There is a page on Facebook called “You Know You Grew Up In India in the 90s When”. There are about 75 points and 74 on which a lot of people might have a lot of different opinions about but one point on which everyone is unanimous – “Maggi 2 Minute Noodles = ultimate snack (and tiffin, lunch, dinner)”
Back in the 80s and 90s, many international brands entered India and created a niche for themselves in the minds of several million consumers. They created such a strong brand affinity that till date their names are synonymous with their products – Xerox (does anyone ever say photocopy ?), Cadbury (milk chocolate never sounded so good) and of course Maggi.
I am sure that most of my readers will agree that “Meri Maggi” as it is trying to promote itself today has always been an important part of our lives. Irrespective of age, gender, class and all other man-made and nature-made distinctions, a small yellow packet containing a flat noodle cake and a small silver sachet has held the country together for 25 years. I have yet to come across someone who has not succumbed at least once to the blessed taste of the slurpy noodles (as well as someone who has managed to make it properly in 2 minutes!).
Contrary to the current trend of social media marketing, Maggi has always preferred to use traditional means of marketing and it has worked wonders for them. Over the last three decades, it has created many iconic advertisements all of which can be revisited @ http://www.maggi.in/merimaggitvc.aspx. The whole point of their agenda is that when Maggi was launched is India there was no Facebook or Twitter or Youtube or for that matter even the Internet. So how did Maggi become the brand it is today? Let’s take a look.
The story behind Maggi
In the early 1980s India was opening up to the world after three and a half decades of self-existence. Till then, the concept of “fast food” was practically non-existent. Nestle had already been pipped to the post by Cadbury in the milk chocolate segment and it desperately wanted to create a niche for itself in the high potential Indian market. It was then that it realized that it could be a first-mover in the untapped “instant food” segment.
Several years went by and a lot of money was spent and Maggi Noodles was born. The problems had only just begun. The biggest of them was the Indian psyche of the 80s. The conservatism which India showed in their culture boiled down to their palate also. They would rather stick to their Tandoori Chicken or Idli Sambhar than be a little more adventurous in trying a new taste. Maggi Noodles was a new taste from a new culture.
It was then that Maggi Noodles became Maggi Instant Two-Minute Noodles. The whole point was to position Maggi as platform of convenience and soul food for the a fast growing section of the Indian population – the working women. Heavy promotion was done on the same lines.
But even this did not work. Sales were good but not as good as they wanted it to be. A research was carried out which revealed that the largest consumers of the brand were not the working women but young children in the Indian households.
Realizing this, Nestle repositioned their brand using new promotional strategies and smart advertising. Marketing teams were sent out to schools to distribute free Maggi samples to take home. The kids would inevitably take their Maggi packets home and ask their mothers to prepare it for lunch or as a snack. The mothers would find that it took them only two minutes to make a proper hot meal for their children who would love it. They would refer it to their neighbors who would pass it on to distant bachelor cousins who lived alone and had to cook for themselves. Thus, the hugely successful viral campaign ensured that Maggi created a distinct affection in the hearts of its consumers unlike any other proprietary food of its time.
But the story was far from over. In 1997, Nissin – the inventor of instant noodles – launched its flagship brand Top Ramen in the Indian market with Shah Rukh Khan – fresh from the success of super hits like Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge – endorsing the brand. It was then that Maggi took its first false step – it changed its taste to align itself with that of Top Ramen’s.
The results were disastrous. A generation which had grown up on Maggi could not accept the new taste and would rather give Top Ramen a try. Nestle was fast losing ground to Nissin. It took them two years to work out a new strategy – accept the consumer’s verdict and get back to the basics. In 1999, Maggi relaunched itself with its original taste. It paid off handsomely and the faithfuls returned to their master. Top Ramen could no longer sustain the growth it built up in the two years.
The next big hurdle came in 2004. The SARS epidemic of 2003 in South East Asia had led to widespread concerns regarding personal hygiene and health. Mothers were now more concerned regarding what their children were eating and maida in general was always considered to be low on the health aspect.
In 2005 Maggi launched Atta Noodles with the tagline “Taste bhi, health bhi.” Although the advertisements showed Atta Noodles replacing the rotis and chapatis, this was never Maggi’s intention. It knew that thinking about that objective was a far cry and the main purpose was to convince mothers that their children was eating the right thing. In this sense, it scored over the Licia and Bambino semolina-based Macaroni products, which, though being an healthier alternative to Maggi, always tried to position themselves as a substitute for wheat based items of daily consumption. Within 10 months, Maggi Atta Noodles was declared a success and now they are foraying further with the “Taste bhi, Health bhi” campaign with products such as Multi-Grain Noodles.
The above examples show that Maggi as a brand knows the customer and is willing to learn from its mistakes. It knows that its USP is convenience to make and good to eat and it sticks to that without pushing the envelope further in its campaigns. It has also leveraged its success to other food products – the most notable of which is the Maggi ketchup which has garnered a market leader position of about 45% largely thanks to the Maggi brand and its positioning as a “Different” product ( Remember the tagline – Its different!). The savior of many students (and especially the ones staying in hostels), there is little doubt as to why many regard Maggi as the greatest invention since the wheel.