Big Star for a Big Launch

14 Jul,2015


With a thickness of 5.1mm end-to-end and weighing a mere 97 grams, the Canvas Sliver 5 is being billed as the world’s slimmest and lightest 4G smartphone, Micromax announced revealing its innovative TVC starring Hugh Jackman last Friday. This is reportedly one of Micromax’s biggest marketing campaigns. Shubhajit Sen, Chief Marketing Officer, Micromax tells Dyanne Coelho the kind of work that went into it, why Hugh Jackman is back and how the new product grabbed more eyeballs than anticipated.


It was launched last week with much fanfare. Tell us more on the marketing campaign for the Canvas Sliver 5?

We started working on this campaign about a couple of months back or little more than that. It was an absolutely brilliant product. It is the world’s slimmest and the world’s lightest phone and of course it had a lot of other features packed into that product. As a marketing team we really wanted to focus on the differentiating factor, and that quality was about how slim this product is. So that was the brief that was given to our agency [Mullen Lowe Lintas]. One thing that was clear was that we wanted to focus on this differentiating quality, we wanted to target the urban youth with this product, and we wanted to do that focusing on this one differentiating quality of the product. And we wanted to create a sort of bigger than life advertising campaign because it was not just about selling this particular model, but we wanted the campaign to have a similar rub-off on the entire brand equity.


The phone has got some rave first-look reviews. How much of the success of a product like a cellular phone would you attribute to smart advertising with a celebrity in it to the product itself and distribution?

I mean obviously it becomes a talking point, but it’s true across categories, advertising is just part of a larger communications system. And all niches of our communication story and reach program have to work in corals with each other for the success of the product. So just as an example, we got fantastic reviews and a lot of buzz created when we did our press conference to announce the launch of the product and there the focus was not so much the marketing campaign, which took off much later. There the focus was just the product and frankly we got incredibly good reviews at that point. So we threw the advertising campaign per se as part of a larger communications strategy, but the important thing obviously for everything is to talk to each other and not be at cross purposes.


It’s been a huge blitz, possibly your biggest ever. Right?

I’ve been in this organisation for five months and this has been the biggest for me but Micromax has been totally aggressive with some campaigns in the past. When we launched our canvas range that was huge. So we’ve had multiple campaigns in the past which have had similar scale, and I just get the feeling that this particular campaign has broken with a bang and it is just getting noticed a lot which feels good for me, but from a pure investment perspective it has stuff which is of equal stature of the past.


Could you give an indicator of your spends on this campaign?

I wouldn’t know completely, but the number that kind of jumps out of my mind is our TV spends is not going to be more than 40 percent. There’s a lot of outdoor and print which is going out, a lot of digital. Digital will be at least 20-25 percent of the total marketing budget.


And vis-a-vis your annual marketing budget?

For us we start the year with April, and so far this is the biggest one. I won’t rule out the possibility of us doing something of this scale again in the coming months. But a lot of that depends on the kind of innovative product we bring out, because this is genuinely a world’s first, and we are very, very proud to have this product. If we get something great with this kind of engineering, we would absolutely spend this kind of budget.


Micromax has been a heavy investor in cricket. Wouldn’t a launch like this have been better around a cricket tournament?

I don’t think we want to breakthrough innovation based on marketing as such. When we launched we looked around to find what the biggest sporting event was and it was Wimbledon. So I think it’s better to find what are the different sporting events at the time of launch rather than plan our launch around it. So I think it makes sense to figure out what are the big sporting events at the time when you have a launch, rather than planning your launch around the event. For this marketing campaign we associated with Wimbledon, which was the biggest sporting event in our opinion.


So how and why Hugh Jackman?Micromax’s second time with him?

 Hugh Jackman’s association with Micromax has been fantastic so far. It was before my time (at Micromax) that we got Jackman on board, and I’ve been seeing data and research and frankly the impact of this association on Micromax has been tremendous without question and it just took the Micromax brand to a very different level in terms of being seen as a global brand rather than just as an Indian brand and making it premium and upmarket and aspirational. So that was the original strategy and I know that it’s played out really well. What’s also happened is that one of the things that is strongly associated with Micromax is now Hugh Jackman, which is why we kind of extended our relationship with him. And then we were kind og thinking about how do we make the next advertising campaign, and we of course had this product that was coming in the pipeline, and we said this is the perfect time to have the next campaign with Hugh. The only difference I would say is in the comparison between the ways we used Hugh Jackman in the first versus the second. In the first one, I think a lot of association was between Hugh Jackman and Micromax the brand, and the second we said that we’ve got that bit established, how Hugh Jackman can introduce this path-breaking product. So if you see the advertising that we’ve developed, frankly this advertising would not have been possible if we didn’t have this phone.


