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BW Businessworld

Case Analysis: Strategy That Works

Draw up an aggressive plan to showcase the features and benefits of the product through demonstrations, writes Chandan Dang

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What women want is the title of a smart, funny, Hollywood movie (Mel Gibson, Helen Hunt/2000). The movie played on the popular stereotype that women don’t often know what they want. Quirky situations develop once the male lead develops the ability (after an electrical accident) to read the minds of women around him. Watch it to have an enjoyable time!

Our case study presents the situation at Elwoods India. Elwoods is looking to address an important gap in their Elsa home appliances range, namely a big hitting mixer-grinder-blender (MGB) product. To an extent, the case study’s protagonist — product head Karan Walia is also trying to understand what women want, in his quest for success.

I must state here (for the record) that I believe that women do know what they want — at least as much as men do! The challenge for a savvy marketer is to successfully discover the wants and needs of their target group (TG). This can help them design their product or service appropriately, and then communicate its key proposition successfully. And from there on, come glory and fame!

In this case, the Elwoods product group has built up their information about the consumer, the market, and current players and products. Their findings, some of which are presented below, are true for most products or categories in the real world:

— To have any chances of success, the product has to consistently perform. So, the MGB has to mix, grind, blend, puree, chop, juice, grate or whatever else, and successfully deliver the outcome desired by its users.
— The product has to be reliable. This means it should turn “on” every time you press the switch, withstand voltage fluctuations, overcome differing food loads, and so on. For durable products, this also implies the availability of an effective after-sales network that takes care of breakdowns and ensures dependability for the consumer.
— A product that achieves performance and reliability often becomes a trusted, loved product, and in the appliances category, it often becomes a “favourite helper” over the years!
— Next, the product has to satisfy different types of users. Users have different needs and create different “use situations” or “use cases”. To achieve maximum success, the product must satisfy maximum “use cases”.
— The product marketers have to successfully communicate what the product does, and what it does not, to their TG. This sets up correct expectations and avoids wrong expectations, which can create dissonance or bad-mouthing.
— Finally, when users are satisfied and happy with a product, they often overlook a flaw or two (or convert it into a positive — like the “noisy” mixer being likened to a good worker by Jahnvi in the case!)

Given that Rani seems to be strong both on performance and reliability, it makes sense for Karan and team to consider it as a candidate for acquisition. While acquisition often creates high initial cost and complexity for an organisation, it can help Elwoods to bypass new product development, testing and commercialisation efforts, and save them “to market” time and cost.

However, just getting their hands on a good product will not guarantee market success. The case shares that Rani (a great product by all accounts) is not nationally strong, but is selling well in only a handful of Eastern and Southern markets. The reasons could be many, including absence of distribution infrastructure, or even a desire in the current management to expand. So far so good. But two questions arise here:
— For Elwoods, is there a strong enough reason to give up on their current Elsa MGB and acquire Rani (for growth in the MGB category)?
— Irrespective of whichever choice they make, how can Elwoods achieve success in this category?

Here I will dwell for a moment on what we have noted about different users and “use cases” above. Winston Churchill is said to have once remarked that “India is a geographical term. It is no more a united nation than the Equator!”

Without needing to go into the full import of his words, we all definitely agree about, and rejoice in, the diversity and unity of India. A key part of our diversity lies in our food. Hence it is not surprising that different MGB players are strong in different regions. It is clear that the winning brands in the South would be great at grinding dals, coffee powder, and making chutneys. Whereas the brands that have done well in the North are strong at whipping up lassis, milkshakes and creating blended sarson ka saag. There would be other reasons or uses that have established the successful brands in the West or in the East. Differences in use cases might be within a region, or even at a sub-region or state level.

So, what Karan and team could do is assess what underlies the reason for each regional players’ strength. They could make a list of the big MGB markets, list out the most popular ways (recipes or preparations) the local product is used in each of these markets, and assess how the Elsa MGB (and the local champion brand, and even Rani) performs against each task. In case, Elsa is missing out on a feature (say, a special blade, a bowl, a required running speed, etc.), which is creating a performance deficiency, then assess if this can be fixed by the R&D team. If changes are not immediately feasible, they should restrict their current focus to markets where Elsa performs up to, or better than, the local top brand. This sense of focus is critical for a brand to avoid frittering away its resources, and it also helps it to play to win. However, if Elsa’s MGB is not up to the requirements of your key or desired regions, then look for an acquisition.

Next, I would check on whether Elsa has as good a service offering as the competitors (both service footprint and service quality), in the regions of immediate interest. If the service offering needs fixing and a fix is feasible, then plan to do so. Else look for an acquisition or possibly a partnership to quickly build up service capability. Or otherwise, reduce one’s focus to regions where good Elsa service is feasible. This will help build the reliability for the brand.
Finally, having carefully chosen the product and markets, we arrive at creating the blueprint for success. I will now draw upon an interesting example coming from over 70 years ago, from a different part of the world.

Earl Tupper, an American genius inventor, had in the 1940s invented a wonderful new range of kitchenware. This product range, branded Tupperware, was based on plastics, which were a new material, and the range was attractive and colourful, food-safe, odour-free, durable, and could keep food air-tight and safe for much longer than before. Yet the products were not flying off the shelves and most consumers did not even know about these brilliant new products. Then a lady named Brownie Wise joined the marketing department. She brought in the concept of the “face-to-face product demonstration”. That was where the penny dropped, and these demonstrations helped people to start understanding the benefits of the products, and built sales for Tupperware.

Having reached this far, having identified the winning product and markets, I would hence draw up an aggressive plan to showcase the features and benefits of my product through demonstrations — through in-store demos, roadshows, in malls, at apartment complexes, or at other places where the TG are present. These demonstrations would always be locally relevant. Not so many mayonnaise or salsa recipes. In the South, the product could be shown successfully grinding coffee beans and dosa batter. In the North, it would be spinning out lassis and churning butter, similarly for the West and East. And that is how I would create the proof of relevant performance for the consumer strong and compelling. If I was able to, I might even set up comparative demos in each region against that region’s bestselling MGB brand, to showcase how I was better. I would certainly advertise Elsa’s new product to drive up awareness. It would be supplemented with real-time, and in-your-face demos that would run in the field for much longer. I might even put the comparative demo story in my advertisements. But this would be an “and” not an “or”.

To summarise, I recommend that Elwoods (1) Decides on their product (in-house or acquisition) based on its performance in key markets, and use a strategy of focus on key markets (2) Makes public their product’s winning performance through regional demos, even comparative demos on key kitchen tasks (3) Uses advertisement to build the brand and further publicise their products’ performance.

Karan should feel confident that they can develop a winning product and proposition, and also reach their target consumer segment successfully!

The writer is CMO, Tupperware India