Suzuki Arena's female consumers

In an effort to further build trust among female consumers, Maruti Suzuki India has launched a new digital campaign Arena Journeys. Collaborating with Mumbai-based media company Terribly Tiny Tales (TTT), it will launch an anthology series of four short films directed by female filmmakers — Alankrita Shrivastava, Sonam Nair, Tahira Kashyap Khurrana, and Tanuja Chandra. It will be released on the TTT YouTube channel in the coming weeks. 

Srivastava says this initiative is not about branding or driving sales, but a trust-building exercise to reinforce long-term brand trust through the feel-good experiences it provides. It aims to foster increased car usage and eventual purchasing, driven by the positive association with Maruti Suzuki Arena. 

“It's about spotlighting women and the transformative role cars play in their lives. It's about showcasing how cars contribute to their freedom, independence, and mobility. Our focus isn't on selling; it's on empowering women. While positive associations with our brand naturally follow, our primary goal is to uplift and resonate with women as a segment. This positivity ultimately benefits our brand,” he says. 

On International Women’s Day (March 8) the brand released a special 'webisode' where the four women filmmakers and Srivastava are in a conversation with presenter Gaurav Kapur about the upcoming series. The inaugural short film, directed by Sonam Nair, is set to release on March 21, 2024. Subsequent films will follow on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, offering audiences a diverse range of stories celebrating the essence of womanhood.

This web series, based on the brand’s theme of ‘Joy of Mobility’ will centre around the role cars play in women's lives. It will showcase how cars facilitate transformative journeys, both physically and metaphorically. “Our philosophy, rooted in spreading the joy of mobility, aligns with this narrative, emphasising not just transportation but also the triumph over life's challenges. The films will illustrate how cars have significantly impacted women beyond mere functionality,” he adds.

These films will not only reflect the behaviour of existing women buyers but also the changes the brand expects to see in the future.

“Women are increasingly empowered, independent, and positive, reflecting a changing societal landscape. These contemporary stories are uplifting and share common values, potentially influencing both current and future trends in women's purchasing behaviour,” Srivastava says.

The brand chose the digital medium as it allows for personalisation and is also a better medium for long-format videos. 

“Normally, television is about imagery building in a short time. So telling a story in a longer format necessarily has to be on a digital medium,” he says.

Moreover, digital usage among women has doubled over the last five years, with the current count of female internet users standing at 310 million. TTT itself has 55% female subscribers, making it an ideal platform for the brand.

Following brand trust, female consumers assign the next level of importance to mileage, with a weightage of 25%. Subsequently, style and looks are considered, followed by a relatively smaller percentage allocated to features and driving comfort.

In 2023, marking the completion of six years, Maruti Suzuki Arena launched a new brand campaign Find your Match. These films will be an extension of the campaign. 

Find Your Match reflects two key factors. Firstly, Arena boasts the largest portfolio in the industry, offering 10 diverse models to meet various needs, whether it's for a large family, an SUV enthusiast, or someone seeking a compact and manoeuvrable ride. “With such versatility, every customer can find their perfect match based on their specific requirements,” he says.

Secondly, the concept of "Find Your Match" extends beyond functionality to encompass the evolving role of cars in people's lives. Cars now represent more than just practicality; they reflect one's dynamism, lifestyle, and social status.

“The car you choose speaks volumes about your values and preferences, shaping your identity and lifestyle. This psychological aspect underscores the importance of finding the right match that aligns with your personality and aspirations. In essence, Find Your Match isn't merely about owning a vehicle; it's about nurturing a relationship with a vehicle that resonates with your life journey and personality,” he says.

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