Friday, January 29, 2016

Wear your attitude!

Titan’s constant innovation shows that no company, not even a market leader, can rest 
on earlier successes 

I am a watch marketer’s dream customer! I admire watches, covet them and often buy them which explains why I own an indecent number of them as I am also gifted watches often. In 1987, I was gifted a lovely Titan watch by my wife for our fifth wedding anniversary. 1992 was our tenth and another exquisite Titan watch was received. For our fifteenth wedding anniversary in 1997 (the same wife) gifted me another interesting Titan watch. I have always maintained that wives are amazingly creative in gifting at least! But I must mention that over the years watches suddenly seem less exciting than the iPhone and that perhaps best explains the challenges facing Titan watches, the market leader by far, who has the onerous task of expanding the market. The challenge seems to be that many people seem to view watches as utilitarian time keeping devices and not as fashion accessories as Titan would like us to believe. They would like customers to mix and match watches with their clothes and that’s the objective of this commercial featuring Aamir Khan in his Mangal Pandey look.

Of course, they were preaching to the choir in my case as I believed in this dictum, followed it and even evangelised it. But it is a reality particularly in today’s mobile dependent world and many young students of mine say “why wear a watch sir, I have a mobile that shows me the time “.

Fashion that you can wear
Rather than carrying technology through a mobile device, Titan asks you to wear it fashionably on your wrist. It is a watch in the true sense of the word and does not look like a gadget though Titan has tied up with HP for this smart watch JUXT. 

Titan’s research suggests that while a gadget may have multiple features consumers use only a few of them regularly and extensively. People constantly get incoming calls, mail and social media notifications even if they are in a meeting and that constantly disturbs the others in the meeting whereas in the JUXT only the wearer needs to know that he has received a notification. The other pain point that all smart phone users complain about is the fact that they have to charge their devices daily. The Titan smart watch has been designed to remain charged for 5 days and with smart handling, the battery could last up to seven days even as it shows the world time with the customer choosing the geographies that he might be interested in.

Move your backside
Today’s youngsters seem to be aware of the need for fitness and activity even if they don’t do too much about it. They compare notes on number of steps walked and seem to have gadgets like the Fitbit or apps on their phone and on the rare days they do 10000 steps, they seem to have celebratory binges! Here are two interesting commercials on YouTube which talk about today’s youngsters who often creatively showcase their laziness and seem to forget their dates with friends the moment they see a pretty girl! In line with today’s media strategy when you are talking to youngsters, the focus is on YouTube and Twitter. The commercials speak the language of the young, tech savvy, upwardly mobile professional who is the target audience for this communication.

Innovation is the name of the game
The cornerstone of Titan’s management philosophy has been innovation. Quite simply put Titan changed the way the watch was made, it was looked at and the way it was sold. I know of some companies who do something truly innovative and then keep talking about it for the next twenty five years. Not so Titan, look at the innovation calendar for Titan from the time of its launch in 1989.

Titan’s Product Innovation timeline

1989: Aqura, trendy range for the youth, colourful, smart and affordable plastic watches
1992: Raga, the ethnic range, for the sophisticated Indian woman
1993: Insignia, high end watches, for exclusivity and status
1994: Psi 2000, rugged, sporty, 200m water resistance, high precision, for the adventurous
1996: Dash, cute and colourful range for kids
1997: Sonata, affordable, good quality range for the budget conscious
1998: Fastrack, cool, trendy range for the young and young-at-heart
1999: Nebula, solid gold and diamond studded range of luxury watches
2002: Edge, the slimmest watch in the universe
2008: Octane, Diva, WWF and Zoop

And yet, when Titan was being innovative most of the excitement was happening in a different category - the mobile phone. Youngsters especially are obsessed with this category and keep showing off and sharing what is happening to the whole world. Watches as a category have steadily been less interesting and consequently of lesser involvement to consumers. The Titan JUXT is an attempt to bridge this gap and get consumers interested again in watches with all the important features of a smart phone. Will it be a success is the million dollar question? But what it demonstrates once again is that no company even if it is the market leader can afford to sit back on its earlier successes or past innovations. It needs to keep upping the ante and that is precisely what Titan is doing.

In the meanwhile I keep wondering who the lucky individual is, who is going to gift me a Titan JUXT!

