Cement companies should avoid giving any negative message
Branding has become the need of an hour today. You need to have the right pricing, right quality, and right message delivered while creating a successful brand. M Ravinder Reddy, Director – Marketing, Vicat, believes that a lot of hard work is required behind creating a successful brand. He shares his company’s journey of creating cement as a brand.
How has been the journey of cement from commodity to brand?
I am quite satisfied with the journey of cement as a brand so far. If you consider the control days, the situation has changed significantly since 1982 when partial decontrol was introduced. Cement started selling as a brand since then. Initially it was in a radius of around 400 km around the plant. Then in the year 1989, cement became an independent commodity without any controls. It was then when the cement companies started advertisements for branding. The manufacturers went from one location to multiple locations.
Today if you see there is one mother brand and under it, there are a few more sub-brands. Today, cement is almost like any FMCG product. While creating a brand there is a lot of hard work that goes behind. Quality of the product and packing of the finished item is extremely important.
What are the three important attributes of cement as a brand?
Today’s customer is extremely sensitive and conscious about weights and measurement. He is aware of his rights. When we have moved from jute bags to laminated bags we must also make sure about what we are delivering to the customer. Today customer does not accept any compromise on quality.
The customer wants a consistent quality. Many times we give a quality product but it is not uniform in strength, colour, fineness, etc. There will be variation in the limestone quality but in the process, we must make sure of what comes out of the kiln that is in our hands.
The third important aspect is service associated with the product and delivery of the product.
When cement producers are trying to establish as a brand they will have to respond to all the three attributes stated above.
What do you think cement companies should avoid while establishing their product as a brand?
Cement companies should avoid giving any negative message. It will always go against the company. The producers should try to create a good image of the product and the company. As I said above, the customer today is very sensitive and fully aware of his rights. We should not try and hoodwink him; we should give him what we promise.
How important is the compressive strength of cement while creating a brand?
No doubt strength is an important property of cement. But today we not only talk of strength. We talk about setting time, water requirement, fly ash, or slag present. Properties that will impart durability to the structure that is being constructed. The industry is going away from strength as a property. Today’s advertisements are revolving around relations, durability, and sustainability.
Is it necessary to attach a personality to cement while creating a brand?
Yes, personality is important. When new cement is launched, we would engage a personality that can give confidence to the buyer. It is necessary for any new product but when the product is already established you can think of a different type of campaign.
I remember at Bharathi cement, we had hired the well-known Telugu actor Surya as a brand ambassador. We came to know before he took up our assignment, he had used our cement for his own construction and was a quite satisfied customer. This gives another dimension to the entire campaign.
Talking about cement as a product, what we produce today is backed by strong technological inputs and is comparable to a product in Europe or the US. When we launched our cement in Sri Lanka, our product was far superior to any local product. Apart from the consumer, we are also associating with engineers and masons who are part of the user chain. Their response to our product is equally important and valuable.
M Ravinder Reddy holds a MBA degree in Marketing and has over 34 years of experience in cement industry. While at Priya cement, he had introduced HDPE packing by replacing Jute packing. He joined Bharathi Cement as a Whole-time Director in September 2008, and he heads the company’s sales and marketing operations of Vicat India. In 2009, he successfully launched the ‘Bharathi Cement’ in premium segment. He is recipient of many national and international awards.In addition, he is an elected Chairman of Cement, Clinkers and Asbestos Cement products panel of CAPEXIL and also Vice President of South India Cement Manufacturer’s Association.