Before Creating Great Ads, We Need to Create Great Products: Hemant Malik, ITC

Yippee Noodles is a classic case of a late entrant making a mark in a market dominated by a single brand. Consumer research, focus on product excellence, target audience focus and well planned & executed marketing plans have helped the brand hold its own.

ITC’s Sunfeast Yippee has now expanded its range by launching its ‘My’ range of noodles in four new flavours. ‘My’ range is being rolled out on online grocery portal bigbasket, where it will be available exclusively for one week, following which the brand will be made available in retail outlets across India.

Commenting on the reason for preferring an e-commerce portal for the launch, Hemant Malik, Divisional Chief Executive − Foods Division, ITC Ltd, said, “The e-commerce platform provides very quick feedback, people will taste it and enjoy it. That would enhance our confidence and help us understand which variant is selling fast, and maybe pull out if anyone is not moving fast enough or something needs to be fixed, etc.”

As to how the consumers would learning about their availability on bigbasket, Malik elucidated, “We are doing a series of promotions on the bigbasket site, there is a banner on the main page, and as you enter the category, there is a banner that would direct you to Yippee Noodles. And then there are special offers, for instance, there is a Combo offer: Buy three and get a discount to let people decide as to which flavour they prefer and will want to try again.”

Hari Menon, Co-founder and CEO, bigbasket, added here, “Benefit for the brand is reaching out to 25 cities at one go – a solid base of 10,000 registered customers and growing. Imagine if the product is to be launched in 25 cities, the logistics and warehousing would be humongous. The other advantage is the customer data we have, and there is instant reaction from the consumer and this is what brands are looking for - early feedback. We find that this exclusivity of a week or 10 days adds to our revenue vis-a-vis not doing it. It gives us five times more or even 20 times more revenue. Having said that, moot point for us and the brand is to reach quickly to a vast consumer base.”

Adgully caught up with Hemant Malik, Divisional Chief Executive − Foods Division, ITC Ltd, to know more about ‘My’ brand’s launch, the marketing strategy and more. Excerpts: 

My’ is a sub-brand of Yippee noodles. What, as per you, makes it different?
Some marketers have an advertising philosophy, and they want to create great ads for their brands. However, we have a product driven philosophy, and we believe that before creating great ads, we need to create great products.

Yippee Noodles was launched seven and a half years ago, and we are now a Rs 1,000-crore brand, as reported by Nielsen. We have an all India market share of 22% and 37% share in the South market. Obviously, our products are being well accepted by the consumers.

What, in your view, enabled you to get a good market share in a largely single brand driven market at the time Yippee was launched?
We were late entrants in this market, hence, it was important for us to have ample consumer insights and create clear differentiator. For instance, we introduced round noodles because research indicated that children preferred long strands of noodles, but the square noodles had to be broken to fit into the pan. Also, when we launched wheat noodles, we made sure as to they were non-sticky. Atta noodles had vegetables in strands, though it required a different strategy. Mood Masala, which we launched last year, was to have two masala sachets so people could use it as per their taste. 

How important a role do consumer insights play in the success of a brand?
A very critical one. In many categories we are late entrants. Why should the consumer look at our products is the question, we have to ask ourselves. Every brand that is launched has to have a key differentiator. If it is not innovative, nobody will try it.

For these four variants which we have just launched, we wanted some excitement, and hence we decided to introduce Chinese flavours. We have a chicken variant there as well. Though the market for chicken noodles is not too big, we have gone ahead and added real pieces of chicken, unlike others who just added flavour. 

Innovation beyond the product…
Yes, of course. Innovation is not only about product, but every aspect of the marketing mix. Speaking of marketing, in today’s world digital becomes really important. Hence, the tie-up with bigbasket for an exclusive launch. It facilitates instant availability in many locations. Progressive consumers are always on the lookout for what is new! This is how we reach them and communicate to them that this product is exclusively available on the bigbasket platform for few days and later it would be available everywhere. 

Anything else that is unique in the marketing strategy?
Every pack has a headphone, the idea behind it was that once you put on your headphones you are in your space and you pick up ‘My’ pack and don’t share it with anybody. Enjoy your noodles all by yourself! That was the thought behind the pack. Hence, each of the new flavours starts with ‘My’.

We also have a BTL activation, where people can win fancy headphones, this will be promoted through TVC/ digital promotions. 

How is the brand looking at the second screen as an advertising platform?
Today, everybody has shifted to the second screen/ mobile. It is growing fast, my own spends on digital have been growing dramatically in the past few years. We are spending about 10 per cent of our total marketing budgets on digital for all our products. For example, Atta; if you are a South Indian, you are looking at options now as to in what other ways you can use atta. Women are looking at recipes, etc., so we have uploaded a large number of recipes for our consumers.

As for Yippee noodles, we intend to work with micro food bloggers and ask them to send us innovative recipes. We have identified 80-100 of them across India and are working with them on creating new ideas. There will be a television commercial too.

The advertising campaign will break in a months’ time, once the distribution is set and our products are available across the country.


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