Brands bind men: Sudeep Narayan

04 Sep,2013

The brand selection of a car and its model may no longer be the exclusive prerogative of the man. It’s more of a family decision, which is based on multiple factors – brand, driveability, design, functionality, after-sales service and price. Which factor will take precedence, depends largely on who will be the primary driver – the male or the female. While women would go for functionality, men would go for driveability. These factors also decide which model will eventually be driven home. Men still prefer the SUV and most women would go for curvier designs. However, when it comes to financing and how much money the family is willing to invest into the cars, the decision is still largely commanded by the male. Sudeep Narayan, Director – Marketing & PR, Volvo Auto India, speaks to MXMIndia, on how the brand targets men differently from women, and how they are different from each other. Excerpts:


Your target audience may be the family, but when it comes to men, how are you segmenting the gender?

Volvo is certainly not looking at the alpha male. Our male, irrespective of age would be a sensible and responsible male. Not that the rest of the men are irresponsible or not sensible. Yet, there are car brands in the luxury category too, which exude brashness, and this is the male we are definitely not targeting. We are a family car. A sports car may be a perfect fit for the alpha male. Or for that matter an Enfield or a Harley. Our male target audience is a metrosexual man, who would listen and respect others’ opinions.


You are stressing on being a family car. But still when it comes to the primary driver, your communication will have to be different for both the men and the women?

The artwork may be same for both. But when it comes to body-copy, the communication differs. Say, a feature in Volvo Active Bending Lights. For a man they are high-technology lights. For a woman, it’s “I can drive home safely.” While talking to men, we will use jargon and talk in terms of degrees that the light can bend to; but while talking to women, we will talk about increased safety and the increase in vision by say 230 per cent.


The logic is kept in mind at the point of purchase too. We try and assess the potential customer – has he come alone, with his wife, with parents? If he’s alone, we’ll focus more on technology and driveability; if with his wife, we try and talk about the functionalities like space and comfort. The space may be told to a just the male in terms of scale units. If the man is with his parents, we do stress upon the ease of getting into and out of the car. The language has to be tweaked.


Coming to design, it is a given component in a Volvo. It is different from other luxury cars owing to the ethos and pedigree that goes to Scandinavia. There are brands from Scandinavia that are known for design – Ikea, Hasselblad camera, Volvo, Tertra Pak – and all have a high component of design and technology.


So how does a male respond to a luxury car like Volvo?

The word luxury is debatable though and is directly proportional to the affordability of the person. For someone, even a Tata Nano could a luxury. The component of a person’s income that goes into buying a Tata Nano as compared to a component of a man buying a Rolls Royce is much higher. So in that terms, Tata Nano could be a luxury.


Luxury would be something that distinguishes a car from the rest. For example, Bluetooth, today is in every car. Every car would have a speedometer. So are we giving them just the needle, or is it digital and what else. When it comes to men, they like to have more and upgraded technology, that’s something is given in a Volvo; and luxury is a bi-product of comfortability for us.


When you segment your men, do they respond differently to technology and to the possession?

The small town man isn’t concerned about how the people – friends, relatives, or neighbours will respond to the possession. For him, the show-off is in the price of the car, a fact that he owns a Rs 4 million car. But for the metro man, it’s about what all did he get in the Rs 4 million car: “Oh! You’ve got a Rs 4 million car, but does it have this feature and that feature.”


Do women also respond in the same way?

Women respond to jewellery in the same way and not to cars.


Geographically, how’s your male different?

South is more practical. Decisions are taken from the brain rather than the heart. They are less affected by the badge value and focus more on the product delivery. In the North, men care more for badge value and about how many gizmos do they have in the car – “Does the car have a WiFi? Automatic brakes?” While the benefit would appeal to both – North & South, the input from a technology point appeals to the man from the North. As for sound, the South male will be more concerned about fidelity; in  North, men would be concerned about the number of speakers and figures like 1000 Watts PMPO (Peak Music Power Output), a wattage that the human ear cannot even hear. But still, it’s a differentiating factor for them.


In the East, men still link back to family lineage, and their perception about a car would depend on questions like – “How sophisticated it is? How royal it is?” The design would play more importance than technology. In the West, say for example, Gujarat – one of the most affluent states, men would think of questions like – “What is the value I am getting out of the car? What would be the resale value of the car after four years?” The last question while is important for others too, but doesn’t take precedence in other regions.


Which brand of Volvo is picked up most by men?

It has to be XC90. It is a seven-seater luxury SUV, huge and imposing on the road. In comparison, the hatchback, V40 Cross Country, is more liked by women for its curves. But we are not consciously positioning them as cars specifically for a particular gender. We are positioning XC90 as a sturdy car. Sturdiness appeals more to men, but we wouldn’t want to spell out that it’s targeted at men.


How would you sum up your learning about marketing to men?

When it comes to marketing to men, most brands try to appeal to everyone. But that’s not the right approach. If someone likes to listen to Sonu Nigam, it’s unlikely that you can influence him to listen to Kishore Kumar. You might influence someone who likes Kishore Kumar to listen to Mohammad Rafi. We talk about women being different from each other, but men are also equally more different from each other. There are certain things that bind them but their thinking is quite different.


As a group, how are men and women different when it comes to brand choices? What binds them and what makes them different?

This is true for every category and not just automobiles. Friendship binds them, but their career options may be very different. Their choices of soft drinks could be very different, which typically amongst women would be more or less the same.


What would be completely different in women is fashion. “You like Gucci, I don’t like Gucci.” She has to have a Prada or Jimmy Choo instead. Whereas, amongst men, sameness of brands or colour would actually bind them and bring them together.


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