Samsung’s position as the pre-eminent mobile phone maker in the country seems to be under threat and it is an indigenous brand—Micromax, that has the Korean giant looking over its shoulder. In fact, one analyst firm suggests that Micromax has, in fact, already overtaken Samsung in terms of mobile phone shipments in Q2 2014; a claim that is denied by Samsung. But the fact that we are even talking about it shows how close the two are.
As per research firm IDC, in the last quarter of 2014, Samsung was the market leader in terms of overall mobile phone shipments, with a 19 per cent share. This was followed by Micromax with 13 per cent of the market share. However, Samsung was the clear leader in terms of smartphone shipments with 38 per cent of the market, while Micromax came second with 16 per cent marketshare.
So what brought about this turnaround?
A tighter product portfolio
According to Shubhodip Pal, CMO of Micromax, the biggest factor that has contributed to Micromax’s success is concentrating on just a few key products. “When I came in, we had around 30 odd products but we knocked off a lot of them and concentrated on just 4,” says Pal. One of these is the now familiar Canvas series. By focussing its marketing initiatives on just a handful of strategically chosen models, Micromax was able to create a better connect with consumers.
Other players like Nokia and Samsung had a number of products across the price-range and from smartphones to feature phones. Ironically, Micromax concentrated on phones that were within the budgets, even at the lower end of the price spectrum, a price-conscious strategy that Samsung themselves had followed when they had unseated Nokia as the top selling smartphone maker in the country. However, as Samsung’s new releases became progressively more high-end, Micromax kept concentrating on the low and mid range band.
Getting rid of the “Low-Cost, Low-Quality” tag
Though Micromax was aimed at being affordable, it never compromised on quality, but when faced with the likes of LG, Nokia, Samsung et al, a bit of scepticism towards an “Indian” brand by consumer used to “global” brands was understandable. How did Micromax counter this mindset? In a manner that seems in keeping with Micromax’s ambitions, and the huge amounts they spend on marketing each year, they brought on board Hollywood star Hugh Jackman as their brand ambassador late in 2013. “To talk to a new set of mature audience we needed something different. People started talking about the brand after seeing Hugh Jackman and he has been kind to us too. He has tweeted about the brand and that has got people to notice us even more,” says Pal. In fact the relationship has worked so well that Micromax has extended the contract with Hugh Jackman for another year and Pal told us that a new commercial would be shot in the coming days.
But the glamour quotient doesn’t end here. Earlier in 2013, model and actress Chitrangada Singh was roped in to unveil the newly launched Canvas 4 smartphone. Pal also said that Micromax was looking to tie up a new brand ambassador by the last quarter of this year.
On the other hand, Samsung had one high-profile brand ambassador in the form of Aamir Khan but that was way back in pre 2010 when they were fighting against Nokia for dominance. Since then Samsung seem to have depended more on the strength of their features but they seem to have not learnt from Nokia - India is a price-sensitive market.
Targeting big ticket events
Marketing for Micromax is an events-driven process admits Pal. But the company is choosy about the kind of things they want to be associated with. “For me there was an instant connect with music and sports. The brand is a complete fit with these categories. Within music we are only into dance music and rock because this is where the buzz is,” informs Pal. While these tie-ups might be expensive, it gives Micromax visibility and legitimacy. It is also worthwhile to note that the target audience of all these events is usually the youth, which fits with Micromax’s main user base.
Over the years, Micromax has been associated with cricket series like the 2007 India-Pakistan series, the Asia Cup (for which they were title sponsors), etc. When it comes to music, sponsorships included big profile events like Sunburn Goa 2012, the DJ Tiesto gig at Sunburn Arena, the Snoop Dogg India Concert Tour, etc., along with award shows like the MTV Video Music Awards India 2013. The brand has also been associated with award shows on-air, most recently, the Brit Awards 2014 on VH1.
Consistency of messaging
The brands that work are the ones who can create a connection with the customer. This is a simple logic that the likes of Adidas, Nike and Apple have learnt. And Micromax seems to be walking the same line. “Our messaging is not forced,” said Pal. A reason that this can be backed up, he said, was because the brand stays true to its roadmap - the marketing team knows the major product launches months down the line and a marketing strategy is created taking this into account. “When we launched the Canvas HD, our slogan was “Colours can come alive”, when we launched the Canvas 3D, the slogan changed to “Entertainment can come alive,” says Pal. “We have a connect and a consistency across our product range. There is a lot of thought behind everything.”