Monday, January 25, 2016

Titan launches a smartwatch. Will it fly?

The legacy watchmaker enters a niche category of smartwatches with Juxt, priced at Rs 15,995. Will its iconic brand presence help it succeed in the category?
Titan, the world's fifth largest traditional watchmaker has just forayed into the smartwatch segment with Juxt. A conventional looking smartwatch engineered by HP, Juxt is priced between Rs 15, 995-Rs 19,995. 

Juxt, which can be synced with Android and iOS devices, provides features such as email and social media notifications, text messages, calendar and appointment reminders, activity tracking and monitoring of fitness goals, and of course, allows incoming calls.

Juxt by Titan
Titan has an uphill task as it competes with some of the biggest technology players already operating in this segment. Samsung offers the maximum number of smartwatches in the country, including Gear S2 and S, Gear S Neo and Gear Fit. The other key players include Motorola (Moto 360), Asus, Sony, TomTom, and Timex. The price range offered by these companies starts from Rs 8,995 and goes up to Rs 25,995. Apple continues to be the most expensive smartwatch with a price tag of Rs 32,990. Giving stiff competition to these companies is a host of smartbands, or fitness wearable bands, such as FitBit, Xiaomi, GOQii, and Micromax which start at the affordable starting price point of Rs 3,000, and go up to Rs 19,990.

Titan Juxt campaign

What sets Titan apart from its competitors is the brand trust it has created over the years and the conventional look that Juxt offers which may succeed in attracting a certain set of consumers. To further promote Juxt, Titan has executed a TV campaign #SmartIsNowStunning, featuring comedian Vir Das, director Kabir Khan, and music composer Pritam Chakraborty.
We reached out to brand gurus and technology experts on how well Juxt is poised to woo consumers and create a space in the intensely competitive smartwatch market in India.

Ramanujam Sridhar, CEO, Brand-Comm
Ramanujam Sridhar
Titan is a market leader by far and the only profitable watch company, but today, it is facing competition from a number of players such as Fossil and Tag Heur. The market has changed immensely ever since its launch in 1987. It is no longer an aspirational watch for the young upwardly mobile consumer. Many young people today are not even wearing watches; they do not see a watch as a utility time keeping device. They tend to check time on various devices (mobile and tab, for instance). Titan, as the market leader, needs to keep innovating and hence must have a presence in the smartwatch segment. I think it has refrained from launching a gadget-looking watch because it would have had less of an opportunity considering Titan is not a technology company. It is a strategic choice. The primary target group for Juxt would be consumers between 25 to 35 years, and the secondary TG would be 35 to 44 years. Juxt, according to me, fills the gap and provides consumers choice in the tech-wearable category. As a company, I think it is positioning Juxt as a watch which has smart features, but is stylish. This launch is an attempt by Titan to stay relevant and contemporary. Whether it will be a success or failure only time will tell.

Nimish Dubey, contributing editor, TechPP
Nimish Dubey
I'm not sure if Titan can succeed in this category because a smartwatch is a geek and not a mainstream product. Owing to the fact that smartwatches have so far been associated with smartphones, the consumer tendency is to trust a brand that deals in such products. Hence, a Sony, Samsung or Motorola have an instant recall value when it comes to smartwatches. Titan's foray in this segment has to be welcomed because with more players the pricing in the segment will become competitive and product mainstream. But, the going will be tough for Titan because currently, I do not see any killer advantage that it is offering vis-a-vis other players. I'm also cynical about whether the campaign will be able to reach out to the right audience. We need to understand that the pairing of the watch with a smartphone via a bluetooth is a task. It needs to be charged again and again. It is not a product that anybody can use. Although the brand campaign's execution and concept is good, I'm not sure whether it will convince the consumer to buy the product.

Harish Bijoor, brand expert and CEO, Harish Bijooor Consults Inc
Harish Bijoor
Titan needs to have a smart avatar because we are talking to a smart generation of consumers. Every aspect of the digital world is going to impact consumers in a big way. Titan cannot be stuck in the warp of time. It has to graduate from analog to digital, and now to smart. The next move could be the IoT (Internet of Things) watch. To my mind, it is a good move. The best part is it doesn't look like a typical smartwatch. Titan has managed a good combination between traditional cosmetics and modern connectivity. The product will appeal to an eclectic mix of consumers. In an era when a Fitbit costs Rs 6,000, and where an iPhone 6 costs Rs 60,000, to keep its price within that range is a fair gamble. Titan has played it properly in terms of pricing. The product cannot look too cheap as well.

