Engine oil brand Castrol has chosen the activist route for advertising with its new campaign. Kedar Apte, VP - Marketing, Castrol India tells us why the brand decided to do something different and elaborates on the challenges associated with the category
BY NEETA NAIR
Q] What was the insight behind Castrol’s latest campaign ‘Protecting what is precious’?
Castrol Activ is our leading brand that targets young consumers. However, we have a challenge with respect to the fact that as a lubricant that goes inside the vehicle, we cannot play on the touch and feel factor or appeal to five senses through color or fragrance, thereby restricting the variables in marketing that we can bank on. That’s why with this campaign we have taken a very different route. We noticed that today’s consumer- the youth - really wants to do a lot of good and they often get together to promote a cause. And in India a lot of these young consumers have a bike which becomes their ally in doing good. We have projected Castrol Activ as the ally of this bike and our campaign as the enabler for doing good. So, while consumers want to do a lot of good, they have the backing of Castrol Activ to always protect their bikes. And it’s a nice way of talking about a brand without mentioning how the brand is very strong on functional credentials. In fact for several years, we have only highlighted the functional credentials in our ads. So we feel this is really a good emotional way of connecting with the youth.
Q] A lot of brands take pride in taking the activist route for brand building, does that provide a better connect as opposed to a product based-ad which highlights features?
I think it really depends on the stage where the brand is. Now we of course keep on measuring brand health and on functional credentials, our brand is very strong. We are the clear market leaders as well. So, the attempt is to build a very strong emotional bond with the consumer. And so far we have got great feedback for this campaign.
Q] What is your marketing mix for the campaign? And which medium is the focus of your ad spends?
It’s largely TV-centric. And of course now no campaign is complete without Digital. So, we are complementing TV with a lot of amplifications on Digital. Our Digital spends are in double digits in the overall media mix and it’s increasing every year.
Q] For a brand like Castrol, who is the core target audience - the end consumer or the garage mechanic who advises the end consumer in picking Castrol?
We always talk about this relationship between a consumer, mechanic and the dealer. In different categories, the decision makers are different. We keep on measuring the influence of the mechanic; largely in the cars category mechanics play a huge role, while for bikes, we are seeing consumers get more and more involved. You will be really surprised to know that a lot of youth today are reading the manuals of the bike, calling the call center of the original equipment manufacturer and so on. They are clearly seeking more and more information about the category. Thus, our target audience is largely a combination of the consumers and mechanics, because even if the consumer has a brand choice, it’s subject to being endorsed by the mechanic.
Q] In that case, what are the different innovative ways through which you are trying to build a connect with mechanics?
We are doing that in two ways; first for the car category. In some of the key cities, we have what we call a ‘mobile unit’ which goes from mechanic to mechanic, explaining the brand proposition. We have been doing this for the last four to five years. And while talking about the brand proposition, we also focus on building their skills and capabilities. Last year we also launched ‘Castrol Super Mechanic’, an initiative for ‘Bike Mechanics’. This program aims at up-skilling mechanics, taking a test and rewarding the best skilled mechanics. We ran this program almost throughout the year where more than 60,000 mechanics participated in the contest. We did eight regional rounds and one national round that involved theory as well as practical, where we gave them a bike with a certain problem and asked them to repair it. Three of them were declared India’s best mechanics who then went on to participate in Asia’s Best Mechanics contest.
Q] How do you approach the commercial categories, like the truck and bus drivers?
Largely this is undertaken via BTL activations, because once the truck drivers hit the road, they don’t return home for three to four days. However, there are some points where they take a pause, the dhabas, etc; that’s where we do our activations. After all, they are not exposed to media the way bike consumers are.
Q] What is the current market share for Castrol in the lubricant category and what is the target market share?
It’s more than 20%. We are the undisputed market leaders and our market share is double that of the next competitor. This category is highly fragmented with multinationals as well as national oil companies, but we believe that good can always get better.
Q] What is the biggest challenge associated with the category?
A big problem is that it is a technical category which consumers don’t largely understand. So, the challenge is how to use a different language for consumers and mechanics and customize communication for consumers in a language that they understand.
Q] Looking ahead, what areas would be the biggest growth drivers for Castrol?
Overall, personal mobility has been driving growth for us and that is something that will continue, because now every two seconds, a new bike is born in India. So, there is a whole new generation of bikers being born every minute. Cars are growing rapidly as well. And that has been our growth area. Similarly, the commercial category is also a growth driver for us because as all indicators demonstrate, the economy is looking up; issues like GST and demonetization are behind us, which is reflecting in sales of commercial vehicles. However, in the long run, personal mobility will continue to drive growth. And in this segment again, we have some specific brands that we call ‘power brands‘, like Castrol Activ, Castrol Magnetic, etc, which will continue to drive growth for us.
Q] Where does India stand as a market when you compare it to the other international markets which Castrol operates in?
India is one of the top markets for Castrol. And even within India, we are present across all zones and categories. In fact, currently over 50% of bike sales are coming from rural areas, which is an interesting change. So rural is increasingly growing as far as contribution to sales is concerned for Castrol.
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