October 8, 2010

Volkswagen India: Poor Branding

Germany, in India, has been known for Mercedes, Engineering, Football & Hitler. The consuming class in India loves the well established powerful brand equity of trust, engineering & solid quality of Made in Germany products.  All that has been altered by a dramatic full page ‘talking print advertisement’ by Europe’s largest car maker Volkswagen for the launch of a ‘luxury’ car into the fast expanding Indian passenger car market. The agency & the MarCom head at Volkswagen India has been all over the media claiming success of their strategy to get greater bang with smaller buck.

Lets us not get into the structure & size of the Indian car market but let us understand that the forecast of passenger car segment for the year 2010-11 is pegged at around 2.25 million units. And we all know that the largest share of this market goes to small car segments. Volkswagen does not have products in sub 4.5 lac segment as yet.  But I would like to analyze the issues that were the target of this interesting media innovation.

When MUL had launched their ALTO years ago with huge decibel level generating mega campaign so that masses could feel the launch it did not help them getting the trust of the customers. Volkswagen innovation is in sheer bad taste for the way Indian consumer behaves. Having a Chinese contraption blurting out crude words about an aspirational involvement product associated with serious engineering pedigree could only have worked to discourage the prospective buyers. My research with students at b-schools has established it beyond doubt that the talking innovation lacked the sophistication required for a serious product like a german car. I am afraid that some other innovative marketing guy may not suggest a similar company to get the car endorsed by a Swami to get immediate adulation.

If their budgets were tight then a full page bleed could easily be hived into two 40x6 releases to get greater OTS. Volkswagen India has to learn their India lessons by understanding the Indian car market, the buying behavior and socio-economic profile of Indian car buyers.  There are various serious ways to involve the customers with the product than vain media innovations meant to entertain the agency/media guys only.

This certainly is a body blow to the Volkswagen brand & the image of Made in Germany in Indian market.

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