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Report on Shemaroo

If I'm able to delight the consumer, he won't look anywhere else: Mcnroe's Ankit Daga

After a challenging 2020, the brand is expecting stronger sales this summer.

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NEW DELHI: Given the dire straits the economy landed them in due to the Covid2019-induced lockdown, non-discretionary purchases took a backseat for most people last year. This holds especially true for the fragrance category – after all, what's the point of smelling great when you're not even stepping out of your home to meet-up with others?

However, the category has started to pick up since the beginning of the Unlock phase and is coming back on track in terms of sales on a month-on-month basis.

Indiantelevison.com’s Devesh Gupta caught up with Mcnroe consumer products head of business development Ankit Daga to know more about how the category is recovering post-Covid, how brand Wild Stone has evolved, and what challenges lie ahead for the organisation. Excerpts:

On deodorant category being affected in the lockdown

Back then, people were only buying essentials as they did not consider deodorant as part of essentials. There was an approximately 40-45 per cent drop in the category size at that time.

However, things have started coming back to normal as our regular consumers realised that deodorants are more of a hygiene product and it makes them feel fresh even if they are sitting at home in un-ironed clothes. We are hoping that the core consumers of the category will latch on to it and help the category get back on track.

On recovery of the category

For the first three-four months we were hit with zero sales, but we’re recovering now month-on-month basis. Last month, we came back at par with pre-Covid levels. We are hoping for decent growth in January and expecting good sales in the coming summers compared to the last summer season.

On what steps Mcnroe took to come out this situation

We were more agile and technology friendly. We rekindled our management team and had several new hires that helped in the professionalisation of the company. While there was not much work at the physical level, internal efficiency improved as compared to before.

We improved our business efficiencies, became capital light, adopted newer strategies to keep the motivation up. The team helped us as we changed our metrics and business models at a couple of state levels, trying to get synergies at lower costs. There was a lot of uncertainty in terms of regulation on what was safe and what was not.

So the idea was not to commit to anything at large, put safety on priority, be light, fast on your feet and take everyday head on as it comes.

On marketing strategy during the lockdown

We have tweaked our strategies, and slightly slowed on marketing but never paused it completely. We launched a new brand – Knox – for the sanitisation and hygiene needs and created a newer communication for brand Code during this time.

Mcnroe took this opportunity to get back to the drawing board and understand how the consumer and consumption would change in terms of product and how our marketing efforts will be consumed. Honestly, all our previous marketing campaigns seemed to be no longer in connection with whatever consumers were thinking.

On evolution of brand Wild Stone

We have moved from the erstwhile strategy of ‘Dangerous Liaisons’ to ‘Noticeability’. We analysed that the consumer had come a long way from it and hence the brand thought Log toh notice karenge. Further, we’re in the process of changing the positioning but it’s still in the works.

For instance, if somebody walked into a party, they would want their fragrance to be noticed. There are different ways to show that, like a trail that people leave behind, or an aura of fragrance. So we tapped on to that need.

We changed our packaging as well and moved on to a more fragrance centric packaging as it first means of communication to the consumer.

On creative strategy of Wild Stone

Our consumer has evolved and from an individual consumption, it came into the college bags of the consumer. The TG dropped from an early first jobber to a first time college-goer. We made content which is more consumable in public and did not have a problem of social security and shareability point of view. So we have tried to add the shareability angle from the ‘Kunal’ campaigns and the ones afterwards.

Our previous communications were good in terms of songs, music, and YouTube rates as people loved watching it but we always lost in terms of shareability.

On consumer profile of Wild Stone

A young audience mostly in its first job or college. It is affluent and comes from sub-urban areas and urban areas. He has a very affiliated taste in terms of what his lifestyle would be and understands the difference between a cheap perfume and a premium one. He may not want to spend extravagantly and wants bang for buck.

On an average, our consumer life cycles are usually higher. However, rather than geography, we try to target consumer on basis of tastes, preferences and behaviour.

Given the boom in e-commerce, and technology that shareability, the brand cannot neglect the consumer in the rural parts of India, and only give preference to metro consumers. However, when it comes to e-commerce, I cannot say where they are delivering at the last mile. The same is true for the wholesale channel universe. Overall, our internal sales is split 60:40 between metro and rural.

On growth of sales channels this year

E-commerce has certainly seen a good boom. This year we've almost quadrupled our sales on e-commerce and it’s largely attributed to the lockdown. Modern trade is also showing good signs. The split between modern trade and general trade is 65:35, where it used to be 78:22 in the pre-Covid days. We also reach six lakh outlets.

However, the sales numbers can change starting tomorrow as people start going out like they were going out before the pandemic.

On challenges for Wild Stone and McNroe

We look at both of them in a very singular way. There are different trade mixes that are changing and hence management of those trade channels is very important. Now, that is one big challenge that we're seeing for both Wild Stone and for Mcnroe. Mcnroe more so because it has larger number of brands. Wild stone is still better, because it can manage from one channel to another as it has a fairly large set of consumers.

The other challenge is new product launches. However, given the agility and uncertainty this season it gets tricky to understand how the consumer will react to it. It was easier in pre-Covid scenario. The situation also stops us from promising budgets to large campaigns, because we don't know about its sustainability.

Experiential marketing has taken a hit which was huge for us. At a BTL level, it's very tough to get the experiencing of our products. We spend huge budgets on consumer sampling but given the current scenario it is difficult.

We have tried involving technology, but it's still hasn’t scaled up to the levels we want. We've tried online methods also but it's very tough to mimic what we can smell.

Other challenges include smaller attention spans, increasing production costs and identifying the right channel mix for investments.

On consumer loyalty

If I have that punch in my product, I will have loyal consumers. Apart from that, yes, our marketing strategy has changed from impressions to saliency. So, consumer life time has shortened across categories and every marketer is moving to more salient campaign. A loyal campaign has always been beneficial. We are trying to keep different touchpoints alive for people to see us. At the end, it is all about the user experience. If I'm able to provide a delight to the consumer, he will not look left and right.

There are price shifters, flirters, and then there are loyalists in the category. We try to focus more on the loyalists because we get the highest amount of return. With flirters, it’s like a cycle wherein he leaves and comes back again, because he likes the product. So there is always a fleeting consumer but the core of the category is about building loyal bases. And those are created only on sheer product quality.

There are consumers who go to the shop and decide which brand to buy even though he's bought me. At that point, the saliency of my marketing campaigns across touchpoint comes in. If I am salient at all three touch points – on air, BTL and POS, I have a higher chance of winning them than others.

On the role of packaging

We're selling lifestyle products, so whatever is available on the shelf, the consumer thinks of it as an extension of his persona, everybody's stylish, at the end of the day, everybody wants to be stylish, and wants to be in line with the fashion trends that are going on. Hence, it becomes very important for the product to recall those values, it's almost equivalent to the end purchases, and can be based on the back end in itself. We invest in design heavily.

On the category being heavily dependent on ATL marketing

It would be a very simplistic way of putting it but it’s not entirely true. We have seen campaigns that have done well without ATL and only on the back of sheer experiential design. It’s not about ATL but about the conversations that we drive, the relationships that we want and keeping our brand salient.

On top priorities in 2021

I have to put Mcnroe’s name ahead of the brands that we have. The easiest solution is to put a Mcnroe logo at the end of every TVC and people will know but the best and the efficient way is to grow the business and have many more brands. We are also planning to launch two new brands this year. 

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