What is the history of your brand and how it has transformed over the years?
Our grey cement brand is 40 years old. From a generic positioning statement, we have repositioned the brand with the tagline - "Vishwas Hai Isme Kuch Khaas Hai," which represented the all important virtue of "trust". Being a brand, with a strong legacy and heritage, it was important to reinforce the trust aspect of the Brand. In the Cement industry most Brands hung on to the claim of "strength' which was visually represented through "obvious' treatment routes. We took the route of humour and also got a celebrity cricketer, Virender Sehwag to endorse the brand promise of trust. More recently, we repositioned our brand based on an extensive brand study and research that gave us a very important insight on the basic human need for safety. And therefore our brand mantra became "BUILD SAFE".
While formulating the positioning strategy of JK Wall Putty, we were aware of the fact that the Brand existed in a product category where "prevention of flaking / pappdi" had been the core single-minded message. Our strategy had to have a two-pronged approach to (a) overcome product parity and (b) sustain demand and create a strong brand differentiation for JK Wall Putty vis-a-vis competition. An innovative campaign was devised wherein a simple painter attains resounding success by patronising JK Wall Putty in a National Wall-painting championship, thereby becoming a National Hero. This campaign saw the birth of our Brand evangelist -Chhutkau Painter, the national wall painting champion who touts victory over substitute products like POP and inexpensive chalk mitti by using JK Wall Putty. The campaign was then extended to a prosperous Chhutkauji, with his own wall painting academy training a new breed of wall painting experts. With the third campaign, Chhutkauji grew in both fame and recognition and is invited to judge the World Wall Painting Championship. Over the years, the Chhutkau series has very successfully strengthened our positioning statement for JK Wall Putty - "Deewarein Bol Uthengi'.
The positioning strategy through effective utilisation of BTL and ATL tools has given a clear and differentiated edge to JK Wall Putty over competition and has received a positive response from the dealers, painter community and end consumers alike. Also, the creative canvas is vast as the story and the endearing character of Chhutkau lends itself to natural extensions for further campaigns while reinforcing the Brand's virtues in an effective, creative and memorable manner.
What are the most interesting brand messages you have conveyed for cement?
We re-launched our grey cement brand, JK Super Cement, with a new visual identity and brand positioning last year after an extensive market research and brand study that included in-depth interactions with our dealer community, business organisers and employees. This exercise led us to a very important insight and a basic human need - the desire for certainty and the assurance of safety.
Also, critical to the Indian context is the importance of leaving behind a lasting legacy for future generations. The consumer is looking for certainty of performance, delivery, longevity, value and peace of mind. Therefore, making the right choice of cement is crucial. It is an investment where the consumer has high financial and emotional stakes. With this, we built safety, into the very DNA of our brand. And therefore our brand mantra/positioning statement - BUILD SAFE.
In line with this, we also launched an interesting TV campaign, to justify our promise of "Build Safe". While conceptualising the campaign, we felt that the best protagonist for the same would be the defender of the nation, a soldier, one with the unquestionable know-how of safety. We thus decided to have a young non-commissioned officer as our protagonist, who is gifting the promise of safety to his mother.
The commercial conveys the promise of safety through a memorable and emotional story which resonates with the brand positioning of JK Super Cement - Build Safe. While the single proposition of strength is hygiene for the cement category, with JK Super Cement, we tapped into this powerful human need.
What factors played a strong role in your branding exercises - what worked and what not?
Our branding exercises are backed by extensive market research and brand study. We have carved a niche for our brands through various multifaceted marketing initiatives including 360-degree media campaigns, consumer contact programmes, online promotion, social media and public relations, among others.
A strong marketing strategy is integral to strengthening brand visibility and reach. We use mass media, personal communication as well as professional forums to enhance our brand visibility across customer sections, comprising channel partners, specifiers, applicators and end customers.
We organise mega dealer/stockist meets to reinforce our brand message(s) and reward outstanding performance. These large scale meets and events in India and abroad have been hailed as some of the best in the industry in terms of the brand experience and in delivering the WOW factor.
