The difference between rural youth and urban youth is getting very narrow, observes Pravin Kulkarnii, General Manager, Parle Products Pvt Ltd. He urges marketers to interact with consumers and understand the role that a product plays in their lives.
ABOUT THE BRAND
Parle Products was started in 1929. The brand Parle symbolizes quality, nutrition and great taste. With a reach spanning even the remotest villages of India, the company has come a long way since its inception. With a 40% share of the total biscuit market and a 15% share of the total confectionery market in India, Parle has grown to become a multi-million dollar company. While to the consumers it’s a beacon of faith and trust, competitors look upon Parle as an example of marketing brilliance.
Pravin Kulkarnii has more than 15 years of experience in the domain of sales and marketing management across various leading companies like Blow Plast, Pidilite & Parle. He joined Parle Products Pvt. Ltd. in 1994 and is currently GM, Marketing. He is based out of Mumbai and is responsible for corporate strategy, business profitability, product portfolio management, strategic brand management, advertising and promotion for all Parle brands in the country. Kulkarnii is a graduate in Engineering from VJTI, Mumbai and a postgraduate in Management from the University of Pune.
Q] How are each of your brands positioned in the various sub-categories and what were the insights behind positioning them there?
Parle G was initially positioned as a source of health and nutrition, as the market scenario changed, we also changed the positioning slightly to an energizer as the kids segment was emerging as an important segment for the brand. We had a ‘G for Genius’ campaign to appeal to that segment; this was done on the basis of consumer insights and emerging trends. Parents were worried that their children have to fight out in competition and need strong mental health, so we changed our positioning from nutrition to an energizer for mental health. The positioning for ‘Hide and Seek’ is that it is a facilitator for romance. The positioning for a product is decided keeping in mind a number of factors, including strength of the brand, USP, target group, market scenario, and what is competition doing… we don’t want to repeat something that is already done. We always base positioning on findings from our surveys on consumer insights, behaviour, attitude, their reaction to the brand and also to the category. Once we understand the entire landscape of category versus the brand and understand the consumers’ needs, we base our positioning on this. Consumer insights is our preliminary homework.
Q] What is the market share of Parle G in each of the categories, and the growth rate in each category?
Parle G’s market share by volume in each category is: Biscuits-50 %; Confectionery-20% and Snacks-7-8%. Its category-wise growth has been Biscuit –more than 20%; Confectionery-more than 20% and Snacks-just started.
Q] How is the brand faring with new products such as FullToss, and how do you plan to compete with other aggressive brands like Lay’s, Hippo, etc.? The brand has found huge success in the biscuit category, but the same cannot be said of the snacks and sweets category. What do you think is the reason for this?
The task is difficult as we have very strong competition in the form of Lay’s and Kurkure, which have built up strong brand equity, plus a lot of regional competition from players like Balaji and Haldiram’s and now Bingo from ITC. So the market is extremely competitive. What we are doing is giving maximum value to the consumer by way of good weight, more grams per pack and competitive weight at the same price. We don’t have a choice with the pricing, since there are already established price slots. The only thing variable is weight per pack, which we have optimized. Parle stands for quality, we give attractive packaging to appeal to both youth and families as well, and doing interesting campaigns. In the snacks category, fortunately there are a lot of innovations and formats that can be tried. There is a possibility of trying new flavours as well, the Indian palate is now accepting a whole new variety of flavours from Continental, Indian and regional. We are looking at some new interesting snacks with new technologies and flavours. We also want to explore new price points. We have the added advantage of our core distribution strength and leveraged that to the maximum.
Q] What is the current positioning of the brand, given its diverse sub categories? What are your key marketing insights? Can you share your marketing mix with us?
Parle G’s core brand position stands for great value to consumers and providing them fun and health by way of food products.
Q] You have a varying range of products, including high-end premium products like Hide-and-Seek and Milano, for which you have had celebrity-led campaigns as well. How do your marketing campaigns differ for high-end and mass products like Parle G and Monaco? Which do better, the mass or the high-end?
