Home > Uncategorized > How in the world did the Nano become a NONO?

How in the world did the Nano become a NONO?

For those who don’t know what the Nano is click here.

Recently when I was in India I heard that the car had flopped. Then in today’s paper I read about it in more detail. Yes it had failed rather spectacularly and now they were planning to resort the usual practise of deals, price offs, exchanges etc.

I am just amazed at this turn of events.

People over at Coke get you to fork out money over water, coloured and plain, that you don’t need and here was a company that had failed with

a product that people needed, indeed coveted. I do hope that the first thing the folks at Tata Motors did was to fire the whole marketing department. They have failed the brand, the company and in many ways the country. It was after all a country first to produce that technical marvel.

There’ve been many missteps. From my limited knowledge from distance let me point out a few.

1. People’s car. Who wants a people’s car? Or a people’s PC? Or a people’s bag? Or a people’s phone? The whole principle of marketing is built on desire. I don’t want a people’s car. I won’t pay big bucks for that. Yet that’s what the Nano is referred to as. The People’s Car. They’re confusing the PR sound byte for government approval with positioning.

2. Quantity. Due to political challenges they couldn’t produce the cars in the quantity planned. Yet this didn’t seem to change their marketing plans. Here was a great opportunity to use the scarcity to build desire around the brand. Limited edition cars. Sequenced. Numbered. Auctioned. Proceeds going to charity. For example Set up an education fund for the girl child. Imagine the hype and visibility. Besides it gets the brand associated with something of wide appeal. That’s the way to be seen as a car of the people, than saying ‘people’s car’.

3. Last year there was an Art Fair in Delhi. And this fabulous artist called Ketna Patel did the below with the Nano.

Nano by Ketna PatelAgain, another great opportunity gone a begging. A smart marketer would’ve got 25 artists to paint the Nano in their style and sold/auctioned it off in a high visibility media show. More visibility. More desirability.

Taking off from the above they could look at producing ‘skins’ of various artists that could be pasted on the car. You could create the worlds first personalised car. I imagine there is technology to make the skins replaceable. Now you could have different cars with the same car.

4. Anna Hazare. Unless you’ve been under a cave you’d have seen/heard/read about this man who’s been on fast for over 10 days fighting corruption. It’s caught the nation’s attention, in fact the attention of the world. Ratan Tata,  the man who runs the Tatas empire, has over the last week come out publicly to say corruption has gotten worse. The House of Tata is reputed to be clean and corruption free (the recent telecom scandal not withstanding). He should’ve donated a Nano to Anna for his use to ferry him around. Don’t have to say a word. The gesture would say it all, and all India forever will have the image of Anna in a Nano. The people’s man needs a people’s car. Don’t call it a people’s car. Let people draw their own conclusion.

I imagine there are many more marketing missteps that car aficionados would come up with. The above is output from a 10 minute bus ride this morning!!

From my perspective with limited car knowledge I think a crime’s been committed, and someone needs to pay!



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  1. August 26, 2011 at 10:39 am

    rather productive bus ride this morning, it seems 😛

      August 26, 2011 at 11:43 am

      Some trips are better than others! Thanks 😉

  2. August 26, 2011 at 11:21 am

    Harish, you echo the blog on Nano I had written some time back. Here is a relevant excerpt:

    ‘The idea of a car transcends its utilitarian purpose. That’s why some of the highest forms of design, technology, creature comforts and safety finds expression in the form of a car. It connects with the human desire for a better life, higher social currency and surrounding ourselves with symbols of personal achievement. Our cars not only show who we are but also who we desire to be. This is what determines the context of Nano.

    However, since inception, the brand Nano has got tagged as ‘El-Cheapo’! Who would want to be seen with that tag? Coupled with that comes the huge media coverage of Nano catching fire. This is a double whammy.

    To be the ultimate car for the masses, Nano needs to ignite desire. To do that does it not need social and technological ‘sexiness’? Then why make people look down upon and make fun of the Nano? Does it not need the emotional credibility of a star? How can Nano earn that image if it is plunged into the depths of the image poverty?”

    for more : http://wp.me/pQTHm-H

    You have expanded more eloquently on how Nano missed on building desire. Unfortunately they have no clue. The pressure to sell must be telling because its price structure is based on large volumes. So if they don’t get it the Nano will soon be nonviable, or may be it is.

      August 26, 2011 at 11:39 am

      Hi SG. Thanks for your comments here, and on several other posts of mine. I just read your post on this and the comments below. The poverty of marketing comes shining through. There must be some wise men at Tata who understand and want to fix it!

  3. August 26, 2011 at 11:38 am

    I hadn’t thought of it as a marketing failure before! Not being a car person, I’d just concluded at the start of the project that it was a good idea and then ignored it, so now I naturally assumed it was a technical issue with the car. Reading this, I am horrified! The picture of Ketna Patel’s car makes me want to cry. This was India’s Beetle. India’s Mini Cooper. India’s Lambretta, even. How did India’s agencies miss this? How did I? Or maybe there’s a rejected positioning statement, marketing plan and, campaign in a drawer somewhere. It seems as if it was what I think of as the hubris of righteousness – people who believe passionately in the good of something sometimes cannot step back enough to sell it properly, and won’t let others do so either. So their marketing becomes a dreary repetition of a rigid stance. Pressure groups used to suffer from this until they got savvy.

    Maybe there’s still hope if a new marketing person steps in.

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