Vishal Sood, Senior Vice President - Sales and Marketing, Orient Cement.
While buying a product, the trust level a brand enjoys, plays a major role. The brand differentiation created by us by ensuring consistent product quality and proper communication has built the trust level. This has further led to consistent positive user experience. In addition, our ´trade partners´ (dealers) advocate the brand Birla.A1 to their customers. This combination of ´Brand Power´ and ´Bazar Power´ has helped us to create a strong bond with our customers and finally led to the capacity utilisation of over 80 per cent, which is far better than industry average (especially in south), says Vishal Sood, Senior Vice President - Sales and Marketing, Orient Cement. Excerpts from the interview...
What is the basic message you try to project through your commercials?
Basically, our idea is to create trust among consumers that quality of our product is so good and so consistent that he can rely on it for any critical application, be it foundation, load bearing structures or roof. The idea is to create a bond or connect with the customer, rationally as well as emotionally. Our creatives communicate both rational and emotional message - that brand ´Birla.A1´ provides the ´mazbooti´ that finally leads to ´bharosa,´, the trust. And I am proud to say, it has created its impact in the market.
What is the thought process behind the preparation of your media plan?
Our media plan depends on three factors; stakeholder (consumers/influencers/channel partners), market and lastly marketing task (whether it is awareness, brand salience or loyalty).
Cement, being more of a commodity, how do you differentiate it through commercials?
I do not agree with this perception that cement is a commodity. There are a couple of cement brands including Birla.A1 that enjoy good equity among their stakeholders. The brand differentiation is being created by us through the ´Trishul´ strategy, first, by ensuring the consistent product quality. This helps the consistency in positive user experience. Second, communicating the quality through various medium of advertising and finally, having a ´connect´ with stakeholders (for eg, consumers, masons, engineers, contractors) through one-to-one and one-to-many interactions.
How do you reach consumers at different levels?
A consumer associates oneself with a brand to a trust level, which is very important when it comes to buying a product. We create brand salience in different levels; basically effective communication modes for above the line (ATL) and below the line (BTL). The strategy normally differs as per the segments of clients. The positive feedback what I got from hundreds of masons and engineers is an indication of how successful we have been in creating and sustaining the trust level. And this comes because of the superior and consistent product quality with effective services from our side.
Our visibility is through effective leveraging of outdoor and print media as well as point of sale. Besides, we have team of technical engineers, who are equipped with specially designed mobile vans called as ´Concrete Engineer´ which is equipped with modern equipment for on site testing. Our mobile van connects with stakeholders through one-to-one and one-to-many meets.
What are the challenges involved in brand building?
The challenge is to build the brand in new markets and sustain it on the existing markets in a category which is low involvement and is cluttered with many suppliers in each market. We have identified and planned to run various programs to communicate as to how our product is different from the competition. We regularly come out with innovative programs for different segments of stakeholders, to communicate the USP of our product.
Other than price and quality, which factors influence buying decision?
We believe that quality of cement is the topmost factor influencing the buying decision; pricing comes much later. Other factors such as service levels of the organization, quality of packaging and company image in the market etc, also are very important.
How successful have you been in enticing consumers to shell out extra for your product?
In my view, consumer appreciates quality and value additions and is willing to pay a premium. We are able to effectively communicate the value proposition and deliver quality consistently, followed by proper services.
We also listen to voice of our customers/consumers on ongoing basis and make necessary improvements. For example, we have improved the quality of our packaging in last two years based on the inputs received from our stakeholders
Tell us about your distribution strategies.
Distribution strategy should achieve two objectives - one, the product should have adequate reach so that consumer gets it easily. Second, the brand must be present in the outlets that matter. It´s very important for us that we are available when consumer wants us, and available at the right outlets. On the one hand, dependence on only a few large dealers may not enhance reach of the product to sufficient number of outlets and on the other hand, having very large net work of dealers may not be sustainable due to huge transportation costs involved. Hence in my view it must be optimization of the two parameters.
Quality perception of cement varies from customer to customer. Does it have an impact on your marketing strategies?
That´s true. However,while quality perception may vary from customer to customer there are also groups of customers who have similar behaviour/buying patterns. So we chose to target segments of customer who have similar attitudes and beliefs and behaviour pattern. As mentioned earlier, we have different set of communication channel tailor-made to suite various client segment.
Is there any expansion plans on the anvil? And also tell us the marketing strategies?
The company´s vision is to become a relevant national player. We have set ambitious plans to increase capacity from the current 5 MTPA to 15 MTPA by 2020. We shall achieve one of the milestones in the current financial year when our new greenfield plant with a capacity of 3 MTPA at Gulbarga will be operational shortly. This will help us open up new market and further consolidate our presence. So we will continue doing what we have been doing for our existing business and the strategy will be to raise awareness in new markets.
Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
I have just begun this journey into the cement sector and I am still learning. All I can say is that our intent is to build one of the best marketing companies in next three years. We are looking forward to have the best possible talents for our expansion plan.