The campaign starts from the proposition itself, which has to appeal to the target group; the production value has to be high. Media selection changes, depending on the product, so does the tone of the TVC. Each brand has its own market. The Milano market is niche, as it is a premium brand, market-share of Parle G versus Milano is very different as Parle G is a mass brand and it is available even in villages with a population of 500 people. We cannot compare the two as the category sizes are completely different. Parle G contributes to nearly 60% in terms of volume in sales, the comparison of a 75-year-old brand versus recent brand is not fair.
Q] What challenges do you face in order to consistently evolve and keep this heritage brand relevant to current consumers?
The main challenge is that consumers are used to the older brands looking a certain way, specially in case of Parle G. Consumers have an emotional attachment to it, like the baby on the Parle G pack. We cannot remove the baby from the pack because almost 90% of consumers will move away from the brand if we do. The challenge is to modernize the brand and get new consumers as well as retain the old consumers for older brands, i.e., 50 to 60-year-old brands. A delicate balance needs to be achieved with no drastic changes; we changed the Parle G pack by making subtle changes gradually, keeping the core property the same. Not overnight changes; as we cannot afford to alienate a huge old consumer base. For new brands like Hide-and-Seek, we did not face the same challenge but we changed the identity overnight with changed logo, and this had easy acceptance from consumers.
Q] How are you using digital media to build your brand and connect with the youth? Can you give us specific information as to how you are using this for each brand?
To begin with, we have completely revamped our website and made it fun and relevant from being a corporate website to a consumer-friendly one. We have started showing a strong presence in social media and have pages for our brands. We are looking at the digital space very seriously and see huge potential in it. We have appointed Law and Kenneth as our digital agency for the past two years. We have taken up branding for Yahoo Multiplex, which has given us good response. We have even taken sponsorship on Indiatimes.com for IPL Season-5. We continue to invest in the digital space wherever we see a good opportunity.
Q] Just recently, Britannia launched a new campaign for its snack 50-50 targeting the women segment. Is Parle-G coming up with a new product in a similar category to counter this move?
We already have brands in the snacks space. They might be targeting women, but we feel consumption of snacks brands is more by the youth. Their outdoor consumption of snacks is higher.
Q] In hindsight, out of your marketing plans, what would you change now, thinking that could have given you better results than what you have executed so far?
I can think of the Melody campaign we did, which was targeting the kids segment. At that time, Melody was being consumed by all segments, even teenagers, when we showed kids in the campaign including a TVC, teenagers thought it was only for kids. So they were alienated from the brand. We corrected this error immediately and included adults in our campaign as well. Fortunately, we got our consumers back. The other example I can cite is Smart chips, which we launched as a healthy snack three years back. It was a great concept; unfortunately we had to withdraw it, as we were not getting repeat consumers because of the taste of the product. I wish we had worked on the taste at an earlier stage. It was a great concept and could have become a much bigger brand. The only consumers who were very, very serious about their health liked the product. The majority of consumers were not health conscious at least three years ago.
Q] What is the one marketing tip you have for upcoming marketing managers?
Get to the reality of the market, speak to consumers frequently and get a closer view of their life. Sitting in an air-conditioned cabin, your ideas may be quite different from what consumers really want. We go to villages for a product like Parle-G and find out what is the role of the product in people’s lives.
Q] How has the Indian consumer evolved?
With so much media available, aspirations have changed drastically. Nowadays, there is not much difference between urban and rural consumers; the rural consumer’s aspirations and lifestyle are becoming very similar to the urban consumer’s. Rural youth who are married or working in urban centres are exposed to the same things; the difference between rural youth and urban youth is becoming very narrow. Also, engagement of the consumer with your brand message has become less, plus the consumer is always multi-tasking and has a limited attention span. That is why the digital medium is doing very well; it is interactive.