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Micromax goes for the kill

By roping in a Hollywood A-lister, the home-grown mobile handset maker hopes to get three things: bragging rights, a larger global footprint and a new set of customers in the domestic market

Sounak Mitra  |  New Delhi 

Its brand promise is 'nothing like anything' and Micromax is clearly walking the talk - evident from the surprise it has sprung on everybody. The signing up of Hugh Jackman, who is the third-highest paid male actor in the world, as brand ambassador of the Canvas Turbo (priced at Rs 19,999), has jolted everybody. After all, there are not many instances of an Indian brand hiring a Hollywood A-lister for endorsement.

The move, experts say, is aimed at two things: one, Micromax is clearly trying to position itself as a global brand, which is understandable as the company is set to enter Russia by December and Romania in the first quarter of next year. There could be a foray into Africa as well. Micromax co-founder Rahul Sharma says, "We aspire to emerge as a strong global brand. It is not just about India. It is time for more, beyond the sub-continent." The second reason for paying top-dollar to the versatile actor (apart from being at ease in romantic leads as well as a superhero, he is also a top-level singer and dancer) is that Micromax wants to be armed with recognition among a set of consumers in the domestic market it now wants to tap. Not the value-buyers but the influencers who would first consider buying an Apple or a Samsung phone, even if it means shelling out extra for the brand alone.

Micromax's consumer base is characterised by people from smaller towns. That is because a typical youth from a metro has been found to pay a bit more for a brand that has better positioning in the market, for bragging rights. The brand expert says, "The fans of Hugh Jackman, or the people who watch his films, are from a strata where Micromax, at the moment, has negligible presence. The brand is targeting those who not only buy for themselves but also influence others to buy."

While Micromax is tightlipped about the money paid, experts say it won't be less than a few millions of dollars. Is that a money well-spent? While the jury is out on that, the fact is the company's brand has gone viral on social media already. The word 'micromax' is trending all day on Twitter. So for the home-grown mobile handset manufacturer, it's clearly a casting coup. specially because Jackman, most known for his work on four films: The Wolverine, the latest instalment of the X-Men series (where he also plays the Wolverine), Prisoners and Les Miderables, as he has done very few endorsement deals. Even though top global brands are lining up to get him, his deals in the past few years include an ongoing relationship with German car maker Audi and a global advertising campaign for Lipton's ice tea range.

Jackman (in June, Forbes magazine put his earnings at $55 million), will promote all products released over the next one year under Canvas, Micromax's flagship sub-brand. Teasers of the TVC are already out, and are part of a full-drawn campaign.

Micromax, which entered in 2008 as a price warrior, holds the second position with a 22 per cent share (IDC, Q2) of a more than 35 million-units-per-annum market. The South Korean major Samsung holds the top slot with 26 per cent. Micromax is also second-largest in neighbouring Bangladesh and third in Sri Lanka, besides having a strong presence in Nepal.

In the global arena, American, European and Korean brands get 'country of origin' preference by consumers over makes from India and China. Micromax, then, needs to position itself in a way that it is not treated as an inferior and unreliable product. Sharma says, "What we offer is at par or better than most of the products from leading brands. Our smartphones are multi-taskers and who can be a better ambassador than Hugh Jackman who embodies the aspirational, re-invented, fearless persona. And, Hugh Jackman is a name that has no boundaries."

Micromax's campaigns have made it a point to not highlight its antecedents for some time now. Rather Lowe Lintas, the creative agency for Micromax, is working on product-specific campaigns. Sharma says that the company will be spending about Rs 200 crore over the next one year on advertising.

But it had not always glossed over its Indian roots, having sported ambassadors like Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the Indian cricket captain and Hindi movie actors Akshay Kumar and Kalki Koechlin.

"Micromax has always been a challenger brand with pricing being the key to success. For the brand to grow, it has to find new customers," says a brand expert with an advertising agency, who did not wish to be identified.

Micromax is eyeing a third (about 33 per cent) of the smartphone market over the next two years, says Sharma. It will launch about 20-25 new models to add to the 700,000-800,000 units of smartphones it sells every month. It sells about 2.5 million units of smartphones, feature phones and tablets every month and claims a turnover of Rs 3,100 crore last financial year.

It will now be up to Jackman and his depiction to get the attention of consumers who have not been excited about the brand so far.

First Published: Sun, October 27 2013. 22:20 IST