Sandeep Budki, managing editor, The Mobile Indian
Sandeep Budki
The smartwatch segment is relatively new in India. The traction for this product is coming from the youth for whom it is more useful as a health monitor, and at the same time, serves as a notification device. Most tech-wearables are in the health space and are priced between Rs 2,000 and Rs 7,000. Titan is a traditional brand, hence, it may generate goodwill from older consumers. The TG that Titan Juxt may be looking at is a father of an 18-year old who has been using the brand's watches. From the technology perspective, other players in the smartwatch segment have made significant investment which will be difficult to match. I, therefore, feel that the Titan smartwatch will appeal to someone who falls in the age group of 35-45 years, and who has been a brand loyalist. Such consumers have fond memories of Titan watches which were once a popular gifting option. They might show interest in the product, but it is unlikely that they will buy it because this age group is not open to investing in tech accessories yet.

Manisha Sood, country general manager, Fitbit Inc
Manisha Sood
I would like to congratulate Titan on the launch. It is a welcome move. It shows that Fitbit is in the right direction and we have the first mover advantage worldwide. We understand the psyche of the consumer well. India is a nation with high incidents of diabetes and heart problems. A typical Indian consumer doesn't like to go to a gym and therefore a fitness band is an apt choice for him/her. After the Fitbit launch, we have seen several players entering the tech-wearable space in India. We see it as a welcome move because this just pushes the category to grow further. It leads to increased consumer awareness about the category. As per the latest reports, wearable technology is going to be the fastest growing category with a CAGR of 45 per cent.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Speak to me in my mother tongue!

Is making commercials in a regional language a smart strategy?

When you speak about India and its markets, the first thing that probably strikes you about this vast and wonderful country is its diversity in language, culture, customs and even religions. While that is probably true for some other countries like the USA as well, let me speak about our own country. This column for instance is written in English as it caters to a specific audience that is familiar with that language, that speaks and writes in it with fluency and perhaps even thinks in that language. The reality, however is this category of English is a small percentage. When we speak about English, we are talking about say a mere 11 per cent of the population as a recent study revealed. We should also remember that even in affluent households; say in Kerala the primary newspaper is in Malayalam even if they may read an additional English paper. So it makes eminent sense to talk to the consumer in their language more so in markets like Tamil Nadu, Kerala and West Bengal.  What this basically means is that as a marketer, I am trying to segment the market on the basis of language and take into account the culture, the tradition and the customs of that region and creating communication in the mother tongue whether it is in Tamil or Bengali. What this means also is that Bengalis wherever they may be, get to see my communication which is in their mother tongue wherever they may live in India. This is thanks to the growing phenomenon of satellite TV which enables people to watch programs in their mother tongue wherever they may be living. Before we talk about the pros and cons of such a strategy, let’s quickly look at a current example of a commercial created specifically around a festival for a particular market in the mother tongue of that region Tamil.

Pongaloo Pongal
A few days ago Tamil Nadu resonated with the sounds of “Pongaloo Pongal” in every household. While the harvest festival is celebrated in other parts of India, I can say with a fair amount of confidence that it is the most important festival for Tamilians probably vying with Diwali in terms of importance say with North Indians. 
Here is a link to the commercial

for a brand from the TVS Motor Company for one of their brands TVS Star City featuring MS Dhoni who is a household name in India not only because he is the Indian captain but who is almost the boy next door because he used to lead Chennai Super Kings till recently. Prabhu Deva too is no stranger to the South having acted and danced in several Tamil films. As the commercial shows MS Dhoni appropriately clad in a dhoti opens a new showroom for TVS, admires the Star City on display there. When the dealer requests him to take the first ride in the bike as it is an auspicious day, he is hesitant because riding a bike with a dhoti on is an art. As he looks around helplessly Prabhu Deva comes to the rescue and demonstrates how to knot the dhoti stylishly even as they sing and dance as they do in typical Tamil films. It is a racy commercial, nicely choreographed in a manner that appeals to the youth of Tamil Nadu. I expect the commercial to be a hit for two reasons - one it captures the essence of Tamil Nadu albeit in a cinematic way but also because it has two celebrities that each and everyone recognises and many love. The logic for this commercial is simple. It tries to demonstrate that Tamilians are unique, different and best respond to messages when they are in their own language.
This strategy of recognising that Pongal is an important festival or that Tamilians need to be addressed separately is not new and my mind goes back nearly three decades to another commercial for Pongal done for Asian Paints. This was a landmark commercial of those days done by my friend Rajiv Menon where for the first time a race was targeted in their own language rather than with a translation of a national message.

