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Horlicks: Making of a mega brand

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Nina Elavia

You can’t just drink Horlicks anymore. You can eat it too and in many forms. A brand that started as baby food, and a substitute for milk, over 100 years ago and morphed into a health drink and remained so for a long period, today has extended into varied food categories – biscuits, noodles,  snacks, breakfast option and even flavoured milk. Meanwhile, the health drink itself has multiple variants in different flavours, catering to different consumer segments. However, what binds all these products together is their positioning – health, a word synonymous with Horlicks. It was only natural for the parent company, GSKCH (GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare) to take a back seat and let Horlicks become a mother brand.

Dr Prafulla Aginihotri, Director, IIM, Tiruchirappalli, and co-author with marketing guru, Philip Kotler, feels that developing Horlicks as a mother brand, while has helped GSKCH maintain a leadership position in the health drink market, it has helped them make an easy entry into other categories too. “Horlicks is a symbol of strength, power and nutrition in India. In all the brand extensions that Horlicks has made, nutrition remains the core. Horlicks, instead of creating a new brand, is using the same brand promise for a new product, because, the purpose remains same. This saves branding cost, and helps the original brand to grow bigger,” he says.

The drink: Pick your choice
While GSKCH owns other health drinks’ brands – Boost, Viva and Maltova – too, it’s Horlicks where it bets high on. The brand commands over 51 per cent share – as per Prashant Pandey, GM, Horlicks Mega Brand, GSKCH (GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare) – in the estimated Rs 3,500-crore health drink market in India. Some other prominent health drinks vying for the share include Cadbury’s Bournvita, Nestle Milo, Amul Nutramul, Complan, Zydus Wellness’ ActiLife and Dabur Chyawan Junior.
It was in 2003, when Horlicks, the health drink, decided to undergo a revamp and increase its relevance to consumers by introducing flavours like Vanilla, Elaichi and Chocolate. And in 2005, a toffee flavour was added.
While Mother’s Horlicks existed in the market, since 1997, GSKCH decided to give it a renewed push in 2004, by introducing a “superior variant” fortified with claimed DHA, an additional nutrient. The variant, was targeted at pregnant and breast feeding mothers.

In 2005, Horlicks’ brand basket was expanded with the launch of Horlicks Lite, which came in two flavours – Original Malt and Badam. Designed for health conscious adults and diabetics, the variant targeted people above the age of 35 years.

Next to hit the market was Junior Horlicks 1-2-3, targeted at toddlers; and Junior Horlicks 4-5-6, targeted at pre-school children. Pandey says, “Nutritional requirements vary according to age. Toddlers are fussy eaters, which may lead to gaps in nutrition. Pre-schoolers, on the other hand, tend to have a busy schedule, and need adequate nutrition to keep them going through the day.”

Further, in 2008, GSKCH introduced Women’s Horlicks (in chocolate and caramel flavours), a malted health powder targeted at women in the age group of 19-50 years.

The brand is also vying for a share at the bottom of the pyramid. As a test pilot, it has launched Horlicks Asha, an affordable variant, and designed to keep in mind the nutritional needs of the segment.

The brand’s latest offering is Horlicks Gold, launched recently, to further segment the market and acquire new consumers. The product positioned as ‘best-ever health drink’ product in Indian market comes with a clear focus on the top-end market.

Eat it too
While Horlicks had entered the biscuits category, way back in 1992, it was only last year that it decided to give the category a push by introducing variants – Cornflake and Cream biscuits.

The year 2009, was a watershed year for Horlicks when it decided to challenge the notion of the consumers that snacking and having noodles is unhealthy. It introduced Nutribar, targeted males and females in the age group of 25-35 years who go through hectic work schedules, and is positioned as an ‘energy bar’ – as opposed to a snack – which is an in-between meal option for ‘on-the-go’ consumers. The bar comes in three flavours – Choco Crispy, Cereal n Milk, and Nuts n Raisins, and comes as a combination of whole-wheat and oats topped up with dry fruits and nuts.

