Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Chota Bheem Ladoos - innovative brand merchandising option

Production house Green Gold Animation, creator of Chhota Bheem - India's first television animation serial, is working on an innovative merchandising option - Chote Bheem Ladoos. It is reportedly in talks with restaurant chains to license laddoos (Indian sweet) that Chhota Bheem eats by the dozens in the hugely popular animation series.

Chhota Bheem, who belongs to an imaginary village called Dholakpur, already features in T-shirts, umbrellas and home furnishings sold through 20 stores in cities like Hyderabad, Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata. The popular toon character has also been associated with brands such as Hindustan Unilever's Knorr Soupy noodles and Pepsodent toothpaste, Mrs Bector cookies and Usha fans for special promotions and contests. He even has a computer game for children where they get to save the ladoos from various miscreants.

Ladoo licensing is one of the most innovative merchandising options I have come across in the Indian markets. And it wont be without its due share of problems. The shape of the ladoo or complimenting posters of Chota Bheem in itself would not be enough to license and sell large quantitites of Ladoos in India. Licensing with packaged products like cookies are easier to handle and regulate. But ladoos, which are sold loose (unpacked), in every corner sweet shop would be difficult bet. And if successful every other sweet mart will easily copy and sell Chota Bheem ladoos within a day (in Indian unregulated markets). The image of Chota Bheem should be present not just at the retail point but also during consumption to be able to lure Indian children away from their favourite chocolates to these ladoos. The ladoos should also have certain nutrition value so that the parents are happy to pay the higher prices (due to licensening costs) for these ladoos over the usual ladoos or the cost effective chocolates prefered by their children.

Though difficult to pull off, this innovative merchandising option is surely worth a try. It could also open new avenues for sweet retailers of India. A few ways to tackle the above mentioned issues could be through innovative packaging. Chota Bheem box packs could be given to the authorised Sweet marts / restaurant chains to pack these ladoos. These packages could have the nutrient factor and other advantages written on it to encourage the parents to choose these over chocolates for their children. This would also be an innovative way for sweet marts later to pack other Indian sweets to brand themselves. If the company is somewhat environment conscious then it can simply change the bottom wrapper of the sweet with a Choota Bheem wrapper than waste a whole box. It could also give innovative moulds representing Chota Bheem to the sweet marts to make these ladoos.

This innovative marketing strategy from Chota Bheem creators now lead me to an oft repeated question in my sessions, 'Should marketing even be a cost?'

A few ways to re-look at media and marketing costs would be to

1] Innovent a word of mouthable media like Sprite shower that benefit and engage users. This will not only create new brand properties to decrease the cost of marketing (by multiplying WOM) but would also provide an opportunity to later leverage it for adding revenues to the brand. 

2] Filmfare Awards which started out as a promotion for the Film magazine, Filmfare, has now turned into a multi-million revenue opportunity for the brand while still being a great promoter for the magazine.

3] Brand merchandising is not an option available only for entertainment brands like Chota Bheem but are also available to products that have a distinct identity like the Corona beer, which now sells everything from bikinis to chairs, or Marlboro or Royal Enfield Bullet.

4] Product placement in ads by complimentary brands can drastically reduce marketing spends as detailed in Brand Associates - making marketing cheaper.

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