Having successfully launched several key initiatives over the last five years, Vivek Nayer, Senior VP, Marketing, Auto Division, Mahindra & Mahindra Limited, now aims to move away from the Geographic divide and market products with a behaviour-based approach.
ABOUT THE BRAND
In 1947, Mahindra introduced India to the utility vehicle. In addition to making popular UVs like the Scorpio and Bolero, Mahindra offers cars, pick-ups and commercial vehicles that are rugged, reliable, environmentally friendly and fuel-efficient. Mahindra vehicles are also present in Australia, Europe, Latin America, Malaysia, South Korea and South Africa. In 2011, the Mahindra Group was featured on the Forbes Global 2000 list, featuring the biggest and most powerful listed companies in the world. Dun & Bradstreet also ranked Mahindra at No. 1 in the automobile sector in its list of India’s Top 500 Companies. In 2010, Mahindra featured in the Credit Suisse Great Brands of Tomorrow. In 2011, Mahindra acquired a majority stake in Korea’s SsangYong Motor Company.
Vivek Nayer joined Mahindra & Mahindra in August 2005 and is the Sr. VP, Marketing for their Automotive Division’s range of personal and commercial vehicles comprising Scorpio & Bolero SUVs, Xylo MPV, pick-ups, small commercial vehicles (4 & 3- wheeler) and new products in the pipeline. As the Marketing Head and Brands custodian, he has led the 30+ member marketing team in successfully launching several key initiatives over the last five years. He is also involved in driving the medium/long term aspects of business like strategy, new products pipeline, brand equity and architecture. He is also a member of the senior management councils of the Auto Division, namely the Strategy Board, the Executive Council and the Product Council as well as the Marketing Council at Mahindra Group level. Before joining M&M, Nayer has been in senior roles at Reckitt Benckiser Plc HQ in the UK, and Voltas Ltd of the Tata group.
Q] Many automobile companies cut down their marketing spends last year. How was the year 2011 for Mahindra Automotive Division?
The last year went very well for us. We registered 27% growth in volume. We are very satisfied because in a scenario where the industry is a bit sensitive, car growth is flat. UVs and SUVs have grown at a rate of 14%, but Mahindra has grown at a rate of 18% in UV and SUV segments, so we are very happy. We have had several launches in the year gone by. We started with Verito, and a campaign saying ‘Grow up with Verito’. The campaign was based on a very significant consumer insight about road discipline in our country. Then we launched Maxximo Mini Van, followed by Genio Double Cab, New Bolero, XUV 500 and New Xylo. All our campaigns have been received very well, as they are based on consumer insight.
Q] Mahindra has traditionally been known as India’s largest utility vehicle manufacturer, but you entered the SUV segment last year. What is your marketing strategy for XUV 500?
The XUV 500 went through the roof, so we actually had to curtail spending because of that. In Phase I, we sold almost 8,000 cars in 10 days. In Phase II, because the demand was huge, we had a clean, transparent draw which was customer-centric. People who were interested deposited Rs 80,000 in advance. Out of 25,000 applicants, 7,200 won the draw. We still did some advertising to position the brand, but we kept it to the bare minimum level, as demand was already outstripping supply.
Q] What are the key insights behind your marketing strategies?
There are a few key factors for our marketing strategy, which are also true of the Mahindra Group as a company. Innovation is very key enabler, be it product innovation or innovation in marketing. We have launched many innovative products in the last year, the last two being the refresh of Xylo, which we call the stylish new Xylo and the XUV 500. We try and do something innovative during any campaign. The Virtual Cheetah is the most recent example. The XUV 500 campaign was based on a very fundamental consumer insight that people are looking for new and different experiences. The standard of living has gone up, just like global exposure. New experiences are new wealth in today’s world. I am talking about a slightly evolved TG here. These are the people at parties, at social occasions who like to tell stories around their experiences. All our campaigns are based on fundamental consumer insight.
Q] How has your new campaign helped in positioning the XUV 500?