Is this a good strategy?
In my own parochial way, I feel this strategy is a good one but then the important thing to remember is that strategy invariably is sacrifice and can be costly. Today, it costs a lot of money to create commercials in one language alone rather than doing it in Hinglish as most brands are doing. Translations too may prove laughable when not properly executed. Remember that marketing money is not unlimited and the smarter ones use their resources sensibly. But the bottom line is if a market is big enough for you, then you must create in that language, but in a manner that appeals to people of that region.

Think about it, you may have a different solution to the same problem.


Monday, January 18, 2016

Riding the start-up wave

The latest ad series by Indigo Nation has struck a chord with young entrepreneurs. Here’s why it worked so well

There is a buzz in the air in Bengaluru and an energy that is palpable as the city hums with activity as young executives with stars in their eyes chuck up high paying jobs to start-up one technology company or the other or develop one app or the other, even as VCs keep a close watch on who could be the next Flipkart as they loosen their purse strings. Entrepreneurs are getting younger as we speak and represent the new era of entrepreneurship where the barriers to entry seem only in the mind. It is a great time to be young, hopeful and tech savvy and nothing it seems can stop one from being the boss if he applies his mind to it. Not for nothing is Bengaluru being referred to as the start-up capital of India and the next Silicon Valley. It is precisely this mood of excitement, uncertainty and energy that a brand from Bengaluru tries to capture in its advertising as it wishes to tap into the tremendous interest in start-ups, their funding and valuation that seems to be the preoccupation of not only the central characters in the start-up ecosystem but also the media which is devoting entire sections to the exploits of these nouveau riche entrepreneurs and their unique and differentiated stories. The company is Bengaluru based Indus League and the brand is Indigo Nation.

Subject to change
Indigo Nation has consistently been talking to the young executive who is in his late twenties or early thirties. He is different, willing to push the envelope and open to change just about anything whether it is something as mundane as a job or something as exciting as a girlfriend. They have strong views on everything and hate the status quo. If they want to keep unearthly hours at work then they would like to do it for themselves not just for a fat pay check. They know the rules of the game whether it is presenting to the VC with passion for funding or building a team of talented professionals who happen to be classmates or friends. It is exactly this that the new Indigo Nation campaign depicts. Realizing that this restless audience is more online than in traditional mainline media, the series of commercials are primarily designed for the social media where entrepreneurs and prospects could possibly feel “hey this is about me” and share it in social media.  Take a look at typical situations in a young start-up’s life whether it is crazy, unearthly hours or a team of people cracking jokes even as they get ready to meet the VC or doing just about anything to fuel their dreams, even work. Here are the ads which are doing the rounds on social media. I am sure you will relate to them as well as I did.


Advertising is not easy
One of the challenges that advertising agencies face is to create campaigns for apparel that strike a chord in the consumer’s mind. There are no distinguishing or unique product features though brands still  try to differentiate themselves in merchandise with either an ‘Upper Crest” or a ‘Swoosh’. Whilst people like the design and texture they still buy into the imagery of the brand and that is precisely what they are buying and that is why advertising is so critical. Almost three decades ago Alan Solly had come up with a breakthrough campaign called ‘Friday Dressing’ as they advocated executives to loosen their collars and wear casual clothes to work on one day of the week at least. There too the timing of the campaign was right as it captured the mood of the consumer who was getting bored with his plain shirts, boring ties and pin stripes that were a part of most people’s wardrobes. The campaign came like a breath of fresh air, struck a chord in the consumer’s minds and was interesting enough and had enough legs to be run for years. This is the Holy Grail that apparel brands try to create and so rarely achieve and ‘Start-Up Nation’ has the potential to have a long term impact.

Here is one of the earlier campaigns.