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INTERVIEW COCA COLA INDIA

Pushkar Chaudhary - Area Marketing Manager and Mohammed Akeel - Area General Manager, Coca Cola India, spoke to Chennaibest.com about Vijay, the new brand ambassador of Coca Cola, about Coke's marketing strategy, which is, “Think local and Act Local” and about the soft drinks market in Tamil Nadu.

Could you elaborate on your brand endorsement deal with Vijay?

VijayIn Tamil Nadu, we have always believed that movies and music have a large following.  The trend is similar, throughout the country, but accentuated more in Tamil Nadu. Teenagers seem to follow movies, music and of course the movie stars. The obvious indicators being the kind of fan clubs most movie stars have.  If you take the case of Vijay, when we finished the ad, many of his fan clubs came and took his 'Coke posters' to be displayed at vantage places in and around theatres screening his recent movie ‘Badri’.

We wanted to capitalise on this, and use it as part of our marketing strategy.  We have done this successfully.  For example, we tried it last year with a Vijay starrer ‘Priyamanavale’ and we did a set of activities centred on ‘Priyamanavale’, which were received very well.  We have also used stars nationally Hrithik, Aamir and Aishwarya and it worked well for us and we thought why not Vijay, who is one of the top stars in Tamil Nadu, to endorse our brand.  That is why we tied up with him.  It did not happen immediately.  He took some time to think it over since this was the first time he was going to endorse a product. 

To my mind we will do well as the first commercial has already come and the ‘gaana’ song seems to be on every youngster’s lips within just a few days itself.

Does regional content for local marketing help?

That was the whole idea of this tie-up.  The four southern states are in reality different countries.  The things that work well in the rest of the country do not do well in Tamil Nadu, Kerala or Andhra.  Karnataka is more or less cosmopolitan especially Bangalore.  For example when we did tie-ups with movies like Hum Saath Saath Hain and Kaho Na Pyar Hai, starring big names from Bollywood they did not do well in Tamil Nadu and all the activities that we did around these movies, also did not fare well.  The people here do not relate to these stars, some cannot even pronounce Hrithik’s name right, they call him Karthik Roshan. 

Why was the ad shot in Hyderabad and featured Amrita Rao, when you are eyeing the local audience?

For any commercial, the audience would not know where it is shot.  For example an earlier commercial was shot in Lawrence School in Ooty and nobody could place where they shot it.  It does not’t make a difference whether it is shot in Loyola or NIFT.  These are cinematic decisions made by the director of the ad.  We have no say in it.  There are local models available but Rajiv Menon decided on Amrita.  I feel that she would appeal to the Tamil audience and it is immaterial whether she is from Chennai or Mumbai.

What are the promotions that you have planned for your other brands?

In fact last year we had done a big promotion for Rajni 25 with Fanta.  So we started with Fanta last year and we have plans for Fanta, Limca, Sprite and Maaza this year.  I would not be able to elaborate on those plans for specific reasons. 

Could you pinpoint any specific market patterns that Tamil Nadu has when it comes to the soft drinks market?

Pushkar Chaudhary and Mohammed AkeelIn terms of market growth and in terms of market behaviour it is similar to the rest of the country.  What is different from the rest of the country is the brand consumption pattern.  Andhra, Karnataka and Kerala are neighbouring states.  In Andhra Pradesh the largest selling brand is Thums Up, Fanta has very low consumption levels.  In the neighbouring state, which is Tamil Nadu the largest selling brand is Fanta while Thumps Up is non-existent here.  It just doesn’t sell here.  In Karnataka, Coke and Thumps Up sell as much as each other.  Kerala is a big soda market.  So that is the way it is.

How different is your strategy for Tamil Nadu from the national strategy?

It is very different.  There is nothing, which is national, which we roll out in Tamil Nadu or Kerala.  For example there is a promotion going on in the North which will start soon, it will not be implemented in Tamil Nadu or Kerala where we will have our own promotions.  In fact the Coca Cola promotion has already started in Tamil Nadu with the Vijay starrer Badri. 

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