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Consumer goods firms get makeover to blend with changing times

By Krishna Mukherjee, IANS,

New Delhi : Whether it was Onida’s horned devil or Hindustan Unilever’s Liril girls, 2009 saw consumer goods firms bid farewell to iconic brand ambassadors, looking for more innovative marketing strategies and revamped product lines.

Bajaj Auto decided to exit scooters business, which had become a household name with the “Hamara Bajaj” campaign, while the “fast to cook and good to eat” Maggie turned 25 and became a complete food brand of its own rather than just symbolise Nestle’s range of noodles.

And if the cuddly pug campaign of telecom major Airtel had captured people’s imagination in 2008, this year saw the emergence of Zoozoo.

“We should welcome these changes, than resist them,” said Piyush Pandey, chairman and national creative director of Ogilvy and Mather for India and South Asia. “These are marketing strategies and I am not averse to transition,” Pandey told IANS.

So, after nearly 30 years, the green suited “monster” pushing Onida television sets — “neighbour’s envy, owner’s pride” — made way for a bubbly couple, while Liril has been repackaged to target the entire family.

According to Hindustan Unilever’s advertising agency Lowe Lintas, the change in strategy was prompted by the evolution in the market. And as if on cue, consumer electronics giants like Sony, Philips and Videocon joined the rush to re-position themselves.

Philips decided to project itself as a brand that is in sync with the times, offering the latest technology. Sony, too, came up with new ad campaigns, with the focus on “new generation hi-fi” products.

Innovative marketing strategies, along with fiscal stimulus packages, helped consumer durables and fast-moving consumer goods segments record robust growth during the year despite the economic slowdown.

Thanks to these factors, said Suresh Khanna, general secretary of Consumer Electronics Appliances Manufacturers Association, the Rs.32,000-crore ($6.4 billion) consumer durables industry grew 12-15 percent in 2009.

“The industry will grow another 15-20 percent next year on the back of economic recovery,” Khanna predicted.

Similarly, according to the Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), the fast-moving consumer goods sector coped well with recent challenges and grew 15 percent over the past year as companies downsized packaging as a cost-cutting measure during slowdown.

The fast-moving consumer goods market in India is worth Rs.120,000 crore ($24 billion).

Dabur, for instance, reaped a rich harvest in 2009 as the company entered skincare, food and beverage segments and launched about 30 products across various geographies.

“This was a good year for Dabur. We recorded the highest sales in a decade. About 20 percent of our revenue came from new products,” Dabur chief executive Sunil Duggal said.

US-based direct selling firm Amway also announced plans to re-launch some premium brands in small packages to suit the domestic market. Not surprising, as according to the World Federation of Direct Selling Associations, the Indian direct selling market is likely to cross $1 billion in the next four-five years.

The year also saw a slew of launches in the white goods and electronic items segments: LG came out with its latest high-end technology products, while Sony India buried its curved screen colour TVs, saying it would manufacture only flat screen sets.

“The durable industry saw a tremendous growth of almost 28 percent,” said Amitabh Tiwari, LG India’s business group marketing head for home entertainment.

“Categories like refrigerators, air-conditioners, washing machines and flat panel TVs grew tremendously but surprisingly even colour TV segment grew where it was felt that this category will ‘de-grow’,” Tiwari said.

“In LG, we registered a growth of over 30 percent and generally ran out of stocks.”

So how does Tiwari see 2010 panning out? “If the government doesn’t withdraw sops like cuts in excise duty, the growth will continue.”

(Krishna Mukherjee can be reached at [email protected])