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Home > Business > Special

Most & least successful Indian brand launches

Meenakshi Radhakrishnan-Swami in New Delhi | January 18, 2006

It's like peering into a trick mirror. Look at the results of the Business Standard annual Brand Derby results one way and they seem to be bearing witness to the evolution of the Indian retail environment.

Turn the charts the other way round and you begin to worry about the future of the consumer goods industry. There's no FMCG product among the top three, or even the five most successful brand launches of the year.

There's just one, solitary representative of the category in the top 10 -- but four FMCG products hold sway among the bottom 10! Instead, the winners --and by much more than a nose -- are an automobile, an airline and a TV reality show.

An overwhelming 80 per cent of the respondents declared Maruti Swift very successful, while 74 per cent gave a thumb's-up to Indian Idol. And new airline Kingfisher found favour with 64 per cent.

Forty-two brands were surveyed for this round of the Brand Derby, conducted by Indica Research among 76 senior marketing professionals in the five metros.

As always -- the Derby is in its 10th year -- respondents were shown a list of brands launched in the past year and asked to rank them as "very successful", "successful" and "not successful." They then selected the brand they considered had fared the worst among the "not successful" brands and were also asked to explain their choices.

10 most successful brand launches




Indian Idol


Kingfisher Airlines




Toyota Innova




Motorola Motorazr


Star One




Fame Gurukul

Not that they really need to justify choosing the Swift as 2005's Brand No.1. The Swift's been on the lips of car connoisseurs since its May 2005 launch. The unconventional design, exciting colours and -- important for Indian consumers across the board -- value-for-money proposition the Swift offered meant it was a clear winner.

It's BS Motoring's Car of the Year -- need we say more? But even as a brand, "clever marketing and refreshing communication" worked in the Swift's favour. Maruti's been pressing on the gas consistently with this one; it's got the pricing and positioning down pat and has begun aggressively advertising the car in print, on TV, in cinema (in last year's blockbuster, Bunty Aur Babli) and now, online.

If Swift's success has been textbook perfect, Indian Idol broke all the rules. A slightly tamer version of the eponymous American hit show -- judges in the desi version were merely rude, not vitriolic -- Indian Idol brought the show into the living rooms and lives of its audience.

But they weren't just viewers, they were participants, whose text messages decided the fates of the singers on stage. Loud pre-launch publicity, several rags-to-riches stories, and a chance for TV viewers to vicariously live someone else's dreams of stardom -- in retrospect, Indian Idol couldn't have not succeeded.

Kingfisher Airlines, on the other hand, was all about dreams come true. Derby respondents seem as dazzled by the airline's flamboyant owner -- brewery magnate Vijay Mallya -- as they are by the brand that was, in the words of brand consultant Harish Bijoor, "originally a bird, became a beer, and is now a plane."

"Glamorous communications", "aggressive advertising" and the Mallya-Kingfisher pedigree combined to convince a staggering 94 per cent of the respondents that the airline is a success, with 64 per cent saying it is "very successful."

3 least successful brand launches


Hyundai Tuscan


Zee Sports


Dove Bodywash

Not all brands surveyed in the Brand Derby were as lucky, or as universally lauded. More than half of those polled (58 per cent) voted against the Hyundai Tucson, with 8 per cent declaring it the least successful of the 42 brands surveyed.

The trouble lay in a mismatch between product and positioning. "This is a me-too product," dismissed one interviewee, while another felt the Tucson did not project the right image for a "rough and tough vehicle."

The other auto brand that came out of the Derby rather bruised and battered is Ford Fusion. Although only 39 per cent of those polled declared it unsuccessful, 11 per cent felt it was the least successful launch of the year gone by. That's the highest score among the also-rans of 2005.

Respondents tore into Fusion's positioning, saying it was "confused" and "didn't meet expectations" -- "Ford claims Fusion is an SUV, but it doesn't look like one," was a frequently heard complaint.

In comparison, the other two "not successful" brands fared slightly better -- while only two respondents cited Zee Sports as the least successful launch of 2005, Dove Bodywash didn't figure at the bottom of the pile for any respondent.

Of course, the two brands did have their share of critics: 45 per cent believed Zee Sports was not successful,while 43 felt the same way about Dove Bodywash. The reason: lack of visibility. "We are hardly aware of its existence," said one reviewer. The way out for both brands, then, is clear.

The Brand Derby also includes one brand that deserves special mention, although it's neither among the top nor the bottom three. Beyblade began as just another animated cartoon series, but rapidly metamorphosed into a mania that swept school-going children across the country.

And that too, without any advertising. What was basically a souped-up spinning top became the must-have toy of the year -- on second thought, make that toys, because new variants of Beyblade hit toy store shelves faster than children bought them.

The Derby does reflect that passion to some degree -- Beyblade is No. 6 on the list of very successful brands, with half the respondents placing it there. Of course, 32 per cent said they didn't know the brand, underlining its niche appeal. But remember the trick mirrors: what appears niche from one angle, when viewed differently turns out to be mainstream.

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