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Nissan Micra and the ad campaign


Picture this: Ranbir Kapoor driving around the streets of Mumbai, lip-syncing to a 70s Hindi film song, passing the city’s famous landmarks, and enjoying a smooth drive on the empty roads. Wait. Empty roads? In Mumbai? That’s the catch. You don’t have the luxury of driving on wide, empty roads in today’s cluttered cities. So what does one do to make driving less stressful? Buy the Nissan Micra of course! That is the essence of the new television commercial (TVC) for the car, that comes with the tag-line “Drive Simpler. Live Better”.


Created by ad agency TBWA India, the ad takes a route different from conventional car ads that portray the subjects as status symbols or objects of desire. Instead of harping on the looks or all the state-of-the-art features in one go, the TVCs for this car like to take it one step at a time. “The brief given to the agency was to clearly establish the uniqueness of Nissan brands in the consumers’ minds in a clutter breaking and in a simple but memorable manner,” says Dinesh Jain, CEO, Hover Automotive India, the marketing and sales partner of Nissan Motor India Private Ltd (NMIPL).

“The hatchback segment is pretty competitive in India; so it is important to promote the product features,” says Anand Ramanathan, an analyst with KPMG. And this is precisely what sets the ads apart. Nirmalya Sen, managing director, TBWA India, says, “When the Micra was launched our campaign focused on the innovative features of the car. Now that it has been established, we want to highlight how driving the Micra can be a pleasant experience.”

NMIPL, a 100 per cent subsidiary of Nissan Motor Ltd Japan, was incorporated in India in 2005. The Micra, a late entrant in the Indian hatchback/small car segment, is the company’s first locally manufactured car and was launched in July 2010 with two TVCs that highlighted one product feature each. The company seems to be taking the same strategy forward with two new ads this year that again take up one feature at a time. But the first question that comes to mind is, is there room for new products in the crowded hatchback market in India?

“The hatchback segment has matured over the years and it’s fiercely competitive. However, it’s far from being saturated. There is room for more vehicles that enhance the value for money proposition,” says Jain of Hover Automotive India. “The uniqueness of the Micra lies in its ability to offer a product with features that are segment first, coupled with competitive pricing that sets a benchmark for the industry. There is untapped potential in the segment and we definitely are one of the formidable players here,” he adds.


The race is on
The size of the overall automobile market in India is estimated at Rs 2,15,000 crore and is around 15 million units in volume; of this, roughly 2.3 million vehicles are passenger cars and utility vehicles. The small car/hatchback segment comprises approximately 60 per cent of the passenger vehicle market. The segment witnessed an average annual growth rate of 18.5 per cent between 2006 and 2010. The premium segment of the hatchback market is growing steadily and is led by the Maruti Suzuki Swift; Hyundai i20, Toyota Liva, Ford Figo, Honda Jazz, Fiat Punto etc follow in that order.

Maruti Alto is the leader in the overall compact car category. Hyundai i10 is a distant second and Maruti WagonR the third. Overall, Maruti, Hyundai and Tata Motors command roughly 85 per cent of the compact car market. Nissan holds less than 1 per cent share of this market, according to 2010-11 figures released by the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers.

“The double digit growth numbers in compact car segment has led to a large traction with new players entering the category and existing players launching newer models. All the major players have also announced capacity expansion plans,” informs Ramanathan. “The factor critical for success would be a well-spread dealership network like those of Maruti, which has over 985 sales outlets, Hyundai which has 470 and Tata which boasts of a network of over 620 sales outlets. Being a new player, Nissan may take time to build such an extensive dealer network,” he adds.

In other words, the battle lines have been drawn and the war is expected to be intense. But Nissan is confident. “Our product has one of the best in class fuel efficiency. Features like the intelligent key and push button start/stop that are otherwise available only in high-end luxury cars like BMW, Mercedes etc are available on the Nissan Micra. Thus, it offers more value for money than others in the segment,” says Jain.


Focus on the USPs
The ads for the Micra highlight such unique features. While last year’s ads focused on the “intelligent key” and “push-button start” features, this time the TVCs focus on the short turning radius of the car and its high fuel efficiency. Both the ads use old Hindi film songs in the background and are shot as flashbacks. “The simple point we were trying to highlight was, while we cannot change the condition of the city, we can make driving around a better experience,” says Sen of TBWA India. “That’s why we used the flashbacks, to show the time when there was less traffic on the roads and fuel price was low, and how driving the Micra is like going back in time,” Sen says. “The ads describe the pleasures of city driving in the good old days,” adds Jain of Hover Automotive India.

So can the TVCs propel the Micra, with a price tag of Rs 4.13-Rs 5.45 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi), into the top league? Noted auto columnist Murad Ali Baig feels that “it will take a bit of time till the Micra and Nissan develop a critical mass with their image.” Ramanathan of KPMG feels while these are not breakthrough ads, they serve the purpose of catching the viewers’ attention. “In terms of concept, they have very successfully tried to put the spotlight on the product instead of Ranbir Kapoor. The features they highlight are also relevant to the urban audience.”

Nissan has three other products in the auto luxury segment in India, the Nissan X-Trail (SUV), Nissan Teana (luxury sedan) and the Nissan 370Z (sports car), besides the recently-unveiled made-in-India product, the Sunny. “We are serious about our operations in India. Of the proposed investment of Rs 4,500 crore, we have already invested Rs 2,300 crore. The remaining will be spent on plant expansion, product pipeline, brand awareness, retail expansion etc, thus reinstating our focus on India as one of the most promising markets for Nissan Motor Company, Japan,” notes Jain. 

The car seems to be doing well so far. Between its launch in July 2010 in the petrol version and in December 2010 in a diesel avatar, it managed to capture 5 per cent share of the market.