Tom and Jerry at their best: 2nd National FMCG Conclave

MUMBAI: The age old cat-and-mouse squabble has begun and how!

The first day of the second National FMCG Conclave held at Hotel Taj Land's End in the Bandra suburb of Mumbai saw some of the big names in the advertising and marketing sector fight it out in the open, leaving not a single chance to dethrone the competitor.

The conclave organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) began today with FMCG committee chairman Nadir Godrej giving the welcome note, followed by Center for Monitoring Indian Economy MD and CEO Mahesh Vyas addressing the audience.

Titled 'Moving Consumer Goods Faster'; the conclave tackled various issues on Day One, as speakers presented points and counterpoints on topics like 'Brands are valuable v/s Brand is dead'. The points on this topic were made by Equitor Management Consulting principal executive officer Ramesh Jude Thomas and Chlorophyll founder Kiran Khalap. The counterpoints were put forth by Pantaloon Retail (India) Ltd head marketing Sanjeev Agarwal and Subhiksha Retail Services director R Subramanium.

The post-lunch sessions saw some excellent presentations by various speakers with hot debates on subjects like 'brand investment drives demand as opposed to pricing decisions drives demand'. CavinKare Pvt Ltd executive director and CEO K S Ramesh spoke in favour of brand investment drives demand. Answering a question as to why consumers buy products or brands, he said, "People buy brands firstly because of their value, then comes the brand imaging, the emotional benefits, the pure and aesthetic benefits and then comes the features that attributes the price of the product." He said that the impact of pricing decisions was unprofitable and that it only drives short-term sales. Ramesh concluded his presentation by saying, "We believe that investing into brands is even more important for smaller companies that the bigger companies."

Countering Ramesh's viewpoint by saying that pricing decisions is what drives demand was Rasna Ltd chairman and managing director Piruz Khambatta. Short, sweet, interesting and to the point is precisely what Khambatta's presentation was. "I'm not a pricing man. I believe in promotion," was his opening remark.

Taking the thanda beverage Coca Cola head on, Khambatta said, "The biggest brand in the world - Coke has to bring down its price by almost 40 per cent (from Rs 8 to Rs 5). Why is such a thing happening when they should actually increase their product price as the popularity grows." He stated firmly that the important thing was not only the price but also the brand itself. "It is proven that small brands don't sell in the market," he said.

On being quizzed as to why a product strives to be mass based instead of being a premium and catering to the elite, Khambatta said, "Instead of being a small speck on the top, why not be a large section at the bottom?"

Another interesting topic that kept the audience glued to their seats was 'Creativity drives marketing as opposed to Rationality leads marketing'. Moderated by O&M brand director Vivek Sharma, the session was opened by Readers Digest managing director Sanjay Joshi who went with the rationality perspective. Joshi went with on with endless presentations and researches that his magazine has undertaken, to prove his point. "If creativity means imagination and originality, then it is important in every field," he said.

Joshi spoke about how some biggies in the advertising world often brag that they can sell ice to an Eskimo! Rationality steps in here. "Why would any one want to sell ice to an Eskimo? Why target the wrong group and waste precious time and energy, not to mention money?" he argued. He concluded by saying, "In the short run, half the battle is won if you know your target group and your customer."

Perfetti India director - sales and marketing Ashok Dhingra focussed on the creativity bit by zeroing in on three products - candy (Alpeinleibe), chewing gum (Center Shock) and breath freshener (Chloromint). If anyone has seen the ad campaigns of all the three above mentioned brands, they will vouch for the fact that the ads do not have an iota of rationality in them. Still the thing that matters is that all these brands are popular. "Our price is fixed, distribution is fixed, there is nothing special we have that our competitor does not have. So where does the cutting edge come from? The creativity no doubt," said Dhingra.

The cat and mouse fight was concluded by Coco Cola vice president marketing Shripad Nadkarni. His stand was also bent towards the creativity aspect in marketing.

Speaking on the ad campaign for Coco Cola's bottled water Kinley and at the same time taking a dig at arch competitors Bisleri, Nadkarni said, "We did a good ad for Kinley where the catch line was Boond boond mein vishwaas (There's faith is each and every drop). But we give major credit to our competitors Bisleri who came out with the 'Play it safe' ad around the same time. The ad was so bad that it is rumored that Bisleri tried to sell the ad to the Kama Sutra Company but even they refused to buy it."

He went on to talk about the Coke and Thums Up rivalry against Pepsi, as well as the Sprite, Mountain Dew rivalry.

Nadkarni said, "We did not take up competition. Pepsi went berserk as it took on brand Thums Up and then later Lehar Soda took on Thums Up and then Pepsi was back to attack Coke. This just showed Pepsi's shallowness."

Pepsi, which at that time was No 1, did not need to react by counter advertising. But it did and so they focused away from being numero uno to taking on to the Coke brands and thus falling low. This of course proved beneficial for Coco Cola.

Nadkarni concluded the conference by taking a royal dig at Pepsi in context to the Pepsi ad featuring Amitabh Bachchan and Sachin Tendulkar by saying, "With our commercials (Sprite) we took on the 'Badshaah (king) of the pretentious world, that is, Pepsi."

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