Tata Steel: A weak and boring campaign

The execution of the advertising campaign is far from steely—it’s brittle and collapses after the very first exposure

'Values Stronger than Steel', boasts the new TV campaign from Tata Steel. The slogan immediately tells you the steel giant isn't going to be talking about quality, reliability and other attributes. It tells you that the company has chosen the path to tell us about its rich corporate values.
As a concept, this sounds good. Most people are aware that Tata Steel has been around for a long time. And the Tata name does carry a fair degree of goodwill. (Unless you are a resident of Singur or Mamatadi's first cousin. In which case 'Tata' is a four-letter word). So it makes sense to talk about core values.  

But the execution is far from steely. It's brittle and collapses after the very first exposure. I watched three ads. Basically, they have used the same old, tired testimonial approach. In each ad, an employee of Tata Steel speaks about the company in glowing terms. One ad features a golf player called Mark Denys. Apparently he is Tata Steel's research and development chief. The gent mumbles something about leaving your mark on the world. About his technology expertise that will save humanity, and more such clichés. Another ad features Everest climber Bachendri Pal. She is now the head of Tata Steel Adventure Foundation. Pal talks about making dreams come true. She wants more people to reach the mountain peak. What that has to do with Tata Steel I have no idea. The third ad features a tribal woman called Asha Hansda. She speaks about how her life changed at Tata Steel. From wearing ordinary saris she has switched to sporting shirts and trousers. I didn't quite get what she does in the company. I suspect she is a company driver.

Make no mistake about this: The ads are VERY boring, they are blind spots, and nothing gets registered despite repeated exposures. And that's because it's a torture to sit through this hackneyed work. I think in their effort to be sincere and rooted, Tata Steel forgot about one very critical thing: Advertising must grab your attention, it must reward you for watching the ads, and make you want to watch the ads again. Values of a company need not be boring. Rather, it's the job of advertising to make a company's values come alive.

Each ad ends with "This is not advertising. This is life @ Tata Steel." Well, at least they are right about one thing. This is not advertising, it can't be. This is a bad documentary that would make Doordarshan's 'Krishi Darshan' sound like a fun programme.




5 years ago


i found ads by the two women, the everest-climber & the crane-driver, very inspiring and fulfilling the need of social-corporate responsibilities: in direct contrast to the writer's observations! the ads are typical of the tatas. they are low set, not in self-conceit, enacted by humble, ordinary people. they touch u straight..as one of the readers has pointed out. it seems that the hon'ble writer of the piece has lost his bearings somewhere in between.............


5 years ago

It may not "grab eyeballs" but I found it touching. I am sure many others did so as well.

Venu Mohan Madhavan

5 years ago

The biggest problem Tata will be faced with in the near future is the result of their inability < in competence > in dealing with B to C situations< they are good in B to B> I have very bad personal experience as a customer of Voltas < AC> Tata Timken < shares > Tata Sky, Tata Telecom < broad band > and to some extend Tata Mutual Funds. I had shifted to a TATA Brand because I TRUSTED the brand TATA. I felt that in all these cases inefficient/ corrupt executives have let the brand down. TATA must take cognizance of this problem and act immediately before the Value Perception about their brand comes down crashing like a pack of cards. No amount of money spend on Ad campaigns will help them if they don't get their own act in order.

Brands are trying image makeovers, but fashion retail in India is still struggling

Will the group-and-grow strategy and private equity investments help this sector?

The fashion retail and apparel industry has been banking on young India for its success. But many of the fashion brands today are having trouble managing their business. July saw some important investments and deals in this sector. With cost of cotton and synthetic fibres soaring and volumes dropping, the sector is under a lot of pressure. At such a time, it remains to be seen how far these investments go in turning around the fortunes of these brands.

"Brands are trying to reinvent and stabilise themselves with their private equity (PE) deals and other moves. The question is not how much is being invested, but what is being done by the investors and the company to make the most of these investments," said a sector analyst, while commenting on Avigo Capital's bid for a majority stake in the brand Spykar, preferring anonymity. The youth-centric label saw a promising start, but following an over-ambitious expansion drive three years ago, ran into losses. Avigo, together with limited partner Metmin Investments, decided to take over the reins last month in order to resurrect the brand and cut losses.

Apart from Spykar, high-end women's fashion label Kimaya received an investment of Rs60 crore from Franklin Templeton India, as a part of its Rs630 crore investment deal. Kimaya plans to expand in tier-II cities. LVMH Group-backed L Capital Asia recently picked up 25.5% stake in Genesis Luxury Fashion, which owns labels like Satya Paul.

