Mayank Shah, Senior Category Head at Parle Products, has seen the company transform from an iconic brand to a modern brand in his nearly 21 years with it. He talks of the new Valentine’s Day campaign ‘Start your story with Hide & Seek’, and says the current focus is on adapting and evolving with customers and extending categories that have performed well with new product launches.
What are your key learnings from your experience of nearly 21 years working with Parle Products? What would you single out as the milestones?
At Parle, I have seen the image of the company transform from an iconic brand to a modern brand. Parle has the most well-defined network for distribution, but over the last two decades, our focus has been on staying relevant, adapting and evolving with our customers. I am always learning and re-learning consumer behaviour to ensure that our messaging portrays us as a modern company for today’s consumers, building on our legacy. This reflects in our brand communication too.
Our customers are very vocal about us. Just a few years back, we saw Twitter flooded with consumers talking about how they enjoy eating their beloved biscuit Parle-G. Not just the tea combination, but even Parle-G with water! In another instance, when there were a couple of tweets from a certain account talking against the brand, consumers jumped into action like our superheroes to back us up. We couldn’t have asked for more. The love and healthy criticism we receive from our customers is why we are India’s biggest food company. We care about our consumers and in return, they too show us their love.
How do you keep legacy brands such as Parle-G, Monaco and KrackJack, etc., relevant to today’s consumer?
Over the years, Parle-G has risen to become the flagship brand of Parle Products and has been part of everybody’s life. While it remains India’s top biscuit brand, it has transcended from being just a biscuit to a staple for most of its consumers. It has become an integral part of the daily life of crores of Indians.
Monaco has completed about 80 years and it’s been 50 golden years for KrackJack now. Maintaining brand relevance is an ongoing process, as the world around us changes. As a brand, we have to make sure that we align ourselves with the new meaning of things that resonate with our consumers, so that we still feel relatable. In addition to that, we try to gather insights based on everyday happenings from consumers’ life stories through market research and social listening. We then decide on the most purposeful messages that we want to convey to our audience.
What are the investments going into innovations and new product launches under the Biscuits category and the Platina range at Parle? Can you talk about some upcoming products or projects?
Parle has been the most innovative company; most of its innovations like Parle-G, Krackjack (sweet and salty cracker), Hide & Seek, Black Bourbon, Choco rolls, H&S Crème, Cheeselings, etc., are copied by competition. It is a popular adage at Parle that “Our products are almost always copied but never equalled”! We have been investing significantly in R&D based on market conditions and consumer consumption patterns in rural and urban sectors. Though it is too early to comment on upcoming launches, there are new products in the pipeline, with some very interesting stuff. The pandemic disrupted the launch of some of them. We will be focusing on extending categories that have performed well in the respective markets.
What are your expectations from the new Valentine’s Day campaign ‘Start your story with Hide & Seek’? What is the budget for this three-ad campaign?
Hide &Seek has established itself as the brand of choice for consumers when it comes to chocolate chip cookies. With this campaign, the aim is to portray Hide & Seek as an enabler of first time conversations among the youth. All three TVCs from the campaign focus on helping you make the first move when you come across a person you like. They demonstrate how Hide & Seek can play Cupid in such situations. Young people are hesitant to start a conversation due to fear of rejection or simply because they lack confidence. So, the expectation with this campaign is that Hide & Seek can act as an enabler when it comes to making the first move. The TVCs tailored to connect with the 15-25 age group are in seven languages including Hindi, English, Tamil, Marathi, etc., and we have invested around Rs 15 crore on the campaign. We have also focused on digital, given our target audience.
With the accent on healthy eating and nutrition post pandemic, do you foresee a challenge before the Biscuits category right now?
People have become more health conscious today. Even people who largely did not care too much about things such as ingredients or the fat content of a particular product, have started reading up and researching on such factors. That being said, people are not going to completely cut out food like biscuits from their diet, as biscuits or even chocolates, are the kind of foods that even the most health-conscious people like to consume from time to time.
Biscuits such as Parle-G or KrackJack and others have become a part of people’s lives and they may not like having their tea without these biscuits. We have now introduced biscuit products that are healthy, such as Parle Platina Nutri crunch, to cater to our health-conscious audience. Also, Biscuits as a category, barring cream biscuits, are typically seen as relatively healthy compared to fried snacks. I believe the category will be able to sail through fairly well under any foreseeable challenges.
Tell us about the top three marketing strategies that help you navigate a fiercely competitive market and remain ahead.
Developing our USP and integrating it into the entire portfolio has always been a win-win. When we think of product innovation, we usually come from a place of filling a gap or enhancing an experience. For instance, while launching the breakfast cereal category, we chose to go ahead with Hide & Seek choco fills, as it intensifies the consumer experience of having a real choco-filled cereal.
Evolution and adaptation is another strategy that helps us outshine competitors. At Parle, we are always ready to deal with market changes and evolve according to changing consumer preferences in real time.
Just as we care for our family members, Parle cares for and looks out for the best opportunity to serve its audience. We invest in thorough R&D to understand the shift in the market and consumer preferences. We also pay close attention to what our customers are saying on different platforms to gauge their sentiment. Putting together the results of their experiences, we are able to draw our strategies, and that keeps us ahead of the competition.