With a fresh positioning for its premium hatchback Jazz, Honda is going all out to capture the attention of millenials with its new ‘Sexy and I Know It’ campaign. Jnaneswar Sen, Senior VP, Honda Cars India, talks about the brand’s efforts to be consistent in its offering to its consumers
BY SAMARPITA BANERJEE
Q] Honda has refreshed Honda Jazz’s positioning with the latest ‘Sexy… And I know it’ campaign. Why the re-positioning?
We have been selling the current generation of Jazz for over two years now. In these two years, we have sold around 82,000 cars. The car has created a position for itself in the premium hatchback market. However, it’s not a fresh product anymore and we wanted to come up with something new. The customer profile of Jazz is fairly varied and we have a wide spectrum of people buying, in terms of age. We wanted to connect better with the younger TG, and hence the repositioning.
Q] Why did you think of taking the webisodes route?
The webisode is just one part of the whole activity where we have involved popular personalities such as comedian Mallika Dua and AIB’s Rohan Joshi. We have released four webisodes so far, each of which has received over a million views on Facebook and YouTube. I believe the campaign is working. We are also using Print, Outdoor and are heavy on Digital. Owing to its differentiated form-factor, Jazz has often being termed ahead of its time. We had to latch onto that, taking into account the younger TG. This TG is evolving at a fairly fast pace. We wanted to connect with the changing mindset of this younger TG and it all started off with the line, ‘Sexy And I Know It’.
Q] Is the tagline inspired by the song ‘Sexy and I know it’ by LMFAO?
Not really. Once we had the line, we did debate internally about whether people would connect with the song or not but we still decided to go ahead with it. The thought process behind the line is that for millennials, the conventional way of thinking is not applicable. When we say sexy, we mean standing out because of uniqueness, or because of some interesting activities, something out of the ordinary. We aren’t using sexy as in the traditional way, but more from a thought angle. We feel the car is anti-ordinary. We never intended to use anti-ordinary as a communication line, but sexy was an articulation of anti-ordinary.
Q] Has there been a shift in the buying pattern of consumers? Are more youngsters buying premium cars?
Absolutely! We believe that millennials don’t want to own basic products anymore and it was very important for us to connect with them.
Q] How has the Goods & Services Tax (GST) affected you? Are things back on track now?
If we talk about our preparedness for GST, there never was an issue. However, in the months of May and June, there was a lot of confusion in the market because different people were saying different things. There was a bit of a slowdown in the second half of May in terms of sales. However, things picked up in June because we told customers that whatever be the price, if you buy now and if there is a reduction in cost due to GST, we will reimburse the amount. In July, post the implementation of GST, the prices of the cars did go down a bit. Around 30-40% of our customers are businessmen and many of them were involved in setting things right for their own business and being GST ready. In July, the entire industry from a retail perspective was damp. In August, the dust has settled largely. There is still one blooming uncertainty. The government recently announced that it may increase the cess on luxury cars and since there is no fixed definition of what a luxury car is, we don’t know what’s going to happen.
Q] Your July 2017 sales saw a 22% growth over last year’s sales for the same period. What are the factors contributing to Honda’s growth?
Between April and July, we were growing at 21%. Several factors contributed to the growth - the new Honda City has been doing extremely well. We had also launched the Honda WR-V in March and it has been a big hit in the market. Jazz and the other models are pretty stable too, so overall we are growing.
Q] How are you leveraging your dealer network to engage with consumers? How important is the touch and feel factor?
There are many dimensions to reaching out, and the most critical is our network. Today, we have a presence and dealerships in 235 cities across the country, which is a key enabler. As far as media is concerned, we are tapping all different mediums. However, in the case of cars, touch and feel is critical. We do a lot of ground level activations and BTL. There are so many large corporate campuses and BPOs where the younger population works. We regularly organize road shows there. We are also covering a lot of malls across the country, where we are displaying the City and the WR-V. That is one end of the spectrum, the other end being our wide presence in 235 cities. We also go out to smaller towns and do road shows there.
Q] How different are your marketing strategies for these smaller towns?
The aspirations in small towns are not very different from that in the metros. The consumer expectation from Honda, whether it’s in Delhi or Dibrugarh, is quite similar. The brand essence is the same across the country. In Delhi, we typically go with an English communication, but in a smaller town, we use vernacular languages. We also come up with activities or communications around festivals. For example, the Onam season in Kerala is a big buying season. So, the flavor of Onam is now present in all our communications for the State of Kerala.
Q] After-sales service is an important determinant when it comes to buying a car. What are you doing to enhance the consumer’s experience?
To gain the trust of a consumer through word of mouth, after-sales experience is critical. In the case of automobiles, this can make or break a brand. Every year, market research company J. D. Power conducts a customer satisfaction survey for all brands. We are a joint Number One along with Maruti Suzuki. And that’s the customer’s voice. It is very important to get your basics right. You should provide a good quality of service at a reasonable cost. The customer leaves his car at the centre for a few hours and our efforts are towards ensuring that he gets it back on time. These are a few fundamentals that we keep focusing on.
Q] With a lot of ride-sharing platforms coming in, has there been a dip in car sales over the past few years?
We haven’t seen that yet in the industry and the reason is simple. Car penetration in India is one of the lowest in the world. Even neighboring countries like Sri Lanka have higher car penetration than India. When you look at it from that perspective, you can imagine the number of cars that can possibly be sold. Also, the aspiration to own a car is still quite strong among Indians. Car is a very visible symbol of status. While Ola and Uber will give you some amount of freedom of an impact.
Q] Are there plans of getting electric cars in India?
There is a lot of talk around it but we haven’t concretized anything so far.
Q] What is your current market-share in India?
In the segments that we are present, our market-share between April and July was 8.8%.
Q] What are the challenges you face in the Indian market?
Fragmentation of media is a challenge. Also, the society is evolving fast, so how do you build a constant connect? However, we don’t look at this as a challenge. Building that connect is a part of our job, and a continuous process.