What are your premium cement brands and how do they promise to deliver better value over and above normal cement?...Can you cite examples of value creation for company through premium branding?
We recently added a premium grey cement product to our portfolio - JK Super Strong. that has been specially designed for concrete applications and caters to Karnataka, Maharashtra, Goa and Kerala. After extensive R & D, it has been manufactured with MPET - a new breakthrough technology in cement production that improves the performance of cement. JK Super Strong offers additional benefits of higher initial strength, better workability and spread, increased durability, corrosion resistance and low heat of hydration properties. It comes in a tamper-proof bag and can be used safely for any cement application like masonry, plastering, flooring etc. besides concrete.
Besides this, we are providing free on-site technical support (Site Consultation, Cube Casting, Slump Testing etc.) to our customers, with an internal team of qualified experts. Our efficient network, depots and marketing teams also worked towards ensuring excellent services to the end consumer.
We have executed BTL and social media campaigns to create brand awareness amongst our channel partners, influencers and end consumers, which has helped us create a distinct brand identity for JK Super Strong.
How you have taken advantage of introduction of PPC and PSC in building your brand?
Both the products have their own different USPs. We have positioned JK Super Cement (PPC) to be used widely across the Indian geography while JK Super Cement (PSC) fetches more demand in the southern coastal line areas due to its better resistance to corrosion. Keeping in view the demand for a value added product in south, we developed a new technology called MPET through which we are able to provide our customer, the best of both the products in JK Super Strong Cement. This has helped our channel partners serve the market better and made our brand stand among the premium segment players.
How you have implemented brand and packaging strategies for associated product categories like white cement, wall putty, waterproofing compounds etc.? Is there any learning in the process?
At JK Cement, we have always kept pace with the dynamic business environment and implemented packaging strategies to stay relevant in the market and for our customers.
When the industry was selling putty in Ad Star bags, we were one of the first companies to launch our white cement based putty - JK Wall Putty in a BOPP bag. Not only did this new packaging give our product a premium look and finish but also the flexibility in printing as far as colours are concerned.
We launched our white cement based primer, JK PrimaxX in a bucket. This helped us create proper visibility and display space for the product that was sold at paint outlets, also giving the brand a distinct identity. The bucket itself is used by the painters for mixing of material during application.
How relevant will cement brands be in India after, say, 20 years, particularly when bulk cement use is rapidly growing in urban centres?
In urban areas, with the growing demand in infrastructure, the demand for cement is definitely going to increase but the traditional direct usage of cement might change with the introduction of new technology, which may result in the higher usage of bulkers & lower relevancy of packaged cement bag brands. However, considering that at present, the rural markets in India are still in the developing phase, cement has no direct substitute and the small quantity of cement used in building a home doesn't require bulkers. This would act as a major factor for the cement brands to survive 20 years from now.
At JK Cement, we are primarily focusing on the rural and semi-urban India through aggressive BTL campaigns, road shows and other branding activities to have a strong hold in these markets.
To what extent branding is a priority for Indian cement companies, when cement is considered to be a commodity? Is ad spends a gauge or any others reflect it better?
While theoretically, cement may be slotted as a commodity, it is, in fact, a category that has seen intense branding activity, in the recent past. With consumer seeing cement as a parity product, it is all the more critical for leading volume players to have distinct brand differentiation and top-of-mind recall at the point of purchase. Branding helps create a unique product positioning, thereby driving customer loyalty and fetching higher market shares and price premium. They even drive significant operational efficiencies and eventually, stakeholder value.
Advertisement spends is not a gauge, but rather the most affordable mass-outreach device for all product and services categories, including cement - after all, besides OTS (opportunity to see), there is the more important IPO (impact per opportunity) factor, dependent entirely on brand and core promise recall; and that in turn depends on the clarity and uniqueness of the advertising idea. Besides impactful communication, the other critical factor is dealer/ retailer relations (for visibility and push).