However, in the recent past, a lot of PE investors have quit these fashion brands after incurring losses. Sameer Sain, MD and CEO, Everstone Capital Partners, recently said, "Retail (clothing) is an exciting industry but one needs to be immensely disciplined in front-end expansion and managing inventories." Everstone, which was invested in Lilliput Kidswear, was one of the few investors who quit after making profit. One of the most famous brands, Koutons, saw its investor Ascent Capital, formerly UTI Ventures, sell its 8.3% stake and exit with losses.

What are the chances of the PE investors who are investing now, to make a profit? The fashion retail sector is under a lot of pressure. Sales have dropped, and with prices of cotton going up and logistics cost adding up, the brands are hoping that the festive season will come to their rescue. Aditya Birla group's Madura Fashion and Lifestyle shut many flagship stores of Espirit, a global lifestyle brand, following huge losses. Provogue is still saddled with unsold inventory. In such a situation, it looks unlikely that these brands will be able to bring a smile to their investors' faces.

What then is the way to arrange for funds in such a situation? "In many cases, we see that PE deals lead to an IPO (initial public offering), only time will tell how these companies will do after that," added the analyst. Kimaya Fashion MD Pradeep Hirani had hinted that the brand may go for an IPO after three years. Genesis had announced that it would go for an IPO about three years ago but that hasn't happened yet. The other way to raise money in this sector is to go through the group-and-grow strategy, which is essentially going for acquisitions. Future Group has acquired stakes in brands like Indigo Nation, Lee Cooper, Celio and Scullers by taking over their parent Indus League; where it holds more than 90% stake.

"If there are IPOs or acquisitions, one has to wait and watch as to how the companies manage their resources to resurrect themselves and get back on track. The sector is under tremendous pressure, and that is why many of these brands are reshuffling alliances and changing franchises," said a consultant, "for many brands, it is a bleak run. Smaller chains, who manage their costs and inventory well, are more likely to succeed in this sector."


India’s fundamentals strong; ready to deal with any concern: Govt & RBI

While the government said it will fast-track implementation of pending reforms, the central bank assured the industry that it will maintain adequate liquidity and respond quickly to evolving situation

New Delhi: the government and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on Monday sought to allay fears on account of adverse impact of the US downgrade by a rating agency saying the fundamentals of the Indian economy are strong and they were ready to address any concern that may arise from the present situation, reports PTI.

While the government said it will fast-track implementation of pending reforms, the central bank assured the industry that it will maintain adequate liquidity and respond quickly to evolving situation.

“Our institutions are strong and are prepared to address any concern that may arise on account of the present situation”, said finance minister Pranab Mukherjee giving an assurance to the worried industry and nervous stock markets.

The government, he said, “Will fast-track implementation of the pending reforms and keep a close eye on international developments... We would focus on encouraging greater domestic consumption and give impetus to drivers of domestic growth.”

Earlier in the day, the RBI said, “We will respond quickly and appropriately to the evolving situation,” in an apparent bid to calm down the stock market which opened on a nervous note on weak cues from global bourses.

“In the immediate future, the RBI’s priority is to ensure that adequate rupee and forex liquidity are maintained in domestic market to prevent excessive volatility in interest rates and the exchange rates,” it said.

The BSE Sensex which saw a fall of 546 points in early trade, closed at a 14-month low of 16,990 points on lowering of sovereign rating of US by Standard and Poor’s to AA+ from AAA, the highest rating, and fears of “double dip” recession hitting the world’s largest economy.

Admitting that global developments in the US and Eurozone will have some impact on the country, Mr Mukherjee said, “...as India’s growth story is intact and its fundamentals are strong, we are in a better position than other nations to meet the challenge.”

The finance minister expressed confidence that India could see faster and greater FII inflows unlike after 2008 meltdown, in view of the higher returns that global investors could get here.

“There could be some impact on the capital and trade flows. But as India’s growth story in strong, we could see FIIs seeing India as an attractive investment destination even if there is any temporary outflow,” he added.

On the positive side, Mr Mukherjee said softening of international commodity prices, especially oil, would help in controlling inflation and maintaining fiscal balance for 2011-12.

Noting that downgrade has raised concerns of “continuing turmoil in global financial markets”, the RBI said that it will closely monitor all key indicators and continuously assess the impact of global developments on rupee, forex liquidity and macroeconomic stability.

The country has enough reserves to meet the forex demand in the event of significant capital outflows, the RBI said.

In the worst phase of the recent global financial crisis, India recorded a growth rate of 6.8% in 2008-09, suggesting high resilience emerging from domestic factors, it said.

“While the downside risks to growth may have increased in wake of the global developments, they are likely to have limited impact,” RBI said.


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