In what appears to be a major marketing effort of all times in its history, homegrown Tata Motors has bagged the international football superstar Lionel Messi as its global brand ambassador to endorse its passenger vehicles. The “Made of Great” campaign starring the soccer icon has been kick-started. This association has come at an opportune time for Tata Motors as its market share in the passenger car segment in India is experiencing month-on month decline and brand image comparatively poor. Although the possibility of Messi’s campaign to salvage Tata’s misfortunes might not be as vibrant as you think, but nevertheless this can be a good start in boosting Tata’s brand reputation.
Personally, I’m neither a great fan of football nor follow any games, yet I do realise that Lionel Messi is a phenomenally renowned player with legions of fans, not just in India, but across the globe. But I must say I am a great admirer of Tata Motors since childhood, partly due the fact that it is an “Indian” company that has grown up from scratch – from a local marketing partner with Daimler-Benz in 1950s selling commercial vehicles to one of the largest automobile maker in India in the recent times. The company is also selling its products and have assembly operations outside India as well.
Tata’s entry into the passenger vehicle segment in early 1990s with its MUVs – such as Sierra, Tata Estate, and later Safari – was a major breakthrough in nurturing the indigenous SUV segment later joined by other players. Tata Indica, the brand’s first fully indigenous passenger car launched in 1998, fought back the initial criticism by auto analysts to become one of the best sellers in the history of the Indian automobile industry with an aggressive marketing strategy, easy owning and maintenance, and impressive fuel efficiency. However, with stiff competition from numerous brands and changing preferences among Indian buyers have led to a stagnant phase in Tata Motor’s evolution in the current decade. It is certainly a company with huge potentials.
And that’s perhaps why the campaign “#madeofgreat” is appealing. Tata claims that the spark for the campaign comes from the inspiring thought of “What drives us from within is what makes us great”. It tries to make a symbolic connect between Messi and the Tata Motors by citing the core value of hard work, innovation, and ‘a conviction to succeed’ from the beginning of their journey. Tata, all through its journey, has consistently tried its best in bringing distinctive products and packaging, with a sense of innovation in them.
For instance, the sub 4-metre compact sedan segment was pioneered by Tata Motors, which later on became one of the most sought-after and competitive segment in India. Similarly, Tata Ace gave a phenomenal boost to the LCV segment. The Tata Iris and Magic were innovative and were perceived well by buyers as well.
Interestingly, it is the first time that Tata motors, in its 60+ years of history, is associating with a celebrity for marketing campaigns, marking a shift in the brand’s stand so far that ‘its customers were its true ambassadors’ and so ‘did not need any celebrity to endorse its products’. The customer sentiments on the brand at present, particularly in India, is certainly not that good and many such marketing efforts are needed to gain and restore buyers trust.
Tata Motors says that it is at a defining juncture in its evolution in the car industry with ‘path-breaking’ products in the pipeline, and adds that Messi’s knack to appeal globally makes him an ideal person to represent the marque internationally. This may certainly work in football-loving nations of North and South Africa, and South East Asia, where Tata Motors is currently active. But in India, Messi ‘logic’ is far-fetched, and we have to wait for some time to realise the actual impacts if any. However, Messi’s campaign with certainly help in boosting Tata’s brand reputation, both globally and in Indian market as well. Many of its rival brands have better and more aggressive advertising strategies, and as in case of Volkswagen, such marketing gimmicks have certainly paid well in past.
Having said that, Tata Motors must not feel complacent with their new marketing strategies either. It must work towards achieving better consumer satisfaction through strengthening its dealer networks and their service deliverance. The keywords of the campaign – ‘design’ and ‘technology’ – must be put to work in their upcoming products. The company is already trying to ward-off its “cheap-car” image by bringing better designed and equipped products, which is a welcoming sign.
In a nutshell, it is heartening to see new energy and enthusiasm in Tata’s car marketing and the brand desperately needs some fresh air to fight back the losing ground. The latest campaign with Lionel Messi must be one effort among the brand’s retaliation and not the only one!
Photos and Video Credit: Tata Motors