MTV sings a different tune; launches co-branded consumer products

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MTV, the music TV channel, is foraying into consumer and personal care products. The entry is being seen as a move to create an extended connect with its core customers and also as a strategy to create new consumers to use its ‘edgy’ line of products. These include condoms, lingerie, innerwear, bikes, bed-linen and stationery, among others.

Commenting on the foray into consumer and personal care products, Sandeep Dahiya, Senior Vice President, Consumer Products & Communications, Viacom18 Media, adds “I think we started doing the consumer product business way back, but we stared putting more focus on it just three-four years back, since then we have been consistent.”

Sandeep Dahiya, SVP- Consumer Products & Communications, Viacom18 Media

Sandeep Dahiya, SVP- Consumer Products & Communications, Viacom18 Media

He reasons that the move will be a great source of additional revenue. He adds, “It is a great way to monetise the brand outside television and engage customers on different platforms with the brand. So if the consumer watches the channel 40-60 minutes every day and wears an MTV eyewear or footwear product, the brand’s significance and impact will be for longer.”

Striking the right chord?
Experts feel that this move will create greater consumer engagement with the brand. For instance, Piyush Sinha, Professor – IIM Ahmadabad, says, “Such exercises are done to leverage a community; with products one creates a community, provides services which a community likes. Through this initiative of MTV, it is trying to create a direct link and involvement with the customers.”

In the last three years the company focused on conventional categories like footwear and eyewear. But in the last 18 months its focus also shifted to unconventional categories from the licensing perspective. Thus, the channel is foraying into innerwear, condoms, bikes and much more. In each category it has a different distribution model but much more penetrative than the conventional product categories.

Many experts feel that it will become important for MTV to provide a differentiated line of products to meet up with the expectations of consumers and break the clutter of brands in the market. Kiran Khalap, Co-Founder, Chlorophyll Brand & Communications Consultancy, says, “If the idea is to take white label merchandise and paste the MTV brand name and sell, in the long run, it will take away from MTV. If on the other hand, at least lead products are uniquely designed, it will strengthen the brand and multiply the business.”

For the new business, Dahiya says that the target group remains mainly from 15-34 years of age, however, in certain products like condoms its 18 and above. The positioning will be in sync with the brand’s tagline of being ‘edgy with attitude’. All the products will be priced at a competitive rate and will be more towards the premium side.

Kiran Khalap, Co-Founder, Chlorophyll Brand & Communications Consultancy

Kiran Khalap, Co-Founder, Chlorophyll Brand & Communications Consultancy

Khalap, thus, thinks that it is only natural for MTV to attempt to stretch its ‘youth culture’ brand into categories beyond music and reality shows on TV. “I believe FastTrack is planning to launch a FM radio station! What should any brand watch out for? When the products in the new category are me-too, they harm the brand.  Nike sells shoulder bags and knapsacks in India that are truly poor quality: it harms brand Nike, however good their shoes may continue to be,” he cautions.

Banking on partners
The marketing strategy will vary from category to category, MTVs strength is in creativity and marketing and the platforms that MTV owns. The channel feels that its licensee’s strength lies in manufacturing capability, distribution penetration and the understanding of that category, which will help the brand grow significantly.

The channel is mulling to launch the categories in a step by step manner. The channel’s spokesperson divulges that in the next two weeks it will launch adventure bikes with Firefox, which will be marked by ground activations and online presence, followed by lingerie in two months and then condoms in six months. It recently launched the innerwear brand Crusoe. “These products are going to be a mix of both co-branding and self branding, like the innerwear will be a Roadies brand with Crusoe, there will be MTV range of lingerie by Bewitch, and there will be MTV brand of condoms by Kama Sutra. Wherever the customer expects an expertise and credibility those products will be cobranded,” he further adds.

The body sprays and deos will be a separate launch altogether as it is a separate brand. These products will start from Rs 100-150 and go up. This is the first step to get into personal care and it opens doors for the brand in this category, so MTV plans to explore and exploit the personal care product category after the launches.

Right connect?
How will the channel create a fit for the various launches within the brand value of MTV? Wouldn’t the tag of being a media brand affect the move into things other than the former?  Dahiya says,“I don’t think that we are a channel alone, tell me a name of a channel that you would wear on your chest, or as a bandana or as a footwear etc, that is something that you would like to own, it’s a cult and a brand and an appeal, we are trying to leverage that to our consumers.”

Piyush Sinha, Professor - IIM Ahmadabad

Piyush Sinha, Professor – IIM Ahmadabad

Chlorophyll’s Khalap has a different story to tell. He says “This is an era of making brands simple to relate to. We don’t need more brands, we need fewer: because there is an overload of information due to the ubiquity of our ‘screens’, whether iPads, mobiles or PCs. Even brand communication is becoming simpler: from the three-word ‘Just do it’ Nike went to ‘Step Out’; and then just the brisk word ‘Go’ for Visa. Therefore, brands that are sharply defined can afford to stretch themselves. Gucci went from bags and leather goods to automobiles and perfumes, and bath tubs. Samsonite has gone from bags to shoes and wallets and travel accessories.”

Dahiya shares the financial dynamics of the deal, “Whether the product is cobranded or MTV branded the revenue share is locked in as a royalty share which varies from 8 to 15 per cent, depending on the category deal. If you see last financial year, in total, we sold MTV and Nickelodeon products put together at Rs 200 crore, so a percentage of that would be our royalty. This would become our revenue line.”

Is co-branding a more feasible move for the channel by which it can leverage from the brand equity of its partners, especially the established ones?

Prahlad Kakkar, Founder and Director, Genesis Film Productions

Prahlad Kakkar, Founder and Director, Genesis Film Productions

Professor Sinha opines, “Most brands have merchandising involved, like Disney, the channel is now surrounding the customers with its own brand, which draws away the failures of the brand.  This kind of behavior is not shown by big brands. Brands like MTV leash players and cater to a specific segment.  The brand then ensures that one will not shift from it. Thus, centering around something like ‘watch MTV, wear MTV’. Most leash brands effectively use their products to enhance the brand, but they have to be careful not to exceed the limit. By all means in the end it is done to increase the brand connect with its customers and build on their relationship,” he adds.

However, Prahlad Kakkar, Founder and Director, Genesis Film Productions sees no sense in the move. He says, “MTV launching brands is a great failure story, it’s a channel made for music. If they come down to sell lingerie and condoms they don’t make sense. When in doubt, sell lingerie. The core ideology is diminished. At the end of the day it will end up spending more money than earning. A channel has value when you watch it not when you wear it. I think it’s a bad move by MTV.”

On its part, MTV is unfettered and plans to target 35 youth categories in the next two years, where it will have both brand and retail presence. The availability of products will depend on the respective licensees who will take care of retailing. But deodorants, toiletries and body sprays will be available at various big retails and large format stores, but that may vary from category to category.



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