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Is the relaunch of Campa going to start a price war in the cola segment?

While the cola market in India is mainly dominated by Coca-Cola and Pepsi, Reliance’s foray into the cola segment is perceived to kindle a pricing war in the segment, similar to what the company had done with the launch of Jio

Ahead of the summer of ‘23, many of the prominent cola players in India have announced a slew of changes to keep the summer momentum high. More has also been done to make up for Reliance’s price-based strategy for the relaunch of ‘The Great Indian Taste’, i.e- Campa. 

It is to be noted that when Coca-Cola had wound up its operation in the country owing to FERA 1973, Pure Drinks Group launched Campa in 1977 and with that the beverage had soon established its monopoly in India owing to its cola variant and the promise of ‘Great Indian Taste’. 

But in the late 1980s, when Thums Up and Pepsi entered the country, and Coca-Cola also returned to the Indian market in 1993, Campa lost its monopoly and entered the abyss by 2012. Having said that it was in September last year that Reliance Industries acquired Campa for Rs 22 crores and has now relaunched it in three variants across key markets in India.

While the cola market in India is mainly dominated by Coca-Cola and Pepsi, Reliance’s foray into the cola segment is perceived to kindle a pricing war in the segment, similar to what the company had done with the launch of Jio. Coincidentally, or strategically, what clashed with the launch of Campa was the unveiling of a new Pepsi logo and a price slash on 200 ml bottles by Coca-Cola. 

Key marketing trends that will gain prominence in the cola segment in the summer of ‘23

Ashish Mishra

As per Ashish Mishra, CEO, Interbrand-India and South Asia, serious category innovations beyond the defensive ‘unbad’ will provide a long-term growth path for brands as it is a steep challenge for brands to find a resolution for the health and wellness awakening, but the brands need to think beyond the traditional product and category labels. 

“I believe employing a broader and transcending approach to widen their spaces after deepening their meaning systems will help reinvent portfolios and open up new relevance and growth,” he added.

Soumitra Karnik

Additionally, Soumitra Karnik, an independent Creative Consultant, stated that he is expecting to see a ‘terrific price war’ this summer, especially in the cola category - coupled with more collaborations for promotions with other brands and influencers. 

“We may also get to see some interesting innovation in products. Personalised experiences for customers who are used to getting them now in other categories extend to their beverage choices. Brands offering customisable drink options, personalised packaging, or tailored flavour profiles will likely appeal to modern-day consumers,” he added. 

Addressing the elephant in the room - Campa Cola

Since the cola market in India is mainly dominated by the two cola giants- PepsiCo and The Coca-Cola Company, also tried to find out what would be the ideal advertising strategy for Reliance Industries’ newly acquired and relaunched Campa. 

Karnik emphasised that Campa will have to adopt a well-thought-out strategy to re-enter the highly competitive market and gain a foothold alongside established players like PepsiCo, Parle Agro, and Coca-Cola. 

In his views, RCPL might position and advertise the revamped Campa Cola during this year's summer season not based on mere nostalgia and emotional appeal - because it may not work, but by playing on its ‘unmatched’ distribution arm and that their pricing strategy will be aimed at generating trials and value packs will encourage repeat purchases. Further, he also added that the launch may receive healthy initial trials but what needs to be seen is how it is sustained.

“I am waiting to see ‘Jio and Piyo’ clubbing as their enormous consumer base will be a low-hanging fruit,” he said candidly.

Furthermore, he also emphasised that in his views, RCPL will also leverage its access to the celebrities, and ownership of media channels and sports teams as they are already present where big tournaments like IPL are. 

“To come on an equal playing field, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo will also have to shell out big amounts, which is rather tough when global sanctions on marketing budgets may not be that easy to come by for these brands, considering the negative market sentiment. Therefore, RCPL will play on national pride, even if it happens subtly,” he said.

Vikas Mehta

Similarly, Vikas Mehta, an independent consultant, also shared the view that everyone is expecting too much out of Campa Cola revamp and in his view, nothing much is going to happen simply because first of all Campa has to get its on-ground bottling in place and the work is still in progress for the same. Therefore, their focus for this summer season, in Mehta’s opinion, is going to be on online sales, be it through JioMart or at best through their offline stores like Reliance Mart, Reliance Fresh, etc.

“I personally don’t think that they need a campaign at this stage because they don’t have volumes to match up to it. But if they do, who are they going to target is the real catch- the youngsters of today or the generation that grew old drinking Campa. What’s going to happen in Campa is going to be bought by families as it is more driven for family consumption rather than personal consumption because it is a novelty item,” he added.

Furthermore, he also stated that if Reliance plans to launch an ad campaign for Campa, it’ll most likely be a very generic one and will not talk the language of the youth or the old because the typical Jio is a very personality-less brand.

“If they do resort to an ad campaign, they may feature a slightly old star and use them to hammer that the brand is available in the current times and that is also because their go-to for the IPL is JioCinema and therefore it might be tempting for them to do something on the lines of talking to the younger generation through the same because that is where the youth would be watching the IPL,” he added.

On similar lines, Interbrand’s Mishra also stated that Campa Cola is a smart deal struck by Reliance and that from the early trends and conversations, in his views, RCPL is likely to use it to weave its India narrative along with its familial bonding and consumption story.

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