Who killed these brands?

OnidaLast time, when I wrote about product excellence, it wasn’t lost on me that some of my friends who are in marketing would read it. And my friends in advertising would read it. And so would my boss! And it’s appraisal time. So, let me set the record straight. Product excellence or product quality by itself is only half the battle won. The other critical component being marketing and advertising…

Now, almost all of us know the role of marketing and therefore, there would be little value in extolling the need for marketing. Let me take this a step ahead and chalk out the consequences of ‘failed’ marketing. Let’s talk about some failed brands. The debris strewn along the way and the scary, grim quiet surrounding them now is unnerving, to say the least. Just imagine a brand that used to re-stock on shelves almost every alternate day, now finding it difficult to find movement for weeks together. Sends a chill through my spine.

Before I talk about these failures, I must state some disclaimers: I am neither related to Kotler nor Piyush. My two cents will therefore, be exactly that much only. Two cents. Secondly, I do understand that in hindsight, our vision is always a clear 20-20 and therefore, it’s easy to ‘analyze’ failures and pass erudite remarks. All I intend to do here is to derive some learnings with the singular hope that I don’t repeat the same ones. And lastly, I submit that marketing is a rather difficult art with no accurate science or a set success formula. It is about taking a stance. It is about taking calls. So, whatever I say about these brands, is in fact with a deep sense of admiration for the people who took the calls and failed.

Onida

It is actually great insight in advertising coupled with bold conviction that led to the unmatched success of the brand Onida. It challenged all established advertising norms: it showed the product in a broken form, used a devil instead of a suave model and spoke about an intense negative sentiment – envy. It succeeded since it struck a chord with Indian consumers who were just getting introduced to color television in the 1980s and everybody wanted to own one (rather desperately).
However, a few years later and with a little help from the expertise (!) of a rather large ad agency, the devil was abandoned in 1998 (again, another bold move) but this time the new message wasn’t anything even remotely as strong as the devil’s. And the brand couldn’t regain any of its lost glory. While envy connected strongly with the audiences earlier, Onida failed to capture the new sentiment of its consumers and therefore, it missed the connect with its audiences and consequently lost out. As of today, with newer agencies and newer messages (‘Nothing but the truth’ and now ‘Designed with you in mind’), Onida is still far from being an enviable brand.

Rasna

Rasna was once a generic name for the soft drink concentrates (SDC) category. However, in the early 90s, competition from international cold drink brands and the new convenience culture hit Rasna hard. Rasna initially relied on loyalty and the emotional connect.

But learned the hard way about the fickleness of Indian consumers. Later, it tried to reposition itself as a premium, health drink with launch of higher-priced brand variants. But it was too late to recreate the magical connect.
The same product that was once a ‘loved’ favorite failed to evoke similar feelings as earlier purely because of its inability to connect appropriately with the changing market situation. Though, last heard, they’re trying to make a comeback.

Raymond

Everybody loves Raymond. Or do they? In the 80s and the early 90s, the fabric market was flourishing and Raymond was far ahead of the race.
However, times changed and readymade garments became the norm. Raymond however, continued to portray itself primarily as a formal wear fabric (to be stitched and not ‘readymade’) and especially for special occasions such as weddings. The company however, was swift to identify the shift and launched Parx and Park Avenue in the readymade garments category. Albeit, with little marketing and noise.

I must also add that Raymond does have formal garments in its product basket, however, the marketing doesn’t convey that. I’d rather they would have used the flagship brand Raymond in the relatively larger product category of readymade garments as against the current smaller category (to fully exploit the brand value). So, while Raymond may not categorize as a failure per se, it does come across a brand that could accomplish far more.

Iodex

Even a seasoned marketer like GlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceuticals (Iodex) could not withstand the onslaught from Paras Pharma (Moov).

For more than 80 long years, the brand Iodex rested on its laurels and continued with the same product – the distinct smell, the greasy feel, the unattractive dark color and a glass bottle packaging. Moov realized this and it launched an onslaught in an attractive tubular packaging, with a white ointment and a not-too-pungent odor. It had also positioned itself as a back-ache specialist, as against the multi-purpose Iodex. And the clincher: a stain-free balm. Sharp marketing decisions like these quickly became a pain for Iodex and its market-shares went from ooh to aah to ouch.

Latest: Paras Pharma, the creators of Moov, recently sold itself to Reckitt Benckiser for Rs. 3,260 crore – about eight times its annual revenue of about Rs. 400 crore. Primarily the valuation was on account of the iconic brands created within an incredibly short span of time: Moov, Krack, Dermicool, D’Cold, Livon, Set Wet and more. By the way, some of these brands were created against formidable competition from entrenched players such as Vaseline, Nycil (Heinz) and Vicks (P&G) and others created their own categories!

Needless to mention therefore, marketing does wield incredible power to lead a brand to success or failure. To make or break an organization’s future. On the other hand, product quality too wields a similar power. Clichéd as it might sound, two sides of the coin, aren’t they?

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