There are enough action heroes in India too.  So why him?Or does it help having an international, ‘gora’ star like Jackman for a product like a smartphone?

We don’t make those choices and frankly to a large extent, we’ve been associated with Akshay Kumar in the past. So there is absolutely nothing about using just foreign or international stars versus Indian stars. So I don’t think that was the decision point. The point was that our association with Hugh Jackman was very strong in the consumer’s mind. Also a lot of Indians (actors) tend to be used by multiple brands, so in that sense there’s a little bit of confusion sometimes, but Hugh Jackman as far as I can tell only endorses Micromax.


So is this contract for Jackman for a year like the last one?

We’ve just kind-of reworked the contract and this will run through 2015. I don’t really want to get into it because that’s a relationship between Hugh Jackman and Micromax, but we at least have him through the calendar year 2015.


You’ve of course retained your Indian creative agency Lowe Lintas for this?

Yeah, they’ve been coming up with some really great communication, and they are our exclusive creative agency.


The obvious measurement of the success of a blitz is in the sales? How have you done so far since you announced it and unveiled on Friday?

We measure success on two different levels. One is the impact it has on the overall brand and the equity of Micromax and the second is obviously how many products it sells. Those are the two ultimate measures of outcome, and our specific measures are obviously how does the brand equity move, what is happening right now on our Google search patterns, how many enquiries our distributors are getting, etc. So then we have a number of individual measureable parameters to see the impact. The new product is just hitting the shelves, it’s been about four days, but the kind of interest levels and excitement that we’re getting from our distribution channels has been absolutely fantastic. It has been good in terms of placing the product, visibility and getting support. Also while it is very early, there is a spike on our Google search patterns as the measure of consumer interest has been phenomenal. The number of times the TVC has been seen on YouTube has been awesome and much better than what we had anticipated.


Do you find a positive rub-off on the sales of your other products too?

Absolutely.We are anticipating this to happen also as part of our 4G range of products. We are betting big on 4G. We have another product called Knight2which is also a 4G product, very slim, not as slim as this, but we absolutely anticipate a halo effect on similar products in the portfolio.


Micromax may be having a fair number of premium handsets, but the early image of a ‘massy’ brand has stuck. Are you happy with that?

I personally don’t accept that concept, the issue being one of equity. My judgment is that it has been a bit more of a business model issue because until recently our portfolio in the premium segment for Micromax has not been very strong. But now we have two or three new models that we’ve launched in the last two or three months, which are in the mid-premium segment, and frankly they’re doing really well. And because our portfolio was not very strong, our distribution perspectives we were not focusing on the mid-premium segment. So that was a chicken-and-egg kind of a situation. I think as we build a portfolio of more premium products, the distribution also changes itself to also gear for a more premium distribution kind of a thing. You’ll see that our market share dramatically improved in that segment, so my hypothesis is that it’s not an equity issue, but more a portfolio issue.


For someone who has spent over two decades in healthcare giant like GSK, and since you’ve moved to Micromax just in February this year, how’s the transition been?

Nothing like anything, but I think both in their categories can learn a lot from each other. There’s a sense of dynamicism, there is a sense of entrepreneurship. A lot of the stuff that happens in this industry I think is run by pure dominance of genius as was the thought out strategy, because that’s what the industry is like. I think what this industry can benefit probably from my previous experience, is in some of the areas to have a base line of processes and beta-driven decisions. So the challenge that I’ve kind of put myself through is to get the right balance between intuition and genius which exists in the system but a little bit of process and though-out decision which would give a great balance to it.


We know comparisons are incorrect to make, but personally, which do you find more challenging?

I think they’re different challenges. It really is like trying to compare apples and oranges. I’ve been here for five months and I don’t think I’ve got myself thinking, oh this is how I would have thought if I was in my previous industry, because the category is different, the consumers are different. In the old industry, the FMCG industry, there is a degree of stability; technology tends to be less frequently changing. There is less disruption that happens with the consumers and consumers are kind of attuned to our particular product, as well as there is stability in the distribution channel. Whereas if you look at this industry, frankly the consumers can’t predict what they want, because they don’t know what technology is coming. The technology itself is changing differently everyday and in a pretty erratic manner if that’s the word. And with the whole e-commerce thing happening things are changing. So the past is a very poor predictor of the future in this industry, whereas it is a very good predictor in the FMCG industry. The big difference as a result of that is I think FMCG industry I would characterise it as batch marketing, which is you do a campaign then you take some time off see  how that’s doing before you start working on the next campaign. You take a month, two months off between two campaigns. In this category, every day I have to put something out on digital, every day I have to track what’s happening with competition, so it’s a continuous marketing effect. These are the two differences, but it’s like comparing apples and oranges.


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