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How Yamaha raced past slowdown to become a jazzy brand in India

The iconic Japanese brand that has been present in India since 1985 is now trying to become more appealing to the millennial audience. By increasing advertising on digital, the brand wants to drive affinity among the consumer segment that’s much more tech-friendly and is into moto sports

For a generation that grew up in the ’90s, Yamaha meant light weight high-speed RX 100 bikes that became the preferred choice of the young. The motorbike defined everything that was cool in the ’90s.

Yes Yamaha! The tagline of the Japanese two-wheeler brand also resonated very well with the brand image of that time.

At a time when local brands such as Hero Honda and Bajaj Kawasaki had a very basic production line, Yamaha India’s strategy to make its bikes sporty, exciting and stylish had made a differentiated product in the urban markets.

But that image started fading in the early 2000s and the brand started losing connect with the Indian consumer, which now had better options in Hero Honda and Bajaj, which had upped their design and engine power game.

After a few dull years, in early 2008 the brand realised young India’s desires and came up with the sporty, stylish and comfy combo in bikes. With the launch of R15, and FZ bikes in 2008, the company got a huge uplift in the motor industry. The brand since then is one of the most desirable two-wheelers among all the classes of youth in India — from bikers to racing enthusiasts to college goers.

Vijay Kaul

“The year 2008 was the turning point of Yamaha and then we built on the name that we gained that year. In 2012 we came up with scooters, and in 2015 we launched a series of bikes and scooters and kept on redesigning the previous launches,” said Vijay Kaul, Deputy General Manager, Marketing communications and PR, Yamaha Motor India.

Apart from its sporty look, the other heart-winning reason is its history of MotoGP. Many racing enthusiasts envy Yamaha’s prime rider Valentino Rossi who has won nine Grand Prix World Championships to its name — seven of which are in the premier class.

To capture a larger consumer group, Yamaha launched scooters for girls in 2012 and kept launching new products under new segments to maintain a competition in the market and goodwill among people.

“There was a clear cut-strategy for tapping audiences of all groups, which helped us to get adjusted in the market. First we started our offerings through female scooters and then one by one we tapped every segment,” Kaul said.

In 2013, the brand launched scooters for boys, in 2014 it launched scooters for the family and in 2015, fashionable scooters for females. But scooters didn’t turn out to be a game-changer for the brand.

Plus, the brand faced serious challenges while communicating with non-usual audiences.

“When we launched our range of scooters in 2012, it was a new category. It was basically to target female audiences. The challenge here was to build a communication towards the female audience. The brand was habitual of communicating with hard-core racers, youth (bad boys). Slowly and gradually, we started communication with female audiences but it took a long time. Talking to a larger audience was one of the major challenges for the brand,” Kaul said.

Although being in demand among its targeted group, the brand holds an overall market share of 3.5% in India. However, the brand enjoys a market share of 12% in its deluxe segment of bikes and 10% of share in the premium segment.

“We are planning to reach an overall market share to 10% by 2025,” said Kaul.

The brand has the lowest market share in its commuters segment.

According to Kaul, a heavy shift from traditional advertising to OTT and digital today is the biggest change in the marketing space.

The brand’s marketing budget for this fiscal remains at Rs 150 crore out of which 20% is allocated to digital, 50% to TV, 10% on OOH and the remaining on on-ground and BTL activities. Yamaha also has plans to invest on influencer marketing strategy.

Group M Media India handles media buying for the brand.

The brand launched a new pan-India brand campaign on August 2, ‘The Call of the Blue 2.0’, built upon the trajectory of the substantial success of the maiden campaign launched in 2018. ‘The Call of the Blue’ is a brand campaign of Yamaha that draws parallel to its product planning, marketing and customer engagement strategies with the brand’s global image of ‘excitement, style and sportiness’. The new campaign expresses a sense of reward on the exciting, sporty and stylish experiences of Yamaha as the brand is revved up to incite racing excitement onto Indian roads.

On the benefits of the campaign, Kaul said, “By the end of ‘The Call of the Blue’ campaign last year, we received huge brand recall and awareness as expected. The campaign helped boost sales. We enjoyed double-digit sales of R15 as the particular model was kept engaged throughout the campaign.”

The brand recorded sales of 86,505 R15 bikes last year over 41,826 in 2017.

“The campaign last year was active in seven cities, and the response was very warming. This year we have launched ‘The Call of the Blue 2.0’ pan India campaign and targeted more cities to get similar success as we received in our last campaign,” he said.

The newness of ‘The Call of the Blue 2.0’ will increase on-ground activities as well as its reach to seven cities. The campaign will be seen on digital and OOH platforms.

The brand also plans to launch a total of four TVCs, two national and two regional around the festive season, mainly near Diwali.

According to Kaul, the focus areas for the remaining quarters would be improvising its premium motorcycles and segment of scooters. “We are expecting premium motorcycles and scooters to drive sales in spite of low volume,” says Kaul.

The brand is focused to strengthen its name and services in Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Pune, Hyderabad and Bengaluru markets.

As of now, south remains the strongest market for Yamaha whereas North and West are the weakest.

According to Kaul, The latest trend in motor industry is marketing through content, keeping the brand DNA intact.

The brand’s creative agency is Hakuhodo Lync (for The Call of the Blue), Dentsu Aegis Network Marketing Solution Pvt. Ltd., Daiko From Here On Communications Pvt. Ltd.

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