Decoding Micromax’s Next Phase Of Marketing Growth

Shubhajit Sen, CMO, Micromax shares about the company's next phase of growth and how Creativeland Aisa, the brand's creative agency is going to steer it forward


2015 has been the year of ups and downs for India’s second-largest phone manufacturer Micromax. South Korean technology giant Samsung continued to lead the Indian smartphone market during the calendar year 2015, according to a report by research agency IDC.

Micromax in second position with 14.1% market share, got a new CMO in Shubhajit Sen early 2015,  and mid last year launched Hugh Jackman as its global ambassador. Hugh was seen promoting Canvas Sliver 5, touted as ‘the slimmest phone ever’. The objective was to position the gadget as a premium offering for the up-market and urban youth.

The campaign targeted youngsters (15-25) from the top 20-30 cities projecting itself as a premium smartphone brand. Thereafter the brand expanded its wings into Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bangladesh. Recently Micromax announced it is the third largest phone company in Russia, just a year after its debut.

But it was in 2015 that Micromax mutually ended its five-year long association with its creative agency Lowe Lintas. The news came as a surprise; CMO Shubhajit Sen informed that Lowe had been an integral part of the brand’s journey. But over time things have changed in the business, the category and the brand - as compared to the situation two to three years back. “The single biggest issue we have been facing is - our advertising has tended to focus a lot on individual models; we now want to pull back on that and focus on defining our brand narrative, one that individual campaigns can then fit into.”

Looking back at Micromax campaigns they have always been handset specific with a very short ad shelf life.

“The brand that Lintas helped us create was the archetype of ‘the challenger brand’. Our frame of reference has always been about showing how we’re different from the other global and Chinese players around the world, but now, it is important for us to define our own brand personality.”

Lowe’s 150 crore-business became Creativeland Asia’s (CLA) win. But Carlton D’silva, CEO & COO at Hungama Digital Services believes it isn’t a failure on the part of the agency as their task must have been different. “In all honesty if they had done a bad job they would have not have retained the account for 5 years. I just feel that the brand is looking at a fresh thinking for their communication and hence the change in agency.”

Nonetheless, earlier in 2016, Micromax announced that it has appointed CLA as its creative agency on record. CLA will handle the entire integrated design and communication mandate for Micromax globally. The mandate was won following a multi-agency pitch held last month.

The company further stated that in its next phase of growth CLA’s Mumbai and Delhi offices would handle the account. The agency is also putting together a global design team from Amsterdam and New York to work on the mandate.

In its first phase of growth Micromax wanted to replicate itself with the phone present in every Indian household. Remember the Bolt campaign that was priced between Rs 2,000 and Rs 6,000. For this, it had launched a 360-degree campaign, and had roped in Kapil Sharma and Rana Daggubati as brand endorsers.

However the new growth phase will be all about providing solutions to the consumers using their phones. “At Micromax, our emphasis would be to drive innovations through software and services that would add a layer to the device eco-system. We will be aiming to develop products & services which not only enhance & upgrade the life of the consumers but also empower them with the latest technological innovations, making it an extension of their lifestyle,” Shubhajit informed in an email conversation with Lighthouse Insights.

He also stressed that another focus would be on the massification of 4G. “Going forward, with a growing consumer demand shifting towards faster internet speed and seamless connectivity owing to increased video consumption and real-time mobility solutions, Micromax will be focusing on making the 4G experience more accessible for the Indian consumers.”

So far, Micromax has been the perfect ‘challenger brand’. But today, it has pulled out and defined many of the market characteristics. Hence, the brief given to the participating agencies comprised real-life challenges to build the growth strategy as the company gets into the next phase of growth. “CLA demonstrated great understanding and passion along with a clear vision and articulation for the way forward,” he revealed.

Founded in 2007 by Sajan Raj Kurup, CLA has handled brands such as Cinthol, MTS, CCD, Frooti, The Indian Express, among others. Sajan thinks that it is perhaps the most exciting product category to be associated with anywhere in the world right now, but hesitated to reveal anything on the kind of work it wishes to do for Micromax.

“You are going to see some unconventional campaigns that enhance consumer connect and instill pride of ownership.”

Taking further through the unconventional campaigns to connect with the consumer, Shubhajit informed that Micromax has always focused on bringing ‘Nothing like Anything’ experiences to the consumers hence it believes in making cool, quirky and unconventional campaigns. “From a challenger brand we are the leaders today. Hence, it is important for us to define our own way forward, our own brand personality and our take on the category through unconventional campaigns.”

For this Micromax is placing its trust on CLA’s creative excellence to help enhance consumer connect and create such campaigns.

For this CLA has placed a global design team in New York and Amsterdam, is looking beyond brands and identities alone and venturing into different horizons of design. “Micromax is a global company with presence in SAARC and Eastern Europe. And that is just the beginning. Therefore, a design team that thinks global and thinks of how design will work across touch points in some of these markets (and some future markets) has been created,” Sajan added.

However it all depends on what the communication is rather than a global design team, at a time when Micromax has already used global ambassadors like Hugh in its earlier communications. “The challenge to make their brand more international is lot less and now it’s the product that will be their biggest champion,” Carlton pointed out.

He believes that the communication in the next phase will have to be smarter and niche. “They need to get out of that primary communication of ‘Value for Money’ to a ‘Really Good Quality Product to Have’. Value for money does not need to be the talking point. That people will eventually know once they start enquiring about their products.”

Additionally, traditional advertising will not get you the eyeballs when your target audience is the millennial, who spends maximum time on social and mobile. In fact most youngsters get sold to good story telling and we have seen the success Lenovo has achieved last year by having only digital campaigns in India. Whether it was the Lenovo A6000 or A7000 or the K3Note almost all the campaigns were digital first with a strong focus on content. These digital campaigns looked beyond conventional social media contests influenced by contest players. (In fact the amazing digital work for A6000 was one of the winners of the best digital marketing campaigns of 2015 by Lighthouse Insights.)

Micromax understands how important is online storytelling today:

“Given the surge in online sales and the whole ‘search battle’ we have, fundamentally, already re-allocated a lot of our marketing investments from traditional to digital media. Targeting the young hyper social consumers for most of our campaigns, the digital spends are at least 20-25 percent of the total marketing budgets.”

Making his case stronger he cites all the campaigns have digital in focus to complement with electronic, print and outdoor. “For instance Bolt Series campaign was designed to make the consumers more comfortable to approach Micromax and to hand-hold them through all the apprehensions and inhibitions of using a smartphone for the first time.”

The communication of the campaign was in a very tongue-in-cheek manner, talked about Micromax’s differentiators that came with switching to the Micromax Bolt Smartphone range, such as – free data for use on WhatsApp, regional languages, affordability and big screen. The campaign was leveraged extremely well digitally, recollected Shubhajit.

This year Micromax has found good success with most of its digital campaigns, which includes Sliver, Canvas 5 and Unite 3. “As far as the online only campaign goes - the Spark and Express series has been instant hits on the online platforms like Snapdeal and Flipkart.”

2016 will be a defining year for Micromax, not only will it have to show tough resistance to the Chinese competition, it will need to earn market confidence too. Recently Micromax CEO Vineet Taneja had to quit amid falling sales. This is the second high-profile departure within a year, as the business grapples with falling sales in the face of competition from cheaper Chinese handsets.

While the old horses return to the base (Shubhodip Pal returns as COO) all eyes will be on Micromax’s next growth phase that would be driven by CLA’s global team. The coming months will tell how fruitful has been Micromax’s decision in placing its confidence in an independent agency like CLA.

Image credit: YouTube