Chennai: The condom brand Kohinoor has taken a 360-degree turn in its communication strategy. So nudity is no longer a taboo subject. Known as a conservative brand so far, the product-pack now exposes the female anatomy on a larger scale than its competitors have ever done.
This is really a far cry from the earlier subtle communication strategy where the advertisement visual consisted of a man in trousers with shirt tucked in, belted and booted presenting a rose to a pink colour sari-clad woman.
But today TTK LIG - a joint venture between the TTK group and SSL International, UK - has despatched respectability to the dustbin and has embraced a dare-and-bare strategy. "Making the rubber (s)exciting and desirable is our motto," says TTK LIG vice-president (marketing) R Srinivasan.
The company plans to achieve the avowed motto by a three-pronged strategy: launching new variants under the Kohinoor brand; repositioning the brand; and starting a dare-bare media campaign to attract the youth.
Part of the first prong is the relaunch of three variants - Xtra Dots, Xtra Ribs and Xtra Thin - under the Kohinoor brand. Recently the company added Kohinoor Xtra Time to the portfolio. For the first time in India here comes a condom coated with a lubricant containing an unspecified percentage of local anaesthetic Benzocaine to give the male the much-desired extra time while making love.
TTK LIG officials say one can expect much more variants from the company. The next in the line could be a close-fit condom launched by SSL International in the UK in June 2002. SSL International already has Durex Performa, which is similar to Kohinoor Xtra Time.
While TTK LIG's competitors say they would wait and watch before making a counter attack, what has caught their eyes is the brand repositioning moves by the Chennai company. "I am closely watching TTK LIG's repositioning strategy. We did the same a decade back, and now they consider it worth emulating," says JK Ansell executive director Aniruddha Deshmukh.
Says Sunder Balasubramanian, the client services manager of McCann Erickson India, which handles the Kohinoor account: "Launched in 1978 the Kohinoor brand was well received by the target audience - married men aged 30 and with one or two kids. The brand message romance was conveyed through the pink clothing and the flower offering. Since the conservative Doordarshan was the only visual medium then, the brand had a comfortable existence."
But the nineties saw foreign satellite channels invading Indian living and bedrooms, beaming scantily-clad women with hourglass figures kissing their boyfriends. The decade also saw new condom players like JK Ansell emerging.
The branding of Kamasutra was a masterstroke by Deshmukh's team. Supported by a no-nonsense media campaign that showed nudity in a new light, KS started gathering huge chunks of the Indian condom market. Other brands like Moods and Adam from Hindustan Latex and Polar Latex, respectively, too gained their own market place.
Many a time KS's steamy commercials ended with debates in the Parliament, giving it more publicity, thus witnessing its sales swelling. Soon the youth started relating romance to bold sex and not by exchanging roses. All these resulted in Kohinoor experiencing a flaccid growth. Adding to TTK LIG's woes were the aging Kohinoor users (the once middle-aged) getting out of the loop.
On the other hand KS-users stayed loyal to the brand as switching would mean acknowledging they are no longer the brash youth - a psychological suicide in the dimly-lit bedrooms.
As a counter strategy TTK LIG launched Fiesta targeting the youth and Durex for the premium segment. Both were promoted with a bold media campaign. Though the brands clocked good sales, it was not able to catch up with KS. Further, spending on building the Fiesta brand from the scratch was an issue for TTK LIG. Today, though Fiesta is available at retail outlets, not much is spent on building the brand.
Despite all this, the Kohinoor sales continued to dip slowly, though it continued to maintain its market leadership. JK Ansell, meanwhile, consolidated its gains by introducing variants like dotted and ribbed condoms, and others simply followed the leader.
Finding the Kohinoor sales slowly going limp, TTK LIG finally decided to speak in a more youthful language. The barrier was the mounting plank. It couldn't take the sensual plank - already taken by KS - and did not want to harp on the old romance theme.
"The definition of romance has changed, so the stress had to change," says McCann Erickson India vice-president and general manager Girish Chandrashekar. "The target segment has been enlarged to include all males in the 18-to-40-year bracket." So TTK LIG took the middle ground and decided to launch the ignite-the-passion plank in 2000.
The company added two fiery strokes over the brand name. Bitten fiercely (it's difficult to survive love bites in competition), TTK LIG this time wanted a provocative commercial. "The brand has to be associated with lots of fun, joy, play and tease," says Chandrasekhar.
The commercial depicts all these. It shows a husband picking up a Kohinoor packet kept under the pillow one morning. He starts chasing his wife who is ironing his shirt. The playful couple runs all over the house and to the garden. And at one point in their intense heat session they find their house on fire due to the iron box burning the shirt and all.
Soon the product portfolio was expanded with variants - dotted, ribbed, extra-thin condoms. Coupled with a steamy and sleazy packaging and daring ads in the print media, the new variants apparently ignited whatever has to be ignited.
"The new launches and the repositioning took our market share from 35 to 42 per cent," says Srinivasan. While the competitors agree to his statement, they nevertheless question the success of the variants. "In the dotted condom segment Moods (Rs 10/3 pieces) is the leader, followed by KS (Rs 14/3 pieces) and Kohinoor Xtra Dots (Rs 12/3 pieces). On the other hand the ribbed segment is not that popular," says a JK Ansell official.
Though TTK LIG has now matched its much younger rival JK Ansell in product offering and brand positioning, it still lags behind in at least one aspect - web initiative. Deshmukh says his company's specialised website (www.ksontheweb.com) attracts around 6,000 browsers every day. Developed at a cost of Rs 25 lakh and incurring around Rs 1 lakh per month towards content maintenance, the KS site is really world-class.
If its bold marketing plans are any indication, Kohinoor should soon outplay KS in that section (or is it session?), too.