Suddenly, IT-related advertising is seeing it all: celebrity endorsers, big budget campaigns and new marketing strategies.
Personal computer makers and IT companies seem to be acquiring hues of the FMCG and consumer electronics sectors, if the sudden thrust on brand building is anything to go by. And market watchers say this is the future trend, with the digitalisation of technology blurring the thin line separating pure-play IT products and consumer electronics goods.
Further, products such as personal computers, DVD drives and notebooks are rapidly finding mass appeal and are seeing good volume growth in India. For example, PC sales are expected to be about 4.7 million this fiscal against 3.6 million last year. Notebook sales, in the meantime, have been skyrocketing with sales crossing 153,000 units in the first half of the current fiscal, compared to 79,230 units sold in the same period last year.
Little wonder that Shah Rukh Khan, who till now has been promoting watches, cars, biscuits and television sets, has been roped in by Hewlett Packard as brand ambassador for the company's range of Compaq Presario notebooks and desktops. The popular Bollywood actor is appearing in the company's promotion called Yeh Hui Na Baat. Compaq Presario's marketing campaign spans print, electronic media, radio, outdoor, sales promotion and merchandising.
"As industry pioneers in home computing and mobile computing across the world, we have continuously worked towards positioning PCs as a must-buy consumer durable product. This Compaq Presario promotion with Shah Rukh Khan is an attempt to reach out to consumers across India," says Ravi Swaminathan, Vice-President, HP PSG India.
On similar lines, Chinese hardware major Lenovo has signed on celebrity siblings and actors Saif Ali Khan and Soha Ali Khan as brand ambassadors for its new range of PCs targeted at consumer and small business segments.
"We have chosen them carefully to reflect our values of innovation, excellence and passion. They are, we believe, on the path to mega stardom, fan following and commercial success. They appeal to young and old alike as we believe our PCs and notebooks will too," says Neeraj Sharma, Managing Director, Lenovo South Asia.
The endorsements are not restricted to Bollywood personalities with companies such as Canon trying out innovative marketing strategies to sell its products. The digital imaging company has signed on ace fashion photographer Atul Kasbekar as its brand ambassador and launched the first edition of its financial year calendar which has been shot with the Canon EOS IDs Mark II camera.
"Selling professional printers and cameras offers a unique problem where the salesman knows less than the customer. The only way to convince the customer to buy is to get a person from the same fraternity to endorse the features of the product. Our move to tie up with Kasbekar is in line with this strategy," says Alok Bharadwaj, Vice-President of Canon India.
Asked if traditional technology-oriented companies were increasingly reworking their branding strategies to reach out to end consumers more effectively, he said, "The main purpose of appointing brand ambassadors is to increase the involvement of consumers." The creation of the calendar and association with fashion in India is not new but a worldwide phenomenon for Canon. The company has previously supported a number of fashion-related events including `On the Other Side of the Lens,' a photographic project that featured fashion industry luminaries such as Tommy Hilfiger, Helena Christensen, Jimmy Choo, Patrick Cox and Stella McCartney.
"Our product range from SLR cameras to multi-format printers is used across the industry at all levels. Moreover, concepts such as image, beauty, design and innovation, which are so fundamental to the fashion world, also lie at the heart of Canon's new thrust of business in India. We hope this collaboration will enable Canon to demonstrate that its imaging technology helps to unlock creative potential," says Bharadwaj.
Points out Anang Dev Jena, Research Director, Synovate, "Marketers are hiking their marketing spends for a number of reasons. IT hardware companies — players in the organised sector — have to compete with the unorganised sector (assembled PCs). Large manufacturers want consumers to start buying branded products, simply because of the advantages and the promise that a branded product brings with it."
Even Indian software companies seem to be becoming more brand-savvy as they grow in size and attempt to create awareness for their products and services. HCL, for one, recently announced the nationwide launch of a high-voltage TV-led multimedia campaign, the first by an Indian IT major.
The company's `Talking Numbers' campaign is a tongue-in-cheek dialogue between 0 and 1, the binary numbers and the building blocks of all activities technological. It comes at a time when the HCL brand turns 30. Four TV commercials featuring the diversity of HCL are being aired, supported by press, outdoor, Internet and public relations blitzes.
HCL aims to connect with its stakeholders in "an interesting and engaging manner. As we take on the challenges of the future in our 30th year we would like to share the uniqueness of the range and depth of HCL's IT products and services, while re-energising brand HCL as we transform and reinvent ourselves," says Shiv Nadar, Founder, HCL. The campaign was conceived and developed by FCB Ulka, digitally on a PC.
Similarly, the country's largest software exporter, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), has embarked on a major branding initiative, for which it has roped in a global firm to work out the brand positioning statement that involves rollout, tagline and advertising among others. Phiroz Vandrevala, Executive Vice-President, TCS, says the positioning will be announced in the coming financial year. "We believe we have to get involved (in brand-building) as everyone else has done. These are best practices that sound global companies have adopted and we have to undertake the initiative as a proper process," he says.
And with IT products becoming more consumer-oriented, it's only a matter of time before more and more companies jump onto the brand building bandwagon to garner market share in an increasingly competitive market.