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Brand Yatra: Maruti Suzuki still rocks on with A-Star

05-October-2010
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Brand Yatra: Maruti Suzuki still rocks on with A-Star

Maruti Suzuki Ltd has a formidable line-up of vehicles in its stable and has been quite aggressive about promoting each of its automobile brands. A-Star, one of the newer cars has been extensively promoted, and had also formed a brand association with the Farhan Akhtar-starrer ‘Rock On’. exchange4media traces the brand journey of the Maruti Suzuki A-Star.

Formerly known as Maruti Udyog, Maruti Suzuki Ltd has completed 29 years. It was in late 1983 that the first Maruti 800, India’s largest selling car ever, rolled off the assembly line at the company’s Gurgaon plant.

Past and Current Agency:
Earlier, the portfolio was shared between Hakuhodo Percept, Dentsu India, Lowe Lintas and Capital Advertising. However, Hakuhodo Percept is no longer part of the auto major. It had managed Wagon-R, Grand Vitara, Maruti-800 and A-Star car brands. These were assigned to the remaining three agencies with Capital Advertising getting A-Star.

The History:
Maruti Suzuki Ltd was incepted under the provisions of the Indian Companies Act, 1956. After the successful launch of the Maruti-800 in 1983, the car major launched its second model, Maruti Omni, in 1984. In 1985, the company swelled its portfolio by introducing the Maruti Gypsy. By 1991, Maruti Suzuki had started cumulative indigenisation of nearly 65 per cent of all its car models and soon after, released the Maruti Zen. By this time, more and more car manufacturers were hitting the Indian market with new models. This made Maruti more competitive in its car models and more aggressive in its operations. Its stables launched the Grand Vitara in 2003, but it was met with mixed reviews. The luxury SUV was later phased out and reintroduced in 2007. Its models Versa and Zen Estilo were also not exactly trendsetters. However, this changed in 2005 with the introduction of Maruti Swift, an international car model available in petrol and diesel variants. It became a smash hit with the masses and Maruti reiterated its market dominance. Riding high on the success of Swift, it introduced SX4 in 2007, a sedan from its stables, which was a runaway hit. A-Star was introduced in 2008 and is specifically target at the urban youth.

Current Positioning of A-Star:
According to Shashank Srivastava, Chief General Manager, Maruti Suzuki, the A-Star was the only car in the Indian market that was targeted at the urban youth. “It is about the new generation of Indians who are confident,” he added. He reminisced that when the car was launched in November 2008, the market was undergoing a recessionary phase, but they went ahead with the launch anyway. “It was the sentiment of the people that we instantly connected with that made the car a success,” he pointed out. However, they soon realised that while they had focused on the attitude part of the positioning, they also needed to educate the consumers on the functionality aspect of the car. Therefore, in their second campaign, which was done around July 2009, they informed the consumers about the A-Star’s K-Series engine. The third campaign was also done keeping in mind the same target audience, but it also told them that it was not about attitude alone and that the car was internationally acclaimed and that had sold more than 100,000 units in Europe. “The new campaign is about self-belief and it is evident from the TVC that we have made now. It has made the audience more inclusive,” Srivastava added.

A-Star Campaign:
Speaking on the campaign, Srivastava said, “In our third and current campaign, which has been running since January 2010, we have emphasised on self-belief and confidence. The TVC that we have made is about a young person going for an interview and how he impresses all who are present with his self-belief and confidence.” According to Srivastava, what made the TVC endearing was that it told the real life story of an A-Star driver and stated the name of the person too. This, he added, created an instant connect with the audience as it had a person-next-door feel and made the audience entirely inclusive. “It also invites more such stories of self-belief and having faith in himself/ herself from the audience, which will be considered for future TVCs,” Srivastava further said.

New Launches:
Maruti successfully launched the automatic variant of A-Star in August 2010. It catapulted the image of the hatchback to a small niche of automatics in India in its price segment. In September 2010, it launched a unique concept of ‘wrapping’. It is an exclusive accessories pack for the A-Star customer, who now can personalise their A-Star and choose from 16 interesting options. Providing a rationale for coming out with the novel concept, Srivastava said, “Designer car wraps lend novelty, make the user stand out in the crowd and look very attractive. Moreover, Generation-Y, which forms our core target group, is always on the lookout for new accessories to match their personality type.” Each of the 16 designs was meant to bring out the lighter side of the customer, according to Srivastava.

Agency’s perspective:
An official from Captial Advertising commented that A-Star had been and would be portrayed as a compact car that provided the thrill of adventure and the feeling of being successful. A-Star has always been advertised with the tagline of ‘Stop at Nothing’, which shows the attitude that this car has always stood for. Farhan Akhtar was the brand ambassador during the launch and the launch TVC also shared elements with the Bollywood hit film ‘Rock On’ to make it more relatable to the young adult seeking an expression for his passion. The second round of communication was also aimed at like-minded people, addressing them as the ‘Generation A-Star’. The advertising continued with Farhan Akhtar as the brand ambassador with a little more aggressive/potent stance in the advertising (print ads). In addition, a three-city rock show was done with Farhan Akhtar for ‘Generation A-Star’, which totally related with the ‘Rock On’ mania.

The next round of communication highlighted the same attitude through more edgy visuals (without Farhan Akhtar) and the theme of ‘Just Junoon’. ‘Junoon’ was portrayed here as the driving force for the ‘Generation A-Star’.

In the most recent round of communication (ongoing), it digs deeper at the ‘Stop at Nothing’ attitude to highlight that what lies underneath the ‘Junoon’ of youth is the power of self-belief and the confidence to come out of any situation as a winner.

Vikram Puri, Director, British Telecom, said, “A-Star’s advertising has indeed captured the spirit of the youth. They have connected very well with their target group. Their tagline, ‘Stop at Nothing’, personifies the thinking and doing of today’s generation and this is what the A-Star is all about. The ad campaigns have gone where no other car had gone before and it has started a trend of sorts with the competition recognising this group of people as serious contenders for hatchbacks.”

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