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30 years of the same educational advertising following category codes have failed to yield anything: Kiran Giradkar

Nutrica’s recent campaign deviated from conventional cooking oil ads by employing humour and a quirky setup. BN Group CMO Kiran Giradkar talks about the brand’s inception, marketing vision, media mix, use of humour as a theme, unhinged social media strategy, growth plans, and sheds light on the role of a CMO and must-have skills for the job.

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Harshal Thakur
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Imagine a commercial for a cooking oil brand. What strikes the minds? It’s probably an image of a dinner table with the mother serving food that smells tempting, and later, it’s revealed that it is healthy as well. Tadaa! Or it could be a middle-aged person recounting the health risks associated with increased cholesterol to another. The concluding lines of such ads usually feature the health benefits of that particular oil, the proverbial life-saver elixir.    

In India, cooking oil brands traditionally use marketing strategies that oscillate between fear-based and informative approaches to capture consumer attention and influence purchasing decisions. Fear-based tactics emphasise the health risks of inferior oils, such as heart disease and high cholesterol, to instil urgency and prompt consumers to switch to healthier alternatives. In contrast, the informative approach educates consumers on their products' nutritional benefits, purity, and quality, often supported by scientific evidence and health expert endorsements. Both methods have their merits but can often leave consumers feeling overwhelmed or unsure of which brand to trust. 

BN Group’s recent campaign for its brand Nutrica captured the essence of the different needs of different households when it comes to cooking oil. It employed a humorous approach in a category that usually focuses on informative and fear-based narratives. Nutrica was launched by BN Group this year with the intention of entering the consumer business from its B2B model. With the brand’s launch, the company has amped up its marketing efforts with a multi-media focus and is trying its hands at a slightly unhinged social media strategy.   

In this interview with Social Samosa, Kiran Giradkar, CMO, BN Group talks about the brand’s inception, marketing vision, media mix, use of humour as a theme, unhinged social media strategy, growth plans, and sheds light on the role of a CMO and must-have skills for the job. 

Edited excerpts:

Can you briefly shed light on BN Group’s overall marketing strategy and how it has changed over the years? 

BN Group has evolved in the last 11 years since its inception. The group's main business was hitherto concentrated on trading bulk quantities to businesses and institutions across the globe. However, it was only last year that we shifted our focus to consumer business as well.  Our flagship single seed oil brands ‘Simply Fresh’ and ‘Healthy Value’ were around for a while and this year we entered blended oil business with consumer brand – Nutrica.

How do you segment your audience and subsequently plan your communication in accordance with that? 

Nutrica is a premium wellness brand that understands that every household is different, and their needs are varied - some look for fitness, some for immunity, some for energy. Since these are affluent consumers actively seeking fitness and wellness goals, we utilise digital and hyperlocal contact points, mostly ATL, for brand communications.

For affordable and mass-market offerings like single seed oil Simply Fresh, BTL communication takes centre stage at the Point of sale, where there is a real fight amongst a plethora of brands.

What does your media mix look like? Has it changed over the years? 

With the advent of premium brand Nutrica, digital has become a major means of communicating with value-seeking audiences. 

For this, we have used a  360-degree approach through hyperlocal, with targeted OOH deployment at vantage points like gyms, hospitals, cafes and schools. We have also pushed our ads to interest-based cohorts seeking health, wellness and lifestyle solutions.

With the year reaching its midway mark, how have your marketing efforts transpired in terms of ROI and what is the plan for the rest of the year? 

Initial responses to hyperlocal initiatives in Delhi, Mumbai and Pune are more than encouraging. Once we spread our presence in a minimum of 6-8 metros, the hyperlocal mode will get converted into National TV plus allied media campaigns.

What does your marketing budget allocation look like? Is it evenly distributed throughout the year or are there specific time-periods when there are spikes in expenditure? 

The budgets will increase as per the traction that the brand gets in newer territories. The hyperlocal mode will be converted into a national 360-degree campaign. Accordingly, budgets will be spread out.

For an edible oil brand, do you think the traditional medium still reigns supreme? What has been the pattern of your target cohort in terms of migrating to digital?  

Not many oil brands have utilised digital beyond a certain point. Yes, mainline traditional mediums like TV are still a must for creating imagery and instant product awareness on one hand, the affinity towards a brand can only be increased with continued engagement - that’s possible only on digital.

What was the thought behind launching Nutrica? Considering the ample amount of brands present in the fitness oil category with large market share, how do you plan to stand out? 

