Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Rooh Afza - A Seasoned Player

A brand stays relevant for more than a century! Surely it will catch the attention of brand experts. As a curious brand analyst, I also felt excited about the brand. The catch is that no extension has been done as of now. How can a brand survive in a market overpowered by MNC giants with their carbonated and non-carbonated beverages? How can a brand be effective to all changing consumer preferences? The brand Rooh Afza has something to say.

Rooh Afza launched in the year 1907 was the first syrup presented to the people which combined visual beauty with the essence and virtues of other traditional syrups. Its distinctive colour, taste, and fragrance made it unique among the consumers of that time. It was primarily a seasonal product i.e. was extensively used using summer in “sharbat”. Their captive market even today is mostly North India but are now eager to make it a National brand.

Even though using syrup at home was common in those days, it was widely used by sharbat vendors. The syrup formula was available in almost all fruit flavours and also vegetables like palak, pudina and hara ghia. Rooh Afza is the first sharbat for which white bottles of uniform size (750ml.) and almost of the same shape, which was called ‘pole’ bottles, were obtained. This innovation was the hallmark of the success of the brand then. The pricing was higher and so targeted only the upper sections of the society.

As the brand was unique the company spend on promotion was meager earlier. But the advent of competition from MNC giants made them rope in Juhi Chawla to endorse the brand during the early 2000s. They also carried on below the line techniques to maintain connections with resident associations preventing a further dip in volumes. In 2010, Chef Nita Mehta was roped in by Hamdard Laboratories to create new mocktail and dessert recipes for Rooh Afza. As a brand enthusiast, I feel this is the best strategy to reinforce your brand i.e. find new uses for your brand. Rooh Afza managed to have a close association with Ramadan as it was served in all iftar parties (read. Associating religion and brand enhance brand awareness as well as relevance). Rooh Afza was positioned as the healthy alternative as artificial flavours or fats are absent. The commercials talk about freshness and energy which go in line with the USP(Watch:

Given all the positives, I strongly presume that the brand failed in impressing the Gen Y as well as Gen Z as they are the strong market for soft drinks or smoothies. Also, they lagged in markets like Andhra and Tamil Nadu where the summer is long.

Taking the cue from the market, very recently they entered into the estimated Rs 7000 crore ready-to-drink beverage segment with Rooh Afza Fusion. As there is a surge in consumer health consciousness of the consumer, they have retained their health proposition to combat competition. But the major brands Tropicana and Real also use the same proposition which happened to be the point of parity. But the point of difference is the presence of ten different herbs along with fruit juice. The pricing of the product is also on par with the competition. RoohAfza Fusion comes in five flavors, namely Refreshing Lemon, Delicious Orange, Juicy Mango, Exciting Pineapple & Orange and Luscious Litchi.

My take is that they are very late in a market where we already have highly established players. Borrowing the words of David Aaker, in order for a brand to be relevant, they have to create a new category as their extension. In this case, no new category is created. Besides, it is very difficult to shake a category where consumer brand awareness is very high. Since Gen Y and Z are not truly brand loyal Fusion can induce product trial. But can it sustain is often doubtful? Paperboat, for instance, came as a disruptor but I feel they failed in satisfying the mass. They now remain a market niche with a reasonably good fan base. Will fusion be treated as me – Too brand? Anyway an aggressive campaign is missing.

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