Anand Narang, VP, Marketing, Bata India, talks about the brand’s new communication campaign that exhorts women to be more comfortable in their shoes, and about its successful strategy of being local while offering an international range of footwear designs. Excerpts:
What is the insight behind the “Me and comfortable with it” campaign? How do you think this works for Bata?
In the world of fashion, we see standardized beauty models every day but normal life is very different from the pictures we see in magazines. We recognise that Bata customers are individuals with a unique lifestyle and specific taste in shoes. We want to support our customers in their uniqueness to make them feel comfortable with who they are. It does not matter if they are curvy, thin, tall, opinionated, tattooed or emotional; we want our customers to be comfortable in their own skin. Therefore, the "Me. And Comfortable With It" advertising campaign communicates this message.
Do you think that your new TVC will resonate well with Indian women? What is the kind of response you have seen?
Our research and insights reveal that the modern Indian woman is comfortable with her choices, her emotions, femininity and with challenging gender roles. Essentially, she is comfortable in her own style and shoes. Our recent TVC stands true to these insights and is also true to our global brand manifesto, “Me. And Comfortable With It.” Through this ad, we are celebrating the modern Indian woman, and we have seen a positive response from consumers so far.
What is the media mix you are using?
For our current TV campaign, we are advertising on all major GECs as well as on other popular television genres like English entertainment viewed primarily by women with youth as the secondary audience. We have also covered popular GECs in regional languages especially in the south region. On Digital, we are now speaking the language of young people and our social media communication goes beyond just shoes. Our blog posts offer suggestions that our consumers can benefit from. To engage our younger customers, it is imperative to use social media interestingly and hence we have diverse content like wardrobe curation posts, do-it-yourself videos on colouring and maintaining shoes, and various engaging contests. As Bata targets younger consumers for its latest collections, it aims to give the brand a makeover to make it look younger and aspirational. We are also tying up with popular youth portals like PopXO to create engaging store activities where fashion influencers create some of the best looks for modern Indian consumers using our new designs.
Over the years, Bata has grown to become an iconic footwear brand in the Indian market. What do you think has worked in the brand’s favour in India?
As a footwear retail leader in India, our lead medium of communication is our store experience. Our online store as well as over 1,200 outlets across the country serves as consumer touch points. This is supported by ATL advertising, digital campaigns, activations and strategic tie-ups. All of Bata’s communication campaigns are run in partnership with our agencies. We expect and encourage our agency partners to invest time and resources in understanding our brand philosophy and our consumer-base. Today, creative, media, digital and PR agencies are not just restricted to their domain of expertise but also look at the multi-dimensional experience desired by the consumers and hence take collective ownership of deliverables like store traffic, consumer engagement and conversion in addition to brand equity measures. We drive clarity within our agency partners about the desired results and encourage them to work with each other.
How do you plan to maintain this edge with the growing presence of other competing brands in the market?
Bata’s vision is to make great shoes accessible to everyone. This vision shapes our brand strategy. We base our plans on consumer insights as opposed to reacting to competitor moves. Our presence of over eight decades in India has helped us build a solid foundation of trust and comfort. These are the USPs that make us India’s favourite brand, and now we are marrying that with great style and contemporary fashion. Also, in line with the changing consumer shopping behaviour, Bata has started offering an omnichannel experience, allowing consumers to buy online and then pick up the shoes in stores or even reserve online for subsequent store trial. We are investing in creating breathtaking store windows where we are showcasing our latest flagship collections, introducing trained stylists to recommend collections, enhancing in-store music and taking various other steps that appeal to our customers. We recognise that a good customer experience turns a casual customer into a loyal one. The consumer experience is therefore regularly measured for continuous improvement of our store-service.
Q. How have your ad spends changed over the past year?
Bata India has developed communication across touch-points and we have doubled our advertising budget for 2017 as compared to the past year. For image building, we generally use TV as that works best as the lead medium to target the widest reach. We complement this with store windows and Point of Purchase branding for highlighting key products in-store. We use digital media to for CRM (Customer Relationship Messaging). We decide the lead medium for each campaign based on the key TG and then optimize the mix for reaching out to them.
Q. What is Bata’s strategy for the smaller Tier II and III markets?
Geographically, the consumption story and the need for a great shopping experience is not limited to only the urban centres. In fact non-urban markets are growing equally fast, with consumers from Tier II and III cities aspiring for great designs. Bata has increased its focus on smaller towns with internationally-designed stores being launched in these areas. The latest one for instance was at Thodupuzha, a town near Kochi in Kerala. The 3,000 sq. foot flagship store is unique with its clutter free aesthetics and visual impact creating a truly international shopping experience for its customers in that town.
Q. What are the new consumption trends in the Indian market over the past few years?
Rising affluence, urbanisation due to employment opportunities, nuclear family structures and an increase in working women are the various factors driving an increase in consumption across India. Consumers are also trading up and trading down their choices more often. They are looking for footwear designs that complement their passions, hobbies and occasions. Another change impacting consumption patterns today is the consumers’ love for devices and online shopping. Not only are consumers shopping online, but they are also using the web extensively to influence their purchase before they step into the physical stores. That is why it is becoming increasingly imperative for brands to adopt an omnichannel presence to reach out to consumers today.
Q. What can consumers expect from Bata next?
We have made great technological advances in our footwear offerings with the brand new collection of Bata Insolia Heels equipped with Insolia Technology owned by the American company HBN. Bata’s new line of Insolia footwear can be worn three times longer than regular heels. The Insolia inner shoe pad counters this by distributing the weight equally between the heel and toes. Moreover to appeal to our younger consumers, Bata India has lined up major new launches with the more youthful sub-brands like Weinbrenner. Our NorthStar footwear styles offer young consumers the latest canvas collection in psychedelic colours and Footin’ offers them a definitive fast-fashion label in footwear.
Q. Can you share with us an interesting anecdote during your tenure here with Bata?
Bata is a global brand with headquarters in Switzerland and design centres in several other countries, including India. Over the years, Bata has been perceived as a local brand in several markets, as we have built iconic brands locally complemented with some memorable local campaigns. When I joined Bata, I had spent a lot of time in our stores and it was heartening to hear customers share fond memories about their Bata purchases and talk about how Bata is an Indian brand from Kolkata. I am proud that we have become an iconic peoples’ brand in the Indian market.
Having many brand custodians can pose a challenge for marketers for a brand that has increasingly diverse media options. It is important therefore to follow clear brand guidelines consistently while ensuring a good mix of local adaptations.