Saturday, December 17, 2016

Hush Puppies – Casual but Formal

The success on any company is entwined with the innovation quotient of the company.  The knowledge of the consumer is the heart of any innovation. Your innovation today will be the trend of tomorrow. The footwear industry is no exception. The companies in the footwear space are also coming up with innovations but do they reach the consumer is to be discussed.

The consumer of India, likes to be casual as well as formals. They love wearing a tie, a formal shirt etc. in office while the opposite i.e. wearing jeans, casuals shoes etc. is chosen for informal situations. The inflection point to me in the consumer behaviour is that there is an overlap happened in dressing and grooming. The consumers now have a trendy beard as well as trendy hair styles while having trousers and suites (read in formal situations). So now the order of the day is ‘forcasual’ (formal as well as casual). Even the fabric giant Raymonds was forced to respond to this change in life style(recently they launched a campaign stating that colour white is not exclusively formal now but there are other occasions).

Hush Puppies, an international footwear brand started in 1958 has deep-rooted experience in innovation. They were the first to invent the truly casual shoes and also have developed dozens of patented technologies that make its shoes more comfortable, lightweight and worry-free. The segmentation used is a mix of demographic, psychographic as well as occasions. Hush puppies have in their portfolio foot wear for men, women and kids, casual and formal in the Active sports and premium space. The USP of the company is their innovation. 

For instance their ‘The Body Shoe’ line is a unique innovation like a bevelled heel and toe that increases walking efficiency by encouraging easier, smoother, more natural walking motion; an exceptional fit created by using anatomically correct moulds so the shoe envelops the foot, and a multi-density foot bed with Ortholite foam in the arch and Poron foam in the heel and ball of the foot; an advanced climate control system composed of Ortholite foam footbeds to wick away moisture. This have addressed even the trivial problems a consumer faces.

The significant feature to me in this brand is that you can use the shoe for both formal as well as casual situations. It has touched the sweet spot of a consumer. A formal shoe is always priced premium. A typical middle class can’t afford to buy one more for casual occasions. Hush Puppies come with a sole of a casual shoe and the remaining formal which makes it apt for any occasion. The brand now is gaining popularity in the country as it is available in leading BATA outlets apart from being available online.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Lifebuoy – Buoyed with Life

It is always a product manager’s dream to have a product/ brand which is 122 years old and still extremely relevant. Brands usually die over a period of time unless its brand characteristics are altered. Sustaining the brand equity is a herculean task considering the level of competition brands face today. Brand loyalty per se seems to be fading away. However, one brand i.e. Lifebuoy is far from dead internationally. The brand is dominating the market in India and other emerging countries, with a fourth place ranking in Kantor World Panel’s 2015 valuation of users and their buying frequency of 11,000 global brands in 35 countries—only falling behind Coca-Cola, Colgate, and Maggi(

Lifebuoy launched in the year 1894, was originally a carbolic soap with phenol inside. The red bar of lifebuoy was synonymous to health.  The jingle ‘Thanthurusthi ki Raksha” was one among the jingles with high customer recall.  Since inception the segmentation was benefit segmentation (even though it can also be considered as mass market product). Later, they upgraded it as a family soap with change in product features as well as ingredients in order to combat competition in the market. In fact Lifebuoy launched a variant which was white in colour containing milk in it. The company even tried to position it a beauty soap but later that variant was withdrawn from the market. However, the market was tough for lifebuoy when the consumer focus shifted towards perfumed soaps/ beauty soaps and they considered Lifebuoy only as a medicated/ health soap.

The twist to the tale happened when added the CSR element into their Health and hygiene positioning. Various campaigns like “Help a Child Reach 5”, Did you wash your hands with Lifebuoy today?” on over 2.5 million pieces of “rotis” during Maha Kumbh Mela etc. triggered customer attention towards the brand. The company also educated mothers the importance of being hygienic as 40% of infant deaths in India occur during the first 28 days of life. Thus a brand which was just a medicated soap suddenly became a solution for a critical cause of a society. They through all their campaigns tried to alter the consumer behaviour i.e. health habits of the rural consumer. Thus Lifebuoy brand relevance increased.

Currently HUL sells soaps and hand washes under the Lifebuoy brand catering to different benefits. For example Lifebuoy Mild Care is for sensitive skin while Lifebuoy Nature is purely natural. It also sells Lifebuoy Total addressing 10 germ protection and Lifebuoy Lemon Fresh with Lemon in it. All have the base positioning as germ protection. Even though Lifebuoy have competitors like Dettol and Savlon in the health space they are nowhere near Lifebuoy for the time being.

I feel that Lifebuoy which may appear to be in the fag end of its life cycle is turning things otherwise buoyed with more life.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Bombay Dyeing – Slowly Dieing

Being born in a typical South Indian middle class family, the name Bombay Dyeing is very common to me. I still remember the days I visited a Bombay Dyeing showroom with my parents browsing through the stack to buy shirt pieces to the whole family. I feel proud to tell my friends that I am wearing a Bombay Dyeing. It was a Raymonds for the middle class. The Bombay Dyeing written in yellow letters in a blue background triggers a nostalgia even today. It is painful to realise that it has lost its mojo and is dieing slowly.

Bombay Dyeing, the Nusli Wadia promoted brand is having a legacy of 137 years. Bombay Dyeing sells linens, towels, leisure clothing, kids wear and other products, albeit they are best known for men’s fabrics and home furnishing. The company now officially announced its exit from manufacturing and focussing more on retailing.

I personally feel that Bombay Dyeing failed to move ahead with competition. One contributing factor was the polarisation of consumer towards readymade garments. Despite the fact they introduced readymade garments they failed to amaze the youth of today. The idea of buying a fabric piece and stitching it is a cumbersome process for many and so people rely on convenience (Read buy readymade wear). The home furnishing products such as bed sheets, curtains also lost its market to the unorganised sector, as well as imports from Taiwan, China and Bangladesh. Their products were available in wide variety and competitive price than Bombay Dyeing. The stores also missed the modern outlook which eventually made the consumer stay away from Bombay Dyeing.

The middle class which is the primary segment of the brand also got evolved drastically which added to the woes. They look for best deals which enhances value and prestige to them. The pale blue, yellow combination logo as well gave a shabby look for the brand (Read the typical middle class of the yesteryears). Furthermore, lack of innovation have to be highlighted. Raymonds stays relevant even today only due to the innovation in their whole approach starting from product to communication which Bombay Dyeing missed.

Amidst all, I feel that the Brand Trust has not faded away. So a repositioning can revitalise the brand. But the biggest challenge is that it has to ensure quality in the product (Since they stopped manufacturing, they have to rely on multiple vendors). The rebranding exercise must include all elements of the brand especially the logo and store.

But whether it is death or rebirth only time can decide.