Maruti or Suzuki or Nexa or S Cross: killing two birds with one arrow is bad strategy

First came the teaser campaign on television which left audience to wonder what Nexa is. The ad campaign used ambiguity route to creating curiosity to capture attention in otherwise highly cluttered communication scene. These were sleek and finely executed and managed indeed to build expectations that something premium is being launched. The clues that made up the ad- words like ‘feeling’, ‘joyous’, ‘amazing’, ‘pure’, ‘indulgence’, and ‘exclusive’ coupled with visuals of fast moving light, finely cut suit, smart men, expensive watch, trimmed beard, close up of eyes, and expensive box (probably containing keys)- did manage to create an impression of upscale and out of the ordinary. But it was not a campaign for car, as one thought initially. Rather it was campaign of a new car showroom.
The company, Maruti Suzuki launched new branded showrooms with proposition – ‘new hospitality experience’. The purpose is to sell high end vehicles though these Nexa showrooms. The company claims to have hired staff with experience in hospitality and aviation with the focus that these sectors equip their people to deal with wealth customers with high soft and communication skills.
The bread-and-butter Altos and Swifts won’t be retailed at these outlets. The NEXA-branded showrooms will try attracting customers looking to buy vehicles priced Rs 8 lakh and above.
The showroom ads were followed by the launch of X Cross, cross sports utility vehicle. The car is designed to have looks and style distinctively different from its current range. And its print communication reminds of ads of Mercedes Benz (may be due to similarity in font) and ad format.
This twin salvo is aimed to help the company shed its dilute its image of mass car producer to move up the price point. The company has already experienced failures in its earlier attempts to move up the car hierarchy with variants like SX4, Balneno and Kizashi. To undo what it did in past the company the company is seeking to produce high end cars with greater engineering, performance and appearance coupled with new branded channel of distribution (superior in store experience).
In supposedly an innovative way, the company is seeking to reach out the premium customers with premium branded showroom experience. The question arises, is this actually a right move to cater to a segment which earlier refused to patronize Maruti Suzuki’s premium vehicles? And was this rejection based on lack of availability of ‘branded showrooms’ and ‘hospitality experience’?

The ads of S Cross which zoom in on a swanky finely crafted car to reveal its identity through ‘S’ letter on the grill comes as an anti-climax. The hype build by Next and cleaver maneuvering of camera in introducing the vehicle does what it is not suppose to achieve- it is an “S” or ‘M’ car. It should have been a ‘N’ car distantly related to Maruti-Suzuki. But ‘S’ on the grill makes is closer to ‘M’ which is what led to rejection of company’s premium entries. The customers did not reject Maruti’s premium cars on the grounds of their performance. The rejection was due to imagery and perception.

Nexa, different exclusive branded showrooms is a good attempt to physical separation of customers and brands-mass and premium. But car branding reverses it. The premium segment play is certainly about performance, but it only operates at hygiene level. The motivation operates at the psychological level. The most important reason to buy a premium product/brand is to achieve distance from the mass- at psychological level. But ‘S’ and ‘M’ on the premium offerings of Maruti-Suzuki would continue to hound it like an invisible ghost. The lure to leverage brand equity directly sometimes proves fatal, the Company should have learnt it long time back.


4 thoughts on “Maruti or Suzuki or Nexa or S Cross: killing two birds with one arrow is bad strategy

  1. I was there in the meeting when they were discussing launching Kizashi in India. We were of the opinion that Kizashi should not have anything to do with Maruti or Suzuki. But marketing director thought they want to leverage MS equity for Kizashi. And MS did lent it’s equity to Kizashi by killing it altogether. They dint learn anything from Lexus it seems. In Indian context S=M. Japanese need to realise this. As far as showrooms are concerned, much needed solution as most of the showrooms resemble a single screen theatre showing a Salman Khan movie. 😀

  2. Looks like Maruti is not ready to accept and learn about Toyota and Lexus strategy.
    In our society, Car (or any luxury product) is are used as proxy instruments to measure one’s persona and position in societal hierarchy system. As you rightly said, S or M on product might limit or even damage the perception being built about NEXA.

    I remember even Bajaj could not achieve much success in performance bikes till they used their old logo on their performance bikes; old logo used to remind people of mass products like toasters, electric oven and other small insignifact, uninteresting products which Bajaj used to make. A change in Logo (and offcurse change in product specs, style and performance) has made Pulsar one of the highest selling model in India

  3. Japanese manufacturer should learn to design the cars. Recent changes in Indian market shows that Indian brands are very competitive in design as well as costume effective products. I love the way mahindra and tata is pushing thier new products. Designs are way ahead of Japanese manufacturer. We are proud of it and I am sure they will compete globally with such efforts. Go india go india.

    • The next wave of competition is going to be on design. Look how Maruti has played a smart game by designing their Balneno and Brezza very close to very high end apirational cars like X1 and Land Rover.

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