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Marketing Interviews

Dilip G Piramal

Chairman, | 27 Sep 2003

“We use BTL activities only to complement the overall marketing programme or above-the-line mass communication. To support product launches or new innovations, to address niche audiences, or to reach out to the customer who otherwise is non-reachable by mass media are some of the roles for BTL activities.”

Joining VIP Luggage in ’73, Dilip Piramal was responsible for closing down the shoe-making division and developing VIP Luggage as a brand. Converting people to modern luggage from the commonly used Rexene bags, Piramal developed an infrastructure of 3 and a half million luggage in a short time.

In this session of Brand Speak, Dilip Piramal, Chairman, VIP Luggage talks to Jasmeen Dugal about the extent of the brand’s marketing activity, their online store and brand advertising in lean seasons.

Q. What is your marketing and communications strategy? Are you aggressively using advertising, PR and promotions to reach out to the consumer?

We are a power brand in travel products, addressing varied consumer and traveler segments. ‘Making travel easy’ being our core purpose, we design products for all travel durations, be it a long haul, short weekend or daily travel, leisure, business or casual. Our products aim to provide relevant, interesting and surprising travel comforts and conveniences at comfortable prices, and our distribution strategy complements with a self-select approach i.e. right products available at relevant outlets across all channels throughout the country. All along we have believed in addressing the consumer directly and hence have made extensive use of advertising and PR.

Q. What is the promotion ‘Success has a distinct signature’ all about? There have been ‘Students Special’ and ‘Gaming Zone’ in the past. Have such promotions increased sales?

This offer was available on a high-end range of our executive cases, called Claudio Basile. Keeping the target audience profile in mind, the offer was for a free stay in Goa for 2 nights and 3 days for a couple. Supported by extensive media coverage for this unique scheme and in-shop announcements, the response was satisfactory.

Q. What is the extent of your marketing activity? Do you rely heavily on below the line support?

Below the line activities are only to complement or supplement the overall marketing programme or above-the-line mass communication. To support big product launches or new innovations, to address niche audiences or to reach out to the customer who otherwise is non-reachable by mass media are some of the roles for below the line activities.

Recently, we had undertaken an extensive ‘Mystery Shopper’ programme, which encouraged the shop salesmen to better demonstrate our travel features. Another extensive activity is being carried out in busy market areas or outlets with games designed to convey superior features of our Alfa brand. Both were pan India activities.

Q. How has PR helped in building the image of your brand?

PR is not the pivot of our pro-active marketing programme though we do use the power and reach of various media to break the news of our product launches or new stores.

Q. What about focused branding exercises?

in a new Brand Architecture, we have recently re-designed our long haul travel product portfolio into two brands – Alfa and V.I.P. Alfa is a brand, which provides reliable, good quality luggage for price conscious customers who otherwise have to make do with low-quality local luggage. V.I.P. on the other hand, will focus on addressing the needs of customers who want more conveniences and comfort from their luggage. Footloose is a brand which focuses on the unique daily or longer duration travel needs of the youth, while Buddy is a school bag brand focusing on providing fun, innovative and most importantly quality products in a segment which until now has had only cheap, local products.

Q. What were the key insights that formed the basis of VIP’s positioning?

V.I.P. is a power brand and its positioning is an all-encompassing interesting travel companion.

Q. Tell us about some of your advertising campaigns.

In the V.I.P. advertising campaigns, we have tried to address a specific context within the overall interesting travel companion platform. Last year, our advertising campaign ‘Looking at me?’ was to introduce some new lifestyle products as travel companions.

Alfa advertising last year and this year have addressed the consumer who otherwise could choose an unreliable luggage for lack of affordability. The campaigns focused on conveying both the importance of a better quality luggage as well as the affordable price points of Alfa.

Q. What is your key differentiator?

We have over two hundred and fifty products. Different products have unique consumer benefits vis-à-vis competing products. Constant innovations keeping in mind the travelers’ requirements characterize our product differentiation.

Q. How is the ‘V.I.P. Online Store’ doing?

Luggage unfortunately, is not an easy product category to purchase without physical evaluation. An Online Store is used more by those who like to order some of the products not available in their far off towns or those who wish to use our products as gifts delivered to their chosen address in a distant town, or even some NRIs who wish to gift a V.I.P. product to someone in India.

Q. The travel business generally witnesses a demand surge during festival time, holidays or the marriage season. What is your advertising approach during the reason of the year?

Luggage generally is not a long pre-purchase-consideration-period category and hence the most effective utilization of advertising certainly is around the time travel starts building up. But Brand advertising (as opposed to specific product advertising) can surely be stretched across lean seasons also.

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