Zippo lighting up India. Sales could double in 5 years: David Warfel

21 Oct,2011

By Shubhangi Mehta


Mr David Warfel, Global Marketing Director – Zippo Manufacturing Company, is a marketing professional with over 25 years of experience. Mr Warfel oversees the development and management of the Zippo brand worldwide. Responsibilities include the direction of all advertising and marketing communications, product management, trade and consumer relations, and product and retail development.


The Zippo Manufacturing Company’s products are sold in over 160 countries worldwide and Zippo is one of the most highly recognized and respected global brands. The famous Zippo Windproof Lighter has been manufactured in Bradford, Pennsylvania since 1932. Since that time almost 500,000,000 lighters have been produced and sold.


In addition to Windproof pocket lighters and fuel, Zippo markets a wide range of consumer products, including candle and utility lighters, writing instruments, watches, fragrance, and outdoor speciality products.


MxM India caught up with Mr Warfel for a discussion on Zippo and its growth trajectory and plans in India.


Q: How has growth been for Zippo when it comes to Indian market in the past 2.5-3 years?

Last year, Zippo witnessed a 69 percent increase in sales volume in India – one of the fastest growing markets for the brand.

We currently operate in shop-in-shop formats across the country and also plan to open up a Zippo branded store. This shall happen once the entire range of accessories and brand extensions are launched.


Q: What kind of market do you see India as?

The brand has been present in the country since 2008 and has seen a strong increase in popularity over the last few years. India is a key market for Zippo. The country views Zippo as a brand, not a product.


In the last two years, India has become a significant market with great potential and we expect it to be one of the key players in the international market. The growth in India is predicted to be more than double in the next five years.


Q: Which markets do you consider the best in terms of scope and development when it comes to growth?

There is a 90 percent brand awareness globally of the Zippo brand. Forty percent of our business comes from North America. Currently, China is our major international market followed by Japan. If the success in the Indian market continues we expect sales to reach similar levels to China in the not-too-distant future.


Q: What do you think are the attributes that help a brand like yours click and connect in the market especially India?

Zippo is an iconic American brand. It is aspirational. The lighter is ingrained in the fabric of both American and global culture. With strong India and US connections, constant global traveling, inflow / outflow of Indian students from the US has transferred the qualities / aspirations of an American brand to India. Attributes like these truly connects Zippo with India market making the brand relevant to our target audience.


Q: How is the consumer behaviour different in Indian markets when compared to global consumer?

Indian consumer confidence has been consistent during post recession period. The overall optimism pervading the country finds Indians open to spending a little more than they did in the past two quarters. There is also a high level of acceptance, openness to new ideas and cultures, therefore, more confidence towards testing new products.


Q: What is your growth strategy henceforth?

In the last few years Zippo has begun to expand its product range into the lifestyle space focusing on men’s accessories and outdoor products. India is the single most important focus right now. We have increased our marketing spends ten folds worldwide in the last 10 years.


As we are diversifying the product category to lifestyle products and accessories, you will soon witness a lot of the below mentioned products in India. Our windproof lighters have been performing phenomenally well in the India market and are really helping to establish the brand amongst our target audience.


Zippo’s product line up is divided under four heads:

Lighters & accessories – Windproof lighters, Zippo BLU, Pouches, chains, ashtrays, lighter fluid, butane gas, flints and wicks

Home, Hearth & Patio – Candle lighter

Outdoor line – Hand Warmer, flex neck, emergency fire starter, campfire starter, Windproof lighters

Men’s lifestyle – Writing instruments, leather goods, watches and fragrance


Q: Please tell us about your foray into the digital medium and experiments with social media.

In 2011 Zippo launched a global Facebook page and also Twitter accounts in key markets in order to interact with our core consumers. The Zippo Facebook page now has around 200,000 fans, a number which is growing daily.


Q: How do you plan to capture your target audience?

The product range from Zippo has been well categorized for both men and women. We are selling through shop-in-shop formats and regularly engage customers through interesting marketing initiatives. Also, with growing music trends worldwide, the brand Zippo has also built up a strong association with rock music. The brand has been able to play a prominent role in key live rock music festivals across Europe, US and also in India.


We recently sponsored the Harley Rock Riders concerts in India and were thrilled to see avid Zippo fans waving their lighters in the air in time with the music – a classic Zippo moment!


We also have Zippo owned music platforms, the Zippo Hot List Tour, in China and Korea as part of our Zippo Encore music programme. This programmme is aligned with supporting emerging rock talent within the local market.


Q: What are the key challenges before Zippo?

As legislation gets stronger, it is likely to affect the business and that is why Zippo as a brand has diversified itself into various lifestyle product categories, transferring the Zippo brand’s key characteristics across all new products.


Also, another major challenge is that of counterfeit products. We are ever vigilant in protecting our intellectual property and have a legal team dedicated to tackle counterfeit issues.


Zippo enthusiasts know that authentic Zippo lighters carry the Zippo bottom stamp and the Zippo trademark stamped on the lighter insert. The famous Zippo Lifetime Guarantee also accompanies every genuine Zippo lighter.


The counterfeit goods are both locally and internationally sourced. It is a vicious market for any premium brand and the best way to deal with them is to stick to company guidelines while making any purchase.

Post a Comment 

One response to “Zippo lighting up India. Sales could double in 5 years: David Warfel”

  1. Kunal says:

    Very informative , never knew it was a privilege to hold one , how about to wear one – any clue on eau du toilette