Automakers get innovative to shore up sales – The Economic Times

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KOLKATA: Automakers like General Motors, Maruti, Hyundai Motor to Tata Motors are trying to drive sales by exploring diverse offbeat marketing initiatives in a fiercely competitive turf.

From teaming with retailers to hosting rock concerts to using the digital media or even social networking sites, these companies are embracing myriad out-of-the-box strategies to promote their machines.

While General Motors is teaming up with retail biggies or organising rock concerts to market its products, Maruti, Hyundai Motor and Tata Motors are using the digital media and social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter to shore up sales. These initiatives, which are largely targeted at people under 35 years, are yielding decent volumes.

General Motors, for instance, has teamed up with Levi’s to create a buzz around its newly launched, Chevy Beat. “A few Chevy Beats will be on display at Levi’s retail outlets so that customers can get a feel of the car. Rock concerts are also a decent marketing tool for promoting a car. We’ve used this tool once and may do so in future,” said Mr P. Balendran, VP, GM India.

Incidentally, GM has recently undertaken pub activities to promote music in select cities which eventually culminated into a rock concert featuring Bollywood actor Saif Ali Khan and the country’s premier rock band ‘Parikrama’ in Bangalore. “This was a huge draw,” he added.

A closer look at GM’s sales figures confirms that these initiatives have been well received by customers. “If you look at first quarter 2010 figures, we have sold 31,862 units registering a growth of 130% over the corresponding period of previous year,” said the GM India VP. Tata Motors and GM have used social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and Orkut to gauge product popularity.

“Tata Nano is very active on Facebook and Twitter. We’ve also used a virtual marketing tool for promoting the Tata Indigo Manza and Indica Vista range. The online reputation management through social networking sites is the immediate barometer of effectiveness in the communications strategy. We get real-time reactions from the target group which gives us an understanding of an emerging trend. This also influences customer decisions which eventually gets translated into sales,” said a Tata Motors spokesman.

Maruti Suzuki and Hyundai Motor are using digital media in a big way to market their products. Hyundai started its digital initiative in 2009. Arvind Saxena, director (marketing & sales) at Hyundai Motor India, said the company plans to launch an i20 fan club for i20 customers.

“This is being kicked off to bond our existing i20 customers with Hyundai and also make them loyal to Hyundai so that when they want to upgrade they consider Hyundai as their first choice. We are also looking at rural marketing to ge closer to tier 2 and tier 3 town customers to expand our reach and sales,” said Mr Saxena.

Maruti will leverage new age platforms like Affle SMS 2.0, mobile marketing through SMS, IVRS (interactive voice response system), digital video screens like OOH, LiveMedia, SocialMedia along with a consistent presence on key search platforms like Google, Yahoo! et all.

“We are pleased with the response. For instance, in the A-Star launch on SMS 2.0, we had a CTR (click through response) of 5% and in a recent campaign, which we ran for Eeco and K-series engine centred around the IPL on mobile platform, we had a huge CTR of 11%,” said Shashank Srivastava, chief general manager (marketing ) at Maruti Suzuki.

The new marketing initiatives have been successful in the metros and in northern and western regions of the country. Brand strategist Harish Bijoor feels the auto marketing in the country is on morph mode in India. Auto companies do realise that driving footfalls into their dealerships is a difficult exercise. There are just too many options and variants around.

“A great way to go-to-market is to piggy back on other brands, other retail formats and walk-ins that result into them. This is especially relevant to auto marketers when their offerings are packing visual appetite appeal. Such cross-branding , cross-display and cross-advertising work will deliver for sure. There is plenty of innovation possibility here, and we are just witnessing the tip of the iceberg of off-shoot marketing and branding work in this space,” added Mr Bijoor.