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Clear cohort targeting and psychographic segmentation crucial for brands working in complex markets: PepsiCo’s Shailja Joshi

Joshi, Director-Marketing (Potato Chips Category), PepsiCo, shared the reason behind Lay’s Gourmet onboarding Saif Ali Khan as a brand ambassador, the decision to launch a Rs 20 pack, the advertising mix, and the intricacies of marketing ‘premium’ FMCG products

Shailja Joshi

PepsiCo is trying to make the idea of Lay’s Gourmet even bigger and open it up to a wider set of people ever since its launch, as per Shailja Joshi, Director-Marketing (Potato Chips Category), PepsiCo.

Aimed at grabbing the attention of premium customers, Lay’s Gourmet – which launched almost a year back - recently onboarded the Nawab of Pataudi, Saif Ali Khan, as its brand ambassador and made the announcement with a TVC launch.

In fact, Khan’s association with Lay’s potato chips goes back decades and it resulted in memorable ad campaigns such as ‘Pal Banaye Magical’ and ‘Be a little Dillogical’, amongst others.

Joshi said that the brand once had a long-standing association with the Sacred Games actor and with the launch of Lay’s Gourmet - the product proposition of which is fine taste and crafted experience - there was nobody better than him because he adds a touch of fine taste and royalty to everything around him.

“If you draw a parallel between Saif and Gourmet, you’ll find out that Gourmet is all about celebrating the finer tastes of life and indulging in those finer experiences for yourself. Additionally, because we already had a past association with him, things came together as a seamless note on Lay’s Gourmet,” she added.

Upon being questioned as to why was he onboarded only as the brand ambassador for Lay’s Gourmet and not the cumulative brand portfolio of potato chips under PepsiCo, Joshi replied that in today’s day and age where consumers are evolving and brands are working in a very complex marketplace, there has to be “a very clear cohort targeting, psychographic segmentation, clear proposition or need that one brings out of the brand or through a brand ambassador.”

“Lay’s already has Alia Bhatt and Ranbir Kapoor as its brand ambassadors, and even when we work on brand campaigns with them, we decide which of them to take, based on the proposition. Also, when it comes to Gourmet, I don’t think we could find anybody better than Saif. In fact, in our entire strategy for the brand portfolio, ultimately, all these come together for the mother brand Lay’s and they do add up to something, but there have to be individual reasons why a brand ambassador is on one brand and there is somebody else endorsing some other offering,” she elaborated.

Joshi also clarified that when it comes to a brand which has as wide a portfolio as Lay’s, the idea is not just to stick with the typical demographics or segmentation - because the segmentation here is more psychographic, which traverses various age groups. 

“For all those people who look up to having a fine taste and indulgent snacking experiences, and Saif as a person who really exudes that, it moves beyond the demographic segmentation to a psychographic one as he fits into everything that the brand wants to embody for itself,” she added.

She also went on to add that from an overall perspective in terms of the way Lay’s Gourmet is made, to the way it is savoured, it is a very differentiated proposition that has been in the market for some time now, the brand is also witnessing that consumers are not just seeing the same differentiation but are also valuing it. 

“The idea behind us saying that it’s not just a chip, but it’s crafted, is because the entire process of selecting and slicing the right potatoes to cooking them slowly to give them the golden curls is very different. Unlike a normal chip, the golden curls are a mark of how they’re made with finesse and what adds to making it very different is the seasonings and the flavours,” she added.

Additionally, Joshi also revealed that while PepsiCo was trying to build on Lay’s Gourmet slowly by going to the right outlets, towns, etc. initially and hence resorted to a Rs 30 and Rs 50 pricing for its three flavours- Lime and Cracked Pepper, Thai Sweet Chilli, and Vintage Cheese and Paprika, the brand has now decided to launch Rs 20 packs.

“The idea now is to make Gourmet bigger and open it up to a wider set of people who are now appreciating finer experiences and a Rs 20 price point allows you to do that both internally and from a consumer’s point of view,” she said. 

Furthermore, delving deeper into the media mix, she also pointed out that while TV and impact properties will continue to play an important role in helping the brand go wider, disproportionate spending will also be done on digital because the brand’s target cohort constitutes of individuals who the brand needs to constantly talk to in more exciting and engaging ways.

“Because IPL is the most impact property of this season, it’s definitely going to be a part of our advertising mix and both TV and digital will play an important part for Gourmet,” she added.

Additionally, she also pointed out that the other part which is going to be important here is the brand’s channel play and how visible its products are on e-commerce and quick-commerce channels- two of the places where the consumers are seeking experiences like these and that the brand’s partnership with those people will become more prominent on Gourmet. 

“Similarly, influencers - whom we like to call ‘Friends of Lay’s’ - will also become an important leg of the 360-degree marketing strategy for us,” she added.

Commenting on the intricacies of marketing ‘premium’ FMCG products, Joshi also shared that with PepsiCo being a global organisation, the India team does get a lot of learnings from the markets that are ahead of India in terms of the adoption of ‘premium’.

“For a launch like this, the first thing we do is plug in a lot of our global learning from markets. However, some of this is very typical to India because of the trade environment that we operate in and that is where we start our work with a lot of market understanding of our own,” she stated.

Citing an example of how different marketing for ‘premium’ products in India is, Joshi shared that when Gourmet was launched PepsiCo had designed separate premium racks and countertops for the product which were kept outside the outlets - so that it stands beside but slightly on the side of the category to enable it to get that kind of visibility, space etc.


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