Pulse of the market

I am taking reference to the Tamil Nadu Market for this post. Although I am not sure how many readers of this blog belong to this part of the world. But I believe there is a fundamental lesson waiting to be learnt from some very astute marketers.

For many, these guys might look like the morons of the marketing world. To be honest, I have felt that way a few years back. And then it dawned into me that there is a very deep sense in what these guys do. Especially, after I happened to interact with some of the consumers. I must admit however that this is not based on any structured research. But Prof. Malay Chaudhuri (who taught me Market Research in campus) once told, “The best sample size for a research sometimes is 1”. I tend to agree with him.

When was the last time you bought salt? Do you remember what brand you bought? Can you remember the last occasion when you bought ‘rock salt’ or ‘powdered salt’ which didn’t carry a brand name and was packed in newspaper by your friendly neighborhood Kirana store?

Anil, Lion, Idhayam, Jeyam, Sakthi Masala, Gold Winner – You may not have heard these names outside Tamil Nadu. But within the state, these are names which the woman of the house swears by. These are brands, which I have learnt to admire lately for their ingenuity. A simple comparison between these two concepts shows that these marketers have borrowed generously from the Salt phenomenon and have executed seamlessly to taste success (pun intended).

Packaging started playing an important part in both these phenomena. Having the words ‘A trusted name’ would make a lot of difference in reaching out to large number of people. With packaging playing an integral part of brand building, they didn’t let go of their South Indian-ness and added a lot of color, brightness and attractiveness to it.

Once common salt became a ‘branded item’ and ceased to be a ‘kirana store’ buy, these brands started innovating concepts with respect to Salt. For instance, my salt is ‘whiter’ than the competition, OR one pinch of my salt is better than a spoonful of the other and so on.

Not the kind to be left behind, these smart marketers found once concept after another. I believe there is a ‘Z’ Technology to clean Tur Dal. Wow! It sure is something like the PUF which was in every refrigerator, but was made famous by Godrej.

There is a Urad Dal brand which claims that Idlys made with this brand is more ‘fuller’ than the others. I am yet to figure out how, but the brands are just hitting the right nerves.

There is another ingenious attempt. The brand is Lion Honey. Lion is a brand under which the company peddles ‘dates’, ‘date syrup’, honey, oats and many other food items. He was the first to attempt positioning Honey as a substitute for Sugar. The brand had their TVCs running which had honey replaced in almost every sugar usage including honey being mixed with milk, during cooking etc. This was also tried by a larger brand at a later date – Dabur – featuring Big B & MSD.

These brands have grown multi-fold that they can afford large advertising budgets. Today, almost all these brands feature celebrities (read film stars) and have well produced TVCs backed by a very impressive on-air presence.

Branding of essential commodities such as sugar, salt, pulses, spices etc, does the same job as branding any other product, say, T-shirts. It takes the pain out of buying. The consumer gets to choose amongst the many brands available and is able to make the purchase with a confidence that the product would be free of malicious content, adulteration etc.

Branding commodities help in achieving a straight line supply chain, thus making availability easy and the pricing affordable. By adding more value to the product (not just as a brand) but in say nutritional value much as iodized salt did to the salt industry, health is certainly a platform that the consumers would benefit on.

And moving up in the chain, branding helps create higher value for these products. This ensures that the manufacturer and the farmers who actually cultivate these items are benefited immensely.

As a consumer I have always been hit by their communication every time I get in front of the idiot box (especially with my mother around). And when I do look at it from a Marketers’ perspective, things fall in place.

  • Branding essential commodities may just be a category starter
  • Branding essential commodities adds its own value to the consumer, manufacturer, supplier and the economy alike.
  • It is absolutely fine to copy a strategy as said by the legendary Sam Walton. Just be sure that the execution is better. Or at least, ensure that the execution appeals to the sensibilities of your target audience.

So when you enjoy your meal the next time (especially the South Indian meal), you can rest assured that a marketer has touched your life and your tummy :).

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