Cas­trol, one of In­dia’s lead­ing en­gine oil brands, which has tra­di­tion­ally been known to high­light only the func­tional ben­e­fits of its wide range of prod­ucts through its ads, has cho­sen the ac­tivist route for ad­ver­tis­ing this time. Kedar Apte, Vice Pres­i­dent - Mar­ket­ing, Cas­trol In­dia tells us why the brand de­cided to do some­thing dif­fer­ent and elab­o­rates on the chal­lenges as­so­ci­ated with the cat­e­gory

Q] What was the in­sight be­hind Cas­trol’s lat­est cam­paign ‘Pro­tect­ing what is pre­cious’?

Cas­trol Ac­tiv is our lead­ing brand that tar­gets young con­sumers. How­ever, we have a chal­lenge with re­spect to the fact that as a lu­bri­cant that goes in­side the ve­hi­cle, we can­not play on the touch and feel fac­tor or ap­peal to five senses through color or fra­grance, thereby re­strict­ing the vari­ables in mar­ket­ing that we can bank on. That’s why with this cam­paign we have taken a very dif­fer­ent route. We no­ticed that to­day’s con­sumer- the youth - re­ally wants to do a lot of good and they of­ten get to­gether to pro­mote a cause. And in In­dia a lot of these young con­sumers have a bike which be­comes their ally in do­ing good. We have pro­jected Cas­trol Ac­tiv as the ally of this bike and our cam­paign as the en­abler for do­ing good. So, while con­sumers want to do a lot of good, they have the back­ing of Cas­trol Ac­tiv to al­ways pro­tect their bikes. And it’s a nice way of talk­ing about a brand with­out men­tion­ing how the brand is very strong on func­tional credentials. In fact for sev­eral years, we have only high­lighted the func­tional credentials in our ads. So we feel this is re­ally a good emo­tional way of con­nect­ing with the youth.

Q] A lot of brands take pride in tak­ing the ac­tivist route for brand build­ing, does that pro­vide a bet­ter con­nect as op­posed to a prod­uct based-ad which high­lights fea­tures?

I think it re­ally de­pends on the stage where the brand is. Now we of course keep on mea­sur­ing brand health and on func­tional credentials, our brand is very strong. We are the clear mar­ket lead­ers as well. So, the at­tempt is to build a very strong emo­tional bond with the con­sumer. And so far we have got great feed­back for this cam­paign.

Q] What is your mar­ket­ing mix for the cam­paign? And which medium is the fo­cus of your ad spends?

It’s largely TV-cen­tric. And of course now no cam­paign is com­plete with­out Dig­i­tal. So, we are com­ple­ment­ing TV with a lot of am­pli­fi­ca­tions on Dig­i­tal. Our Dig­i­tal spends are in dou­ble dig­its in the over­all me­dia mix and it’s in­creas­ing ev­ery year.

Q] For a brand like Cas­trol, who is the core tar­get au­di­ence - the end con­sumer or the garage me­chanic who ad­vises the end con­sumer in pick­ing Cas­trol?

We al­ways talk about this re­la­tion­ship be­tween a con­sumer, me­chanic and the dealer. In dif­fer­ent cat­e­gories, the de­ci­sion mak­ers are dif­fer­ent. We keep on mea­sur­ing the in­flu­ence of the me­chanic; largely in the cars cat­e­gory me­chan­ics play a huge role, while for bikes, we are see­ing con­sumers get more and more in­volved. You will be re­ally sur­prised to know that a lot of youth to­day are read­ing the man­u­als of the bike, call­ing the call cen­ter of the orig­i­nal equip­ment man­u­fac­turer and so on. They are clearly seek­ing more and more in­for­ma­tion

about the cat­e­gory. Thus, our tar­get au­di­ence is largely a com­bi­na­tion of the con­sumers and me­chan­ics, be­cause even if the con­sumer has a brand choice, it’s sub­ject to be­ing en­dorsed by the me­chanic.

Q] In that case, what are the dif­fer­ent in­no­va­tive ways through which you are try­ing to build a con­nect with me­chan­ics?