Consumer insight shows that most medical experts recommend rotating cooking oils every month as each single seed oil has a few nutritional benefits but sacrifices others. Hence, a prevalent practice is to rotate your oil to get balanced nutrients from other oils every alternate month. That way, you can meet your different nutritional needs on a rotational basis. However, this might not be the best way out.  A better solution is blended oil, which gives you the goodness of two or more oils in one. Blended oils are not new, but most of the offerings and marketing narratives are still highly skewed towards a healthy heart only. Nutrica recognises and honours the individuality of a family's health needs – For instance, immunity needs for senior citizens; fitness needs for on-the-go executives and energy needs of growing children. Not just offering, even the packaging is unique. 

BN Group has mentioned that it aims to capture a 10% market share and achieve a turnover of INR 500 crores at the end of 3 years. How are you planning to achieve this substantial number and what plans do you have in store in terms of marketing to drive this growth? 

Growth is Availability X Awareness.

We have activation and association plans for all touchpoints to take this brand to the next level. The fact that we do not consider Nutrica as a cooking oil brand but as a lifestyle wellness brand expands the opportunity for the brand to explore various options for its growth.

The recent ‘Jaisa Ghar Waisa Cooking Oil’ campaign embraced a rather humorous approach as opposed to conventional ads that feature a more informative approach in this segment. Could you shed some light on this? Would we see this theme of humour continuing in upcoming campaigns?

30 years of the same educational advertising that’s stuck to the category codes have failed to yield anything in the minds of consumers. Consumers cannot differentiate one communication from another. So much so that even brand ambassador associations are misplaced all over the places in their mind.

The basic insight of one size fits all does not hold any ground in today’s engagement driven upwardly mobile audience. This is where a humorous twist came into picture. We intentionally stayed away from done to death kitchen set-ups, dinner time conversation visuals and presented a fresh perspective. 

BN Group’s social media strategy, specifically after the launch of Nutrica, seems to be gravitating towards using a more unhinged and humorous approach akin to that of some of the popular brands on social media. What is the thought-process behind this? 

Digital is about continued conversations. Nutrica celebrates the trials and tribulations of those who are committed to fitness and wellness goals and will continue the friendly, humorous and yet meaningful relationship with its audience in a journey towards wellness.

What segment of the audience are you planning to target via your social media endeavours? 

Wellness seeking an upwardly mobile audience.

With your extensive experience in the FMCG sector, how do you think FMCG marketing has evolved over the years on an industry level? 

The marketing has become very much participative. Today we listen to social conversations around brand and peripheral categories to devise a cohesive content strategy that becomes input for better product development. Earlier it was one way traffic. 

With the recent controversies in the FMCG industry, namely the row over quality concerns in some of the prominent spice brands, has the FMCG industry taken a hit? 

A few key trends that I have observed are the growing habit of reading food labels and intent for health consciousness and which have considerably increased over the years. However, there is still a huge gap between intent and action from either side – consumer and manufacturer.

There’s a new segment of social media influencers raising awareness about food products and ingredients used by prominent brands. Has this led to an overall decline in consumer trust in the FMCG industry? How are you trying to win over this trust?  

Under promise and over deliver—that's the recipe for staying calm. Good advertising can sell a bad product once, but a good product can sell for itself forever, even without advertising.

For Nutrica our entire focus for initial years is to create meaningful communities and build relationships with our audiences.

You have held the position of a CMO and led the marketing departments at multiple prominent brands. In your experience, what do you think are the must-have skills for a CMO? Additionally, how has the role of a CMO evolved over the years? 

Top three: 

  • Observe everything around you to gain insights. 

  • Be curious and inquisitive. 

  • Network with brand custodians and discuss ideas, not people. 

Follow and diagnose case studies preferably to stay up-to-date with the latest trends & advancements in the advertising landscape. Over the years CMOs have started sharing equal loads on business revenues and not just brand equities. 

Until a few years ago CMOs and CTOs were seen as separate roles in the organization, but the boundaries are merging. CMOs have gained access to a wealth of new tools. Use of different data analytics & emerging technology tools to enhance customer experience have gained momentum.



Lastly, can you share your long-term and short-term goals?

BN Group aspires to be a global FMCG brand that stands for its commitment to building nations by providing nutrition for fostering healthy minds.

In the process, we will expand our global footprints sustainably with innovation as a central force for growth.

cmo FMCG Industry Kiran Giradkar humour BN Group