Pallavi Singh

For­mer Har­ley-David­son hand Pallavi Singh, now head of mar­ket­ing for MG Mo­tor In­dia, is tasked with build­ing aware­ness for brand Mor­ris. And she has six aces - and more - up her sleeve.

The Brand Reporter - - EDITORIAL | CONTENTS - ash­wini.gan­gal@afaqs.com

MG Mo­tor In­dia, a fully-owned sub­sidiary of Shang­hai-head­quar­tered auto firm SAIC Mo­tor Cor­po­ra­tion, has, in col­lab­o­ra­tion with so­lu­tions-based me­dia plat­form The Bet­ter In­dia cre­ated a cam­paign called #MGChange­mak­ers.

The dig­i­tal videos, avail­able on the The Bet­ter In­dia’s YouTube chan­nel, high­light so­cial work done by six women – trans­gen­der ac­tivist Kalki Subra­ma­niam, Sudha Vargh­ese who has been fight­ing for the up­lift­ment of dal­its, pi­o­neer in the field of women-led ru­ral bank­ing Chetna Sinha, In­dia’s youngest sarpanch Jabna Chauhan, Mon­isha Be­hal who ad­vo­cates women’s rights in the North East, and Rani Bang, a doc­tor who pro­vides health ser­vices to trib­als in Ma­ha­rash­tra. MG stands for Mor­ris Garages, a 94-year-old Bri­tish-born car brand which has, his­tor­i­cally, been as­so­ci­ated with sports, races, road­sters, cabri­o­lets and roy­alty.

The com­pany will launch its cars in In­dia in April 2019. Presently, the team is hir­ing peo­ple from dif­fer­ent back­grounds and cul­tures, in­clud­ing for­mer agency folks. More ad­ver­tis­ing and pro­mo­tional mes­sag­ing will break in a few weeks. For­mer Har­ley-David­son hand Pallavi Singh, who is now head of mar­ket­ing for MG Mo­tor In­dia, is tasked with build­ing aware­ness for brand Mor­ris. What’s the con­nec­tion be­tween sto­ries of so­cial work at the coun­try’s heart­land and a vin­tage race car brand like MG? We asked Singh this and more. Edited ex­cerpts from an in­ter­view with Ash­wini Gan­gal.

It must be chal­leng­ing to go from mar­ket­ing Har­ley-David­son, that en­joys good brand aware­ness, to mar­ket­ing MG...

The chal­lenge is huge, yes, be­cause peo­ple don’t know MG. That’s where the brand cus­to­di­ans and mar­keters need to rack their brains. But the op­por­tu­nity is great. It’s a chal­lenge we’ll ad­dress over time; it’s not go­ing to hap­pen overnight, or even over months. We have a long way to go. We’re think­ing hard about how we can cre­ate events, mind­sets and op­por­tu­ni­ties to be a ‘dif­fer­ent’ car brand. We’re re­ally think­ing our strat­egy through, be­cause MG has a great his­tory, it has gone through ups and downs, it has gone through own­er­ships.

What’s the con­nec­tion be­tween the no­ble work these six women are do­ing for so­ci­ety at the grass­roots and MG, a car brand which evokes words like ‘sports’, ‘rac­ing’, ‘in­ter­na­tional’ and ‘pre­mium’? How do you de­fend this as­so­ci­a­tion?

Some­times there doesn’t need to be a con­nec­tion. Some­times things don’t con­nect, but you have to build the con­nec­tion. Brands do so many hoard­ings, print ads to talk about the prod­uct. Why can’t we look at a dif­fer­ent way of sto­ry­telling to mar­ket a brand? This is also a way of telling peo­ple that MG as a brand stands for dif­fer­en­ti­ated ex­pe­ri­ences. It doesn’t only have to be a mes­sage like ‘MG is com­ing to In­dia very soon with a new SUV’. We don’t have to al­ways con­nect things to the prod­uct. It’s a car and, of course, we have to sell it, but in the back­ground, we want to be en­ablers for a larger cause.

The brand ethos com­prises com­mu­nity, peo­ple, ex­pe­ri­ences, di­ver­sity and in­no­va­tion. That’s the con­nec­tion. Also, MG has a huge Car Club his­tory, which be­gan in the 1930s at Kim­ber House, Abing­don (UK). Since then, com­mu­nity ac­tiv­i­ties have been tak­ing place; the car is just a cat­a­lyst. That’s where we took in­spi­ra­tion to take up a true cause from.

From a com­mu­nity stand­point, we don’t just want to say ‘We’re giv­ing this money away’, ‘We’re do­ing fund­ing’, ‘We’re do­ing CSR’... that’s clichéd. Ev­ery­one’s do­ing it. We’d rather tell a story.

Our coun­try re­ally needs it. If cor­po­rates like us who have the ca­pa­bil­ity, don’t do it, who will? We are tak­ing that leap and do­ing events to change the mind­set. Busi­ness is one part. But there’s an­other part... we all need to make our coun­try a bet­ter place. And rarely would you find an au­to­mo­bile brand do­ing some­thing like this. The auto in­dus­try needs a change and we are bring­ing it.

But isn’t that like merg­ing pure play brand ad­ver­tis­ing with CSR? A sexy car brand like Mor­ris ought to be do­ing sexy ad­ver­tis­ing, don’t you think?

I think that’s a great ques­tion and I’m glad you brought it up. One of my favourite ads for MG was done back in the ‘60s – it said ‘Your Mother Wouldn’t Like It’. We don’t do this kind of ad­ver­tis­ing any­more... and there are rea­sons for it.

But MG is a bold brand and we will do bold cam­paigns. As mar­keters, we need to be more bold, we need to bring the ro­mance of ad­ver­tis­ing back. I prom­ise you will see that.

But there’s a time and place for ev­ery­thing, in­clud­ing for cool, sexy ad­ver­tis­ing. You will see that too, closer to the launch. We’re phas­ing it.

We will be cre­ative and fun, but we’ll keep the ethos of sto­ry­telling go­ing. But it won’t just be about prod­uct, specs, launch price, net­work. We want to be a re­spon­si­ble brand. We want to bal­ance prod­uct-led mar­ket­ing with hu­man-led mar­ket­ing. We do some­thing called ‘Fit Fri­day’ – and those are very cocky ads.

Who is your tar­get con­sumer? Who will buy MG cars in In­dia?

If mar­keters are think­ing about tar­get groups to­day, I think it’s a prob­lem. There’s isn’t any tar­get group. We now look at mind­sets, at­ti­tudes, psy­cho­graph­ics. The MG cus­tomer be­longs to a mean­ing­ful gen­er­a­tion. We’ve coined a word called ‘Cig­i­tal’ – a com­mu­nity which is dig­i­tal.

We will know who the cus­tomer is when we ac­tu­ally launch. When we sell about 2,000 cars, we’ll know who the cus­tomer of the fu­ture is.

MG is not look­ing at be­ing a niche brand. We want to be in the space of Jeep Com­pass, Creta (Hyundai), Mahin­dra XUV500. But we want to keep it pre­mium.

“This is also a way of telling peo­ple that MG stands for dif­fer­en­ti­ated ex­pe­ri­ences. It doesn’t only have to be a mes­sage like ‘MG is com­ing to In­dia very soon with a new SUV’.”

PALLAVI SINGH

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