We are do­ing that in two ways; first for the car cat­e­gory. In some of the key cities, we have what we call a ‘mo­bile unit’ which goes from me­chanic to me­chanic, ex­plain­ing the brand propo­si­tion. We have been do­ing this for the last four to five years. And while talk­ing about the brand propo­si­tion, we also fo­cus on build­ing their skills and ca­pa­bil­i­ties. Last year we also launched ‘Cas­trol Su­per Me­chanic’, an ini­tia­tive for ‘Bike Me­chan­ics’. This pro­gram aims at up-skilling me­chan­ics, tak­ing a test and re­ward­ing the best skilled me­chan­ics. We ran this pro­gram al­most through­out the year where more than 60,000 me­chan­ics par­tic­i­pated in the con­test. We did eight re­gional rounds and one na­tional round that in­volved the­ory as well as prac­ti­cal, where we gave them a bike with a cer­tain prob­lem and asked them to re­pair it. Three of them were de­clared In­dia’s best me­chan­ics who then went on to par­tic­i­pate in Asia’s Best Me­chan­ics con­test.

Q] How do you ap­proach the com­mer­cial cat­e­gories, like the truck and bus driv­ers?

Largely this is un­der­taken via BTL ac­ti­va­tions, be­cause once the truck driv­ers hit the road, they don’t re­turn home for three to four days. How­ever, there are some points where they take a pause, the dhabas, etc; that’s where we do our ac­ti­va­tions. Af­ter all, they are not ex­posed to me­dia the way bike con­sumers are.

Q] What is the cur­rent mar­ket share for Cas­trol in the lu­bri­cant cat­e­gory and what is the tar­get mar­ket share?

It’s more than 20%. We are the undis­puted mar­ket lead­ers and our mar­ket share is dou­ble that of the next com­peti­tor. This cat­e­gory is highly frag­mented with multi­na­tion­als as well as na­tional oil com­pa­nies, but we be­lieve that good can al­ways get bet­ter.

Q] What is the big­gest chal­lenge as­so­ci­ated with the cat­e­gory?

A big prob­lem is that it is a tech­ni­cal cat­e­gory which con­sumers don’t largely un­der­stand. So, the chal­lenge is how to use a dif­fer­ent lan­guage for con­sumers and me­chan­ics and cus­tomize com­mu­ni­ca­tion for con­sumers in a lan­guage that they un­der­stand.

Q] Look­ing ahead, what ar­eas would be the big­gest growth driv­ers for Cas­trol?

Over­all, per­sonal mo­bil­ity has been driv­ing growth for us and that is some­thing that will con­tinue, be­cause now ev­ery two sec­onds, a new bike is born in In­dia. So, there is a whole new gen­er­a­tion of bik­ers be­ing born ev­ery minute. Cars are grow­ing rapidly as well. And that has been our growth area. Sim­i­larly, the com­mer­cial cat­e­gory is also a growth driver for us be­cause as all in­di­ca­tors demon­strate, the econ­omy is look­ing up; is­sues like GST and de­mon­e­ti­za­tion are be­hind us, which is re­flect­ing in sales of com­mer­cial ve­hi­cles. How­ever, in the long run, per­sonal mo­bil­ity will con­tinue to drive growth. And in this seg­ment again, we have some spe­cific brands that we call ‘power brands‘, like Cas­trol Ac­tiv, Cas­trol Mag­netic, etc, which will con­tinue to drive growth for us.

Q] Where does In­dia stand as a mar­ket when you com­pare it to the other in­ter­na­tional mar­kets which Cas­trol op­er­ates in?

In­dia is one of the top mar­kets for Cas­trol. And even within In­dia, we are present across all zones and cat­e­gories. In fact, cur­rently over 50% of bike sales are com­ing from ru­ral ar­eas, which is an in­ter­est­ing change. So ru­ral is in­creas­ingly grow­ing as far as con­tri­bu­tion to sales is con­cerned for Cas­trol.

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