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How Motorola captured second spot in Nokia country

By Prasad Sangameshwaran in Mumbai
October 23, 2007 03:07 IST
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Take a second look at Loveleen Raina's email signature -- the word "Razr" appears before her cellphone number.

Ogilvy & Mather's vice president, account management, isn't above a bit of subtle promotion of the handset brand she manages. It helps that Motorola's sub-brands have catchy names like Razr, Pebl and Flip, a unique differentiator in a market dominated by numbers and cutting-edge codenames.

But then, a market leader like Nokia doesn't need to resort to such attention-grabbing tactics, in India, at least. As Raina herself admits, "India is a Nokia country." For her client, that inescapable truth has been the cause of sleepless nights for over a decade.

Until last year, that is. In the past year, Motorola scrambled up the ladder to become the No. 2 GSM handset brand in the country, with a 15 per cent market share.

A lot of that is due to a sustained, targeted communication initiative, which was given due recognition early this month when Motorola bagged a silver and a gold at the Effie 2007 advertising effectiveness awards.

The achievement in marketshare is noteworthy. Even though Motorola was among the first to enter the Indian cellular phone market when services began in the mid-1990s, it did not make much headway. Even a decade later, in December 2005, Motorola's market share was a pitiful 2.6 per cent.

Meanwhile, Finnish giant Nokia had staked claim to 80.5 per cent (yes, you read right) of the market. Motorola needed to get its act together -- and fast. With 150 million mobile users, the Indian market is second only to China in subscriber numbers.

Moreover, cellular service providers are adding about 6 million subscribers every month and no serious global player can risk being marginalised in this exploding market.

The challenges facing Motorola at the start of 2006 were significant and daunting. First, consumers had no belief in the brand.

"Motorola had no support from retail, trade, opinion leaders and consumers," recalls Raina. Then, competition seemed undefeatable. Nokia claimed the lion's share, of course. But Sony Ericsson, Samsung and LG were gaining popularity, thanks to their presence in the durables market.

Motorola's ambition was undisguised: it wanted to occupy the No. 2 slot. "Our strategic objectives were to enhance distribution, make the brand cooler, widen our product portfolio and have an active collaboration with cellular service providers," says Lloyd Mathias, director, marketing, Motorola India.

The brief to its agency, therefore: improve brand awareness scores, create a desire for Motorola among consumers and re-build confidence among  retailers, trade and opinion leaders. But considering the brand had been all but written off  by consumers, perhaps it was asking for a little too much.

Still, Motorola did have one hope to cling to. The mobile phones category is youth-driven: about 80 per cent are first-time buyers in the 16-35 age group. Ogilvy's research confirmed that labels and flash value mean more to this generation than monetary value.

Motorola could appeal to this group by emphasising its cutting-edge design. The new line up of handsets, including Razr and Pebl, did just that. "We decided that we didn't want people to own mobile phones. We wanted people to wear them," says Raina.

The first norm Motorola broke was in asking consumers to forget features and consider phones for their oomph value.

For buyers who had gotten used to hearing "better colour screen", "better battery life" and "more storage", the prospect of going by just looks took some getting used to. But Moto took its sales pitch out of "What's inside the phone" to "Look, what a cool a phone I have".

The Summer 2006 campaign, featuring new brand ambassador Abhishek Bachchan, began with a contest "Guess the Motostar". The contest attracted more than 160,000 responses, but it's very likely that many of them guessed wrong. Bachchan didn't hold centrestage in the Motorola commercials: the Slvr handset was the real star.

In the commercial, an embarrassed Bachchan realises that the girls sitting near him are swooning not over him, but his phone.

Television was the obvious choice of lead media for Motorola's comeback campaign, but it also made tactical use of print to drive product and retail information. And instead of sticking to the industry average of 0.3 per cent of total ad budget, Motorola's online spends were 20 times higher.

Apart from ads on Yahoo!, the company also developed consumer engagement initiatives through Motorola claims to have 98,000 registered users on the site.

The campaign paid off, say Ogilvy executives. By mid-2006, Motorola's marketshare had climbed to 7.6 per cent, making it the No. 2 player. But Samsung and Sony were still dangerously close. A concerted attempt at increasing share by either of these companies could have seen Motorola unseated from its precarious perch.

What Motorola needed, therefore, was a phone to capture the imagination of the mass markets and become the undisputed No 2. Here, price was an issue. Motorola was not about being a mass market brand, says Mathias.

For instance, it had no handset priced below Rs 5,000 -- and the lower tiers account for more than 60 per cent of mobile phone volumes. The solution: the MotoFlip W220, launched in August 2006.

Priced under Rs 4,000, Flip was the first Motorola brand to enter the top 10 handsets sold in India -- the other nine were, and still are, from Nokia. That's a quick achievement for a model that is competing with around 188 models in the Indian market. Interestingly, Flip's communication didn't feature Bachchan.

Instead, it showed a middle-class couple fretting about their son who returns home late every night. They worry even more when they see his expensive-looking phone -- where did he get the money for such a costly article? In one fell swoop, the ad established the phone's low price point and its premium appearance.

Flip also helped Motorola increase market share by more than five percentage points and the brand has a share of more than 15 per cent (source: GFK); analysts estimate that Motorola now sells over 1.4 million handsets a month. The brand's equity with retailers has jumped to 39 per cent from 18 per cent earlier, according to a TNS survey.

Meanwhile, 21 per cent of consumers consider Motorola a cool and trendy brand, compared to 6 per cent earlier. India may be Nokia country, but clearly Motorola has carved out some territory for itself.

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Prasad Sangameshwaran in Mumbai
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