Tata Motors is gearing up for its Tata Hexa launch and also working on finding a place among the Top 3 in the passenger car segment in India by 2019. Vivek Srivatsa, Head – Marketing, Passenger Vehicle Business Unit, Tata Motors, talks about the brand’s marketing strategies and more
By Samarpita Banerjee
Q] With Tata Motors close to the big launch of Hexa soon, how will you market the product?
We actually began our first outdoor communication for Hexa with the media drive early in October 2016, where we invited more than 100 journalists, bloggers and members of the digital fraternity. It was for the first time that people from outside Tata Motors experienced the product and the response we got was encouraging. Going forward, we want to confidently show the product to customers, get them to experience it and then let them make the buying decision. Experiential will be big. We are rolling out Hexa Experience Centres across the country. These centres are platforms to give customers a feel of the car which would otherwise be difficult to experience in test-drives or even in his life with his own car. We really push the car to its limits.
Q] What is the USP of Hexa?
Hexa is a lifestyle vehicle. Today, a modern, progressive Indian has different demands from his car. On normal days, he wants to drive it to work where it needs to be easy-to-drive. For weekends, he wants to take his family out so it has to be safe on highways and has to carry four to six people comfortably. These days, people are also engaging in physical activities like cycling, running, walking or trekking. The Hexa should be able to take all these demands into account and transport outdoor gears and go to places where normal cars don’t go. Hexa is a car which is suitable for all lifestyles and that’s its biggest USP.
Q] You are banking heavily on experiential now; so why this shift from traditional media?
Experiential is important to us now because we want to show customers that we are very confident about our product. People have a certain perception about Tata Motors products which we want to change. We want customers to see us as a manufacturer who is so confident about the product that two months before the launch, it is available for the general public to not just drive around the block for two minutes, but drive it anyway he wants.
Q] Who will be your primary target audience for Hexa?
We are definitely targeting a far younger set of buyers than current Tata Motors products. We saw this movement towards younger buyers with the Tiago, which is the first generation of our impact design. For most Indians today, design and look of the car are the biggest factors for buying. Next come fuel efficiency and price. Tiago scored more than one tick on that, and Hexa goes to the next level. For me, showing the design and its impact and aligning buying decisions to that is most important.
Q] How did 2016 treat the overall brand?
Tata Motors is on an upswing, both in terms of market-share and volumes. We are growing faster than the market. We see Tiago giving us significant growth, but also the earlier products, Bolt and Zest, are seeing increased stake rates. Amazingly, the Safari has also started doing extremely well. All these products now have much better quality and are backed up by very strong after sales service. In fact, we scored very favourably on JD Power’s Customer Service Index (CSI), the latest report showed that we are Number 2 in the most improved manufacturer segment. A combination of all these factors is working well for us.
Q] Tata Motors is probably one of the largest advertisers in the sector. Do you plan to further increase your marketing spends in 2017?
I won’t comment on whether we will increase out budget or not, but my focus would be on increasing effectiveness. We want to give relevant messages and spend where it really makes sense to the customer. Every communication we make needs to take the brand to a different level. That is our objective.
Q] TVF Tripling did a really great job in bringing Tiago under the spotlight. Are you planning more such collaborations in future?
Definitely, without a doubt. To be honest, TVF has worked beyond our expectations, not only in terms of reach but also in terms of effectiveness of communication. It has positioned the car beautifully to the kind of audience we wanted. It also has effectively made an emotional impact on the viewers. That is the kind of effective communication we are looking at, and if something suitable comes up, we will definitely take it forward.
Q] Tata Motors came up with the huge ‘Made of Great’ campaign in 2015 but 2016 was relatively silent for you. Is there any particular reason for that?
It really depends on the demands of the market. Tiago is already doing well. The initial months after the launch, we actually had a long waiting list. So, it didn’t make sense to keep investing on Tiago when you are already struggling to catch-up with production. Therefore, we focused on other products, and that also has worked well. We had communications around Zest, Bolt and Safari and hence the marketing mix was decided by the need of the market. We are customer-focused and it is the customer that decides what we communicate.
Q] Thanks to Tata Motor’s overbearing presence in the commercial vehicle segment, families were staying away from buying Tata Motors’ cars. Are you working on transforming your brand positioning?
There is an ongoing transformation journey at Tata Motors. We are looking at what the brand means to customers and how we need to elaborate that. We are looking at our own products, design and quality. We are also looking at our network and manufacturing processes. All of this works together to change the perception of a brand. A brand is not just about communication, it’s about the experience of the customer at every touch point - from discovering it online to buying the car, the after sales experience and even the experience when he wants to sell his car and upgrade to the next car. We are working right through the value chain. To answer your question of how to influence people to buy more in the personal segment - Tiago is our first attempt at that. We made a contemporary-looking product with best-in-class interiors and connectivity, great look and sound and made it youthful and fuel-efficient. These are the things that today’s youth wants. Tiago delivered all of that. I can tell you confidently that no Tiago buyer is using it for commercial purposes. Even the numbers for Zest and Bolt are going up, both in terms of personal and commercial buyers. Hexa will be the next step where we attract a completely new basket of customers. We are transforming, step by step. Currently, our products are doing the job, but soon we will see communication also leading the way.
Q] Tata Motors MD & CEO Guenter Butschek had recently said that the brand aims to be among the Top 3 by 2019. What changes are being made in the organization to achieve that?
We are making changes across the value chain. Today, over 90% of customers discover auto products online. We are working strongly on our online presence. We are trying to increase coherence in our online communications. The messages on the Hexa website are very clear and simple and the product shots are beautiful. We are also working on online customer tools. There is a 24-hour chat option on the Hexa website. We also have a 360-degree view of the car to help customers have a buying experience without even going to the showroom. We are also working on the network and after-sales experiences and product quality. These are all independent divisions within the organization which impact the brand image and will help us reach the Number 3 target.
Q] What will be your focus areas in 2017?
In 2017, we need to continue the momentum that we have gained. We are going well with Tiago and Hexa will also be well-established soon. We need to continue delivering the volumes and push ahead with the Kite5 and Nexon in terms of numbers and take steps towards achieving our Number 3 ambition. More importantly, we want to gradually move away from the current perception of Tata Motors as a brand. We believe that once we have four to five strong products, they will act as pillars and help change the perception.