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How PepsiCo built relevance for Quaker Oats

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How PepsiCo built relevance for Quaker Oats

‘Making Oats relevant to the Indian Masses’ was the second last topic for the day at the Pitch CMO Summit. And the speaker was Vidur Vyas, marketing director, PepsiCo – Foods, who carried the audience through the entire saga of “how Quaker Oats created a category for oats that was non-existent in the country”.

In his own words, “We will talk about how we build relevance for Quaker Oats. Building relevance for a product that is naturally not relevant, and not part of an individual consumer’s habit.” Normally, he explained building relevance happens in terms of price, imagery, service and a combination of other factors. “But today were will talk about building relevance in the Indian cultural context,” he explained and went on to say, “cultural relevance is the most important thing.”

Recalling Peter Drucker who once famously said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast. That means: forget everything else.” As far as culture goes, it appears there are various aspects. And, as far as the Indian breakfast goes, Indian habits are very diverse.

“What we did was we funneled them in an organised manner – combining substantial nutrition, sustained energy and convenience,” he pointed out. And, harping on ‘health’ which has become a catch word for the day, also helped. “Health is important, there’s growing awareness about health, but pursuing health is stressful,” he emphasized.

The task ahead for them was how to bring this product on to the breakfast table of the ordinary Indian. To do this they used the Relevance Model for the brand. This was in a ‘house’ format with ‘Noble Purpose’ as the roof, that stood on there pillars – Code of Conduct, Community and Tools that were used (the tools were developed with their partner BBDO).

“People buy NOT what you do, but WHY you do it. If you find out the ‘why’ that will differentiate your brand in the long run. Getting consumers to think they can. It’s all about motivating people, not their capability! That’s what we did,” he elaborated. They launched the ‘Make India Healthy’ promotion – this was the ‘noble cause’. They solemnly took on the “Mission To Make India Heart Healthy’. The mission was translated into an on-ground exercise with cops, namely the Chennai Police - to make them heart-healthy; this was the community, going outside the consumer base. “This year we took it further with ‘Smart Heart Challenge’ which proposed making lifestyle healthy. The idea was to log on to, take the ‘Quaker Smart Heart Challenge’ and reduce your cholesterol in just 30 days.

This took their philosophy further. The Code of Conduct was to engage vs tell, honesty vs hyperbole. They went on building a community by using digital media. “We started a campaign with 100 people on Facebook,” Vyas recalled. For building relevance, he specified, may need ‘unlearning’- turning ads to acts, turning language of transaction to one of action/engagement, and converting consumers to fans and advocates.

The results were astonishing. They built consumer trust. It led to Quaker Oats becoming the fastest growing branded breakfast category. All in all, it was a winning consumer proposition.
For after all, Vyas concluded, “Everything is not about the brand.”


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