I have discussed in the past many good examples of marketing helped a product to succeed. Apple is the first brand that comes to mind when we talk about marketing. The communication and design of the products has led to its wide spread success and Apple becoming one of the most valuable companies in the world.
But what about marketing failures? For every Apple there are many products that fail due to bad marketing strategies. In this piece I would like to discuss one of them- The TATA Nano.
In a recent trip to Sri Lanka, I saw the TATA Nano being used extensively as a Taxi. As I asked around the average Sri Lankan felt that the Nano though a good car did not carry enough prestige to be a passenger car. And this they felt was a result of the positioning taken by the marketing managers of the brand.
As I look back at the previous campaigns for the Nano, it suddenly struck me that Nano was a consumer behavior assessment failure. The brand managers positioned the car as the next upgrade for a family of four with a two wheeler. But every such household had an aspiration to move to something better and not necessarily cheaper. Even if the consumer was in that income bracket, he aspired for something cooler.
This point was not taken into consideration while the brand managers were coming up with the positioning.
The next campaign focused on the tier 2 cities with bad roads and little or no inclination to move things along. This further hit the car sales.
Finally now the Nano has been positioned as a cool car to have fun with. Also the colors and the powerful AC are being positioned as the differentiators along with the classic adage of better fuel efficiency that has helped its sales.
I personally feel that positioning a product or service would be a strong spin off from consumer behavior and without understanding the hopes and aspirations of the masses a product is bound to not have the stickiness factor.
TATA Nano was a classic case of a product manager who chooses not to respect the aspirations of his prospective consumers. A famous marketer once told me that “A man buys a car for what he wants to be and buys a house based on what he is”.
In such a case the positioning was totally wrong.
So what could have been done to position the car better?
1.) A dual positioning strategy one for the smaller cities and the other form the urban areas could have worked.
2.) Focusing on some of the features like maneuverability- the Maruti Suzuki Alto was positioned this way, Mileage- Maruti Zen and Performance – Hyundai Verna
3.) Positioning the brand and not the Car- There could be an initial positioning of the TATA brand rather than the car, till the marketers understood the features sought by the consumers.
4.) Focusing on special segments like Women drivers or college students as the first car- this would have helped the TATA’s create a generation of customers and keep these students in the same family as they grow up.
At the end of the day, it is what the car means to you rather than what it is. I think most marketing folks need a lesson in psychology more than STP.
What’s your take?