The brief to the agency was to create a mini film which is of international class, and which should touch a chord with an evolved audience, not with the masses. The result is a world-class campaign, which will be used in other markets as well. It’s about people who will talk about the brand and influence others. How many people have really gone in hot air balloons, a cruise or sky-diving? These are the people who have stories to tell their parents, friends and children. That’s the insight we are trying to tap in this new TVC, where the brand message is ‘May your life be full of stories’. Some people may not even understand the film. But those who have watched English movies and have a sense of humour will appreciate it. That’s the kind of TG for whom this TVC is made.
Q] How has the transition of Mahindra & Mahindra been from industrial vehicles to passenger cars? What is your marketing strategy to make M&M an all-encompassing brand?
Rural and urban are just geographic divides. I think the divide is more behavioural and psychographic in nature. There may be a SUV consumer from a small town of Coimbatore, whereas a South Mumbai executive could use a small car. We should move away from this geographic divide. But the chances are that our more affordable SUVs like Bolero will appeal to semi-urban India, whereas products like XUV 500, which are more expensive, will appeal to people who are in metros and have more money. We target people with a more psychographic and behavioral approach.
Q] Not many players in the automobile sector have gone aggressive on the digital media, but Mahindra Automotive has been experimenting with the digital and social media in the last two years. What is the strategy behind this?
Three years ago, we were spending a negligible amount on the digital medium. Today, I would say the share is between 5 to 10% of our total media spends -- a significant share. It enables us to engage with our customers and fans. There are two segments and stakeholders out here -- if we bond with customers, they become our promoters, and if we bond with our fans, then they are our customers for tomorrow. Our fans are also the influencers of today. Our TG and fans spend a lot of time on the digital media. The number of fans is bigger than the population of countries like the UK or France, which is 60 million. Here, so many people are active on social media. So, if our TG is on digital and social media platforms, then we have to go there and engage with them. There is a fundamental difference between the traditional media and the digital media. In traditional media, it’s like sending out a huge bomb and you are hoping that it will hit the target. You don’t know whether the person is interested in watching your TVC or not. When you are watching TV, he may switch over to a different channel whereas in digital, you are engaging with people directly. In fact, they want to engage with your brand, so they are the right TG. The difference is that of a bomb and a sniper. There is no wastage of effort on digital media and the effects are deadly.
Q] Mahindra Automotive has been quite active in experiential marketing in both urban and semi-urban towns. How do these campaigns help build your brand?
A couple of years ago, we started advertising heavily through events and social media platforms. Since then, all our events are going full. Though we charge, people pay Rs 3,000- 4,000 to participate in day-long events. There has been very good response to our on-ground events.
Q] What are the marketing activities crucial to your brand? What is your media mix?
It depends upon the requirement. If it’s a new launch and one wants to create announcer value, then print helps. But if you want to position your brand, and create a campaign, then you need TV. We need the digital medium for engagement with our specific TG. Depending upon the objective of the brand, we decide the value. The media mix varies from brand to brand and objectives. We are medium agnostic. We decide the objective for our brands.
Q] Mahindra is already one of the largest advertisers in the automobile sector. Do you plan to increase the marketing spend in 2012?
Yes, we plan to increase the marketing spend because we have more launches coming up. For example, we plan to launch a compact SUV before the festive season. We will need money to support those launches. I won’t say that there will be a significant increase in the spends. We are smart. Maybe we will not increase our spends by 30%. We work on our objectives. If we have to establish a new brand, then we have to spend what is necessary.
Q] What bearing does the current macroeconomic scenario, including the level of fuel prices and regulatory changes, have on the marketing strategy and overall spends of automobile companies?
The days of discussing whether spends should go up or down are gone. What you should look at is the objective for the brand. Based on the objective, you decide your spends. Secondly, marketers have to get smarter and smarter. Those days are gone when you made a TV ad or a print ad and your job was done. Now you have to take a 360-degree approach. For instance, we have built up an entire digital campaign for our brands. We registered four and half million visits to our YouTube videos. We have had more than six million visits on our website in this financial year. No other auto company in India has such reach. Marketing has evolved as a function. You have to engage with customers. Marketing ultimately has to result in bonding with consumers.