Brand imagery is always a cause of concern for marketers. Pitching a product with a right imagery is a tough task which every marketer agree with. The biggest risk is that once a wrong image is made the reversal is seldom possible. Tata Nano is a classic example of poor brand imagery. Usually marketers recognize this trap very late as they tend to believe in numbers and profitability. The product may be profitable initially due to a sudden hype but long term success is a paradox.
Japanese car maker Toyota along with Kirloskar Ltd. started its operation in India in late 1990s. Since its inception Toyota is known for its quality and style best suited for the upmarket. The first model from Toyota in India “Toyota Qualis” was a colossal winner as it killed the likes of TATA Sumo and became market leader in the category. The overwhelming success was followed by a poor imagery as Qualis got prominence in Taxi fleets. Hence they even pull out the brand from the market and came with Toyota Innova. However, Innova also enjoys its predominance in the taxi sector. The Etios and Etios Liva launched in the market with a tag ‘Made for India’ targeting the middle income segment also followed the suit. Consequently, the cars from Toyota were opted out by personal car buyers.
For a country like India, car is still an aspirational product. It is been considered as a status symbol. So a car which is been a predominant taxi fails to aspire people. To stay relevant in the market Toyota definitely has to appeal the personal buyers. Very recently Toyota launched the ‘Platinum Etios’ in the Rs. 7 – 9 lakhs segment. The competitors in the segment are Maruti Ciaz, Hyundai Verna, Honda City etc. Since MUVs like Ertiga also is in the same range they can also contribute to competition. The Platinum Etios comes with a new front and rear bumper, front grille, fog lamp, enhanced cabin space, a large boot and plush new interiors. In addition, a host of safety features like ABS, dual front airbags for driver and passenger and child seat locks complete the picture. Thus it matches with the competition.
But, the real challenge lies in giving a different imagery. The new commercial of Platinum Etios explains all the benefits and appeals to a family (Read aspirational personal buyer). It has developed a 3600 campaign to communicate with the target audience. As the Indian consumer look for “more for less” proposition, only time can determine the success of Platinum Etios. The only sweet spot is the evolving consumer behaviour, thanks to Uber/Ola. A new segment of ‘not owning a car by choice’ can in long run alter the way consumer view a car and may come to the rescue of Toyota.