Once again that time of the year is upon us. For those of us who prefer to remain in denial until the clock strikes 12:00 and the sound of ear-splitting gunfire heralds another year, may I apologise in advance for reminding you that the end (of this year) is near! For many of us this is a time for retrospection and reflection. To take stock of what has passed, regroup, take a deep breath and prepare to take on another year. So let’s take a moment to look back specifically at the new products launched in 2015 and how they fared.
Globally, 2015 was the year when Apple finally launched a watch, Heinz and Kraft merged in the largest deal in the history of packaged food and Volkswagen was hit by the biggest scandal in its 70-year history. It was the year when Pepsi decided to launch a smartphone, Coca-Cola launched a premium milk brand and Hershey’s diversified into meat. In other words, 2015 has been a year of paradoxes – where consolidation has gone hand in hand with diversification and where big power brands were threatened by smaller clean slate brands. This is the year that has taught brands to never take anything for granted, as dynamics shift and consumers become pickier about authenticity, brand purpose and provenance.
In Pakistan, 2015 saw a slew of campaigns – from the telecom battling it out for 3G and 4G supremacy to household appliance brands going all emotive to win salience, while the financial sector (which had largely been on an advertising hiatus) re-emerged, prodded awake by an improving economy. Buoyed by increasing consumer confidence there were a number of product launches this year. Here are the ones that attracted my attention – and in no particular order.
The year kicked off with the launch of Novella by Candyland, their first foray into the adult chocolate market. Novella is positioned as a premium milk chocolate that plays on self-indulgence. After its launch in January, the brand has been quiet in contrast to market leader Cadbury, which has launched offensive after offensive, from changing the shape of their chocolate bar to celebrating 15 years in Pakistan. With the chocolate season starting and prices expected to increase, Novella will need to build its equity if it is to challenge the market dynamics in a category where being top of mind is key.
TCS has had a busy year. They invested in a patriotic ad to showcase how they brighten Pakistanis’ lives, spread hope and fulfil dreams via their red box. It was a typical generic corporate campaign; stuff that could hold true for any Pakistani brand and ‘passes like ship in the night’. It was their earlier initiative, TCS Hazir which caught my attention. TCS Hazir not only gives TCS a differentiator, it adds an emotive dimension to a category where consumers are largely indifferent and dictated to by functionality. TCS Hazir is a clever equity building idea that personalises the brand, putting it at the top of the consumer’s consideration set. Here is hoping that TCS does justice to the idea, playing on occasions and leveraging it to give consumers a reason to remember the brand.
2015 was the year when the cola wars were temporarily overshadowed by the battle of the nankhatais, as this biscuit became the centre of a rivalry not witnessed in the biscuit industry EVER. Who knew nankhatai could elicit such passion, aggression and zeal? It all started when Bakeri launched a line extension in the shape of the humble nankhatai. It was a clever innovation for a brand that has been trying to move out of the shadow cast by Sooper and make its mark in the market. Nankhatai was also a natural fit for a brand positioned as being synonymous with local bakery offerings. The packaging was a work of art and featured on the ‘Packaging of the World’ website and the campaign played on heritage. Then three months later EBM launched its own nankhatai in two flavours, classic and almond – and claimed to be the real and unrivalled nankhatai. The launch campaign brought in star power in the form of Resham and Arshad Mehmood in a bid to stamp all over Bakeri’s first mover advantage. Currently both brands are coexisting on the retail shelves after igniting a fervent online discussion about which company’s nankhatai was best!
The first major brand extension of the year happened when Mezan entered the highly competitive tea business by capitalising on their existing brand equity. However, the tea category is cutthroat and positioning is crucial. The Mezan launch platform came across as vague – the focus was on young people interacting in a social setting but with no connect to the Hum ko chalayei tagline. Perhaps, Mezan should have drawn inspiration from Vital – a brand that successfully became a challenger in the category because of its distinct positioning.
Dalda launched a new brand in the tea creaming category, going head to head with Tarang. Thanks to Tarang’s success and category development efforts, tea creaming is another business that will be attracting new entrants in the future. CupShup’s positioning was about ‘reigniting relationships’ although the execution was eerily reminiscent of EveryDay’s ‘husband and wife moments’. It will be interesting to see where the brand goes from here and what USP it can inject in a category where ‘family moments’ have been tried and tested by not only EveryDay but also by tea brands like Supreme.
Omoré Ice-cream bars
Omoré has launched a number of products this year... Pina Colada and Chocolate Orange Cone, Tom and Jerry Choco Bar, Funsticks and recently Omoré ice-cream bars. Interestingly, Omoré has ditched a sub-brand strategy as none of the new launches, except Funsticks, have sub-brands, just descriptors for the flavours. With the ice-cream bars they have a product that looks like it can give Magnum a run for its Belgian chocolate. The advertising campaign, limited to outdoor and digital revolves around the idea of breaking stereotypes with the tagline ‘Rules are made to be Bitten’. If Engro plans to use this product to be the chink in Magnum’s armour, then they should have considered giving it a name by creating a sub-brand under the Omoré umbrella brand, if only because at a fundamental level how are consumers supposed to ask for the product at retail? Should they ask for Omoré’s ice-cream bar when there already exists a cheaper chocolate vanilla ice-cream bar in the portfolio or should they contend with Omoré ki Magnum? A brand name would have eliminated this confusion and made it easy for consumers to remember and ask for the product. Also because a sub-brand would have given the product a distinct identity. As it happens the launch communication has created a brand persona very different from Omoré’s personality.
Onaaj has taken on the staples market and is a great example of showcasing how we are going back to basics, where less is more. There have been a number of food safety scares this year, not only locally but internationally as well, and purity and hygiene are sources of real concern with renewed focus on quality, manufacturing processes and sourcing. This is why Onaaj’s launch resonates, especially as it has positioned itself as a custodian of the best nature has to offer – nothing added, nothing subtracted. The campaign hits home by playing on wholesomeness and authenticity. More importantly the Engro name adds confidence, planting the brand firmly in the consumer’s mind.
As 2015 draws to a close the fate of these new brands is in the hands of their creators. It is easy to launch new products. What is scary is how a majority of new launches die within three years. Global data quoted by the online marketing resource WARC, states that up to 80% of product launches fail – over 60% within the first two years – and a big reason is the lack of distinction. Although scores of products are launched yearly, few of them turn into brands. Marketers are drawn to category growth and margins believing that creating ‘me too’ products will gain share from established players. Yet they give little attention to positioning; a catchy name, colourful logo and a TVC does not make a product a brand. True brands transcend functionality to connect with consumers at an emotional level.
The new products I have picked have nuggets of a brand idea within them. Whether they will succeed remains to be seen. And on that note, here is to 2016. To creating brands that have a purpose, are genuine and meaningful. And may we do so with bravery and foresight.
Shazia Khan is Planning Director, Ogilvy & Mather. firstname.lastname@example.org