Duke’s battles out to conquer new markets

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Tapping into the regional brand nostalgia and yet connecting with changing consumer preference, PepsiCo relaunched its beverages brand Duke’s after a seven years hiatus. Six months after the relaunch in Mumbai, the retro styled bottles of Duke’s are all set to identify newer geographies and lure consumers with new flavours.

Reviving childhood memories
For many in Mumbai, it was like a visit down the memory lane when PepsiCo relaunched Duke’s, after taking most of its flavours off the shelves in 2004. The iconic 100 year old brand was initially owned by Pundole family, a well- known Parsi business family in the city. The brand was later, in 1994, bought over by PepsiCo that discontinued selling most of the flavours of the brand, thus making it dormant.

Sanjay Misra, Executive Director (West Market Unit), PepsiCo Beverages, India

However, realising the potential of the brand, it was brought back in full-swing in 2011. “When we looked back and saw our own portfolio, we realised that we have a megabrand called Duke’s, which is known for different flavours. Our action to revive it wasn’t driven by time but changing consumer preferences,” says Sanjay Misra, Executive Director (West Market Unit), PepsiCo Beverages, India.

In the six months that succeeded the re-launch, the brand has been expanding its portfolio as well as its markets. Misra says, “We got a tremendous response even though we came at a time when we were moving out of season. We are receiving repeat purchases in most of the outlets where we have gone.”

Spreading the fizz
The revival of Duke’s in 2011 stirred up the excitement of consumers and now as six more months get added to its legacy, the brand is expanding to new geographies. Misra says, “We have gone into areas closer to West. For example, we are selling in parts of Gujarat and few big cities of Maharashtra such as Pune and Nagpur. We have also gone to some parts of East and South as well but that is largely driven by modern trade.”

The decision to gradually move from West markets to other markets is being viewed as a strategic one. Misra reveals, “Expansion into Northern markets would be a long term proposition. At the moment we are focused on the Western region. We’ll now be unleashing marketing activities around Duke’s”. Due to its regional specific approach, ATL wouldn’t be a part of the brand’s promotions. Instead, it will keep its focus on sampling, price-pack promotion, local media advertising and digital activation.

According to sources, PepsiCo is pushing the sales of Duke’s at retail ends by offering them 25 per cent profit as trade margin for a bottle. Thus, while Duke’s is sold at modern trade outlets in the Eastern and Southern markets, traditional trade outlets are more common in its Western markets.

New flavours on the block
The company says that as Mumbaikars associate childhood memories with Duke’s, flavours like lemonade and raspberry will continue to be evergreen favourites. The competitive pricing of 200ml returnable glass bottles at Rs 10 and 500ml PET bottles at Rs 25; and the local flavours add to the regional appeal of the brand. However, with the growing popularity of flavours other than cola in the beverages segment, Duke’s too has now launched a premium line of flavours, called the Party-Mixers. Available in universal flavours of blue lagoon and mojito, they can be purchased at a price of Rs 49 for 600 ml.

Anand Halve, Co-founder, Chlorophyll Brand & Communications Consultancy

Even though the variants are two of the most preferred mocktail flavours in the country, experts don’t seem very gung-ho about the move. Anand Halve, Co-founder, Chlorophyll, says, “I think they are mixing up and muddying the water. They should establish themselves well first and then get into these flavours.” Others feel that while a variant like masala soda goes with the brand’s image, flavours like mojito might lead to confusion in terms of the positioning. But, the company, which is looking at all age groups and particularly the youth for Duke’s consumption, is confident of staying relevant to the needs of the consumer. Thus, the rest of the year will see more flavours being added to its kitty. Misra adds, “For us the need of the hour is to transit from appeal to affinity.” Hence PepsiCo is largely banking on creating the right kind of reconnect with consumers.

Will it be able to recreate that connect? Rajiv Frank, Founder, Brand Trotter says, “The consumer always asks, ‘What’s new?’ and thus brands must try to bring a new element even when they are re-launched. The approach should be to keep the strategy consumer-centric and not brand-centric.” Hence, when PepsiCo re-launched Duke’s it wanted to retain regional brand nostalgia while attracting new consumers. Therefore, it introduced some new flavours along with the existing heritage flavours.

However, the bigger question remains.  Has the brand been able to make a mark in the market? Will nostalgia be sufficient to drive sales for Duke’s?

Out of sight, out of mind
However iconic a brand maybe, keeping up with the consumers’ short attention and memory span is always a challenge. Even if the product has the benefit of established brand awareness, the challenge is to re-position and re-create the appeal. Drawing an analogy with Bollywood star Madhuri Dixit, Halve wittily says, “Despite being a superstar, when Madhuri came back from her sabbatical, she no longer was the heartthrob. Same is the case with iconic brands.” Hence, relevance to the current scenario is what a brand must come back with.

In addition, there weren’t too many ATL activities that were done around Duke’s because of its region specific approach. The company largely depended on its distribution setup, pricing and below the line support. Though the product won some brownie points for its retro style packaging, what remained at the core of the communication and packaging was ‘nostalgia’.

However, experts feel that for Duke’s the ‘connection’ was missing.  Halve opines, “It is critical for brands to get back into the hearts of the consumers without playing the nostalgia card. Only nostalgia is not going to work. It is important to find the bridge between the iconic past and the current world.”

Whether the new flavours and old styled packaging will recreate that connect with consumers will be put to test with the beverages competition heating up this summer.

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Jyotsna Sharma

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