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Summers bring AC wars; Ad spend set to cross Rs 75 crores this season

17-April-2002
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Summers bring AC wars; Ad spend set to cross Rs 75 crores this season

Avinash Sahu
exchange4media

If you thought summers only saw raised ad spends by Cola majors well, think again. The heat wave is just catching on and the ACs majors are already out; making hay while the sun beats down. They for one are surely praying for a hot summer and to woo the customers are leaving no stone unturned. We look at the major players in the market, LG, Whirpool, Voltas, Samsung, Amtrex Hitachi and Carrier Aircon.

Whirlpool has been first off the block this summer with huge print ads in all-leading publications day after day. Not to be left the Korean major LG too has started its campaign using a combination TV, Print and radio. Other large players in the market, Samsung, Hitachi, Carrier and Voltas too are out of the block trying to capture their set of customers.

Everyone is trying hard to differentiate themselves. If LG is positioned as environmental cooling machine with emphasis on healthy air then Hitachi highlights technology as its USP. Whirlpool on the other hand uses its much popular concept of a homemaker to woo customers and Samsung focused on its superior quality and technology aspect.

Says Sanjeev Bhargava, VP, FCB Ulka, the agency for Whirlpool, “The brand positioning is around the home maker- who does a lot of work at home and manages crisis situations and gets appreciation from the peers and most importantly her husband and child. All the products are tied to the same strategy- product which is a partner of the housewife.”

In AC category Whirlpool has mainly focussed on the home segment in addition to commercial/institutional setups. The media budget is primarily going to be allocated to print with almost 100% of the budget being allocated to the medium. The major markets being targeted by the brand are Mumbai & Delhi plus south India to some extent.

The unique feature in the creatives for whirlpool according to Ulka officials is that they have tried to create an icon by using the same family for all thin products. In addition to that they have tried to use certain personalities- in this case the Santaclouze’s cap depicting the magic of winter in summer ad.

Though the company is tight lipped on the advertising budgets for the campaign but estimates put the figure somewhere in the region of Rs 20 crores.

LG Electronics though is following a slightly different route. Says Salil Kapoor, Product Group Head, AC division, LG, “LG has planned to invest around 10-12 cr for this summer campaign giving equal stress to both TV and print and a bit of Radio. On TV we are advertising heavily on news channels like: Sunday Star News, Face to Face on BBC, Aaj Tak, Zee News; in addition we are also present on the Saturday Movie on HBO and some southern channels.”

On the how the brand is positioned differently vis a vis competition he adds, “LG air-conditioner is positioned as an environmental cooling machine which has the benefits of humidity control, air purifier by controlling the bacterial level and other impurities in the air.”

According to company officials, LG last year achieved sales of 1,00,000 units (window + split) and this year they are expecting to reach the figure of 1.5 -1.7 lakh units. According to Kapoor, the 1 lakh figure would be achieved by May itself going by the sales achieved so far in the season.

The other large player Amtrex Hitachithough could be the dark horse to win the race. The 370 crore company has earmarked around Rs 20 crores for the media splash this summer. According to Anil Gupta, Head of marketing and business development, Amtrex Hitachi Appliances, “We have started our TV campaign with 25 sec & 30 sec ads showing the features of the AC: Powerful mode-really fast dropping temperature and highlighting features like Graphic equilizer, which helps to set the speed of the fan, humidity and also having a memory for individual setting.”

Hitachi is also planning to come up with their print campaign, which will be focussing on certain other features.

According to Gupta, Hitachi is also using innovation ideas for its promotion like, Hitachi’s mobile airconditioned living rooms, which are going to visit 15 cities and allow the household to feel the living room.

“These converted LVCs virtually re-create the comfort of a Logicool i cooled living room with Hitachi Airconditioners.” He adds.Hitachi had also recently organized the Johny Walker nights for key architects & clients in Mumbai & Delhi.

On the sales front sources tell us that despite the slump in the AC market last year, Hitachi grew by 30% in sales volume to reach 78,000 units (combined split & window AC). This year, though market watchers predict a growth of 10% in the AC market, Hitachi expects to grow at 40%.

The oldest player in the market Carrier Aircon has been innovating in the print medium. According to company officials, Carrier has been in Indian market for 11yrs and claim to have a better understanding of the Indian condition and that’s the concept around which the whole marketing is built. Carrier has planned to invest around 6-7 cr for its advertising (major part of the budget is going to be spent in print media – around 60%).

Carrier claims that no other AC company can provide 100 features, which is the USP of the brand. To add to that the company also claims to have the largest network of specialized dealers who are specialized in all products available in AC range. The markets they are focusing on are both residential as well as commercial areas.

Samsung positioned as the fastest chilling AC with a superior quality and technology Samsung has earmarked just Rs 2 crore for advertising. The company certainly expects its strong brand visibility across other product categories to spill into the AC market. The product is premium priced too with the ACs being costlier than the competing brands. And that’s precisely what the company wants to communicate to the customers this summer; the value it offers for the extra price being charged.

Voltas too is shifting gears this season. The company hopes to build upon its USP of superior after sales service combined with the ‘intelligent cooling concept.’

After a market research carried out by the company recently brought out some facts about the perception and attitude of the customer towards their products the company has planned to step up the gas. As a first bid to regain leadership position, the company, which is a part of the 41,000cr TATA group, has launched an international range of air-conditioners – Vertis for this season. With the launch of the Vertis range, Voltas plans to strengthen its image and trust with the retail and household customer.

Mr. S.N. Tripathi, Executive Director & COO stated, “ Vertis, the first of our new range, is not only of international standards, but the product competes with the finest in the world and the latest technology. They are energy saving with a payback period of 2 yrs. The idea is to offer remote control ACs at affordable prices to the individual customers. The Vertis range is a reflection of Voltas’ commitment to its customer to provide the latest technology products at affordable prices”.

Sources in the company say that the ad budgets this year are likely to be more than doubled, up from Rs 8 crores last year to 20 crores this year. Voltas has invested its budget equally in TV, Print, Outdoor, and Local Advertising.

The company has majorly focussed on it Vertis range which they consider to be their Black Horse. As Mr. Tripathi stated, “ the Vertis range is going to be the flag bearer for Voltas in the market. Apart from this, Voltas has also positioned its Vectra ACs to be the tough workhorse and the Verdant ACs to be their premium range”.

Vertis will be supported by a 3-fold increase in its advertising and promotion budget, in addition to an inspired Customer relationship management programme, a streamlined dealer network and new customer friendly finance scheme. Maximum penetration is being executed through outdoor in the 7 key markets, which contribute to maximum sales- Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Bangalore & Punjab-Chandigarh-Haryana.

So who will take the lead this summer? Well the battle lines are drawn and as the mercury rises so will the ferocity of the competition. The strategy it seems for all of them is built around being top of the mind as the buying season peaks.

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