Meanwhile, with the launch of Foodles, Horlicks tried to give consumers a healthier alternative for the ‘junky’ instant noodles. Pandey says, “Horlicks has been known for more than 100 years as The Great Family Nourisher. Our experience in science based nutritional products along with the Horlicks equity has helped create Foodles as a differentiated offering in the instant noodles category.”

Subho Sengupta, Vice President & Client Services Director, JWT (creative partner of GSKCH), elaborates, “The reason for Foodles’ existence in the noodle market is ‘nourishment’ and that’s how the brand promises to be – ‘a more nourishing noodle’. The product, not just has four grains (rice, wheat, ragi and corn) but also has a unique Healthmaker (masala), which is fortified with vitamins and minerals.”

The latest brand extension for Horlicks comes in the form of Oats, which is a clear indicator of things to come from the brand stable – an eye on the breakfast table. Horlicks Oats is available in three pack sizes of 200 gm, 400 gm & 1 kg pack, and aims “to occupy greater mind space in the healthy food segment.”

Jayant Singh, Marketing Director, GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare, India says, “The current lifestyle of Indians compels many to either skip or have an incomplete breakfast in which nutrition is often neglected. By broadening the Horlicks portfolio to Oats, GSKCH aims to spread the goodness of healthy living and complete the consumer food table by adding yet another wholesome option to the menu.”

The changing language
It’s not just the products that have evolved. The communication for Horlicks too has undergone a sea change in the last seven-eight years. The brand has transformed into one that is not just recommended by doctors but is nourishable and enjoyable too.

The core of communication, however, remains same, as Pandey says, “The brand came to India in 1896 and its first ad appeared in that year itself in a newspaper. Since then its positioning has always been as a family nourisher, which offers health and lifestyle range.”

Till a decade back, communication for Horlicks – the health drink, was designed to target mothers, but gradually, the brand shifted to develop a connect with kids. Pandey explains, “In the beginning of this millennium, we realised that kids were becoming a major influence in the decision making process in families and it was very important for us to educate them too about the product.”

And hence, came the ‘Epang Opang Japang’ campaign in 2003, that aimed to engage the kids. Through different TVCs, over the next four-five years, Horlicks tried to bridge the gap between its two TG groups – mother for communication and kids for consumption. Bollywood child celebrity, Darshil Safari was brought in to make a better brand connect with kids.

“The ‘Epang Opang Japang’ campaign drove strong bonding. Earlier, while the product was targeted to kids, communication for the same was targeted at mothers.  The campaign filled this gap and helped the brand make strong connect with kids. So, in a sense, the brand re-invented itself with the campaign,” says Pandey.

In a recent communication drive, Horlicks tied up with superhero movie Ra.One.

To target working women, the brand chose to drive the message home for Women Horlicks through Bollywood actress Konkana Sen Sharma.

Enough stamina?
As consumers today are increasingly opting for healthier options, Horlicks has successfully tried to match the  expectations of the evolving consumer with its differentiated product line-up. “But the challenge for GSKCH is to consistently deliver on its brand promise,” feels Dr Agnihotri.

Pandey foresees competition in terms of “flavour innovations and value-added benefits,” and feels that competition on health promises will only intensify in the days to come. But he believes that the “instant connect that Horlicks makes with consumers” gives the brand an edge compared to the other brands.

Will Horlicks be able to continue with its line extensions and brand extensions without the risk of brand dilution, especially when entering into product categories like noodles, which is considered as junk food item?
Dr Agnihotri feels in the affirmative. “Yes, the brand can continue with its expansion. But it needs to clearly differentiate its communication for product benefits. For example, it has communicated Foodles as a healthy option despite a common perception of it being an unhealthy category.” However, he cautions that “different and distinct creative communication is necessary to give a proper identity to the new products.” n

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