How being user-obsessed led to the iconic branding of ‘two-minute’ Maggi – ANITH
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How being user-obsessed led to the iconic branding of ‘two-minute’ Maggi

How being user-obsessed led to the iconic branding of ‘two-minute’ Maggi

The following is an edited excerpt from The Two-Minute Revolution, a book written by Sangeeta Talwar, the first female executive in India’s fast-moving consumer goods industry. She helped establish one of the most beloved and enduring brands in the country: Maggi Noodles. The text is excerpted with permission from Penguin Random House India. You can buy the book here.

(Being consumer-obsessed)…is often the most contentious in any debate. Every single brand manager will rattle off the age and socio-economic classification (sec) of their target consumer—male and female, 18–45, sec A, B. But is that really all we need to know in order to be truly consumer-centric?

You can’t seriously believe that you can ‘know’ someone just by knowing how old they are or how much they earn in this era of complex behavioural, psychographic and sociological segmenting! So let’s do a quick exercise: think of your product or business. Which industry are you in? So you know how your target consumer uses your product? At what time of the day and what are they doing while using your product? do they have an obvious need for it?

Picture your user having a conversation with a friend about your product. What do they say about it? What value do they say it holds in their day or life?

It is vital to think of these questions from the point of view of your consumer when you are building a brand. It may seem surprising, but a majority of companies create brands ‘inside-out’, i.e., they make what they think their user needs. Their entrepreneurship often prides itself on converting raw material into products.

They make what they are good at. If you’re lucky, this could be an exact fit with what the consumer actually does want and need. They may even be willing to pay for this product, provided you can tell them why. The point is, you need to be consumer-obsessed 24/7— from the brand name, to the product, its packaging, to what you say in communication and on the shelf, and how much you charge for it. It seems logical, right? But think back to the last time you saw a brand name you couldn’t pronounce, or a price you thought was poor value, or a piece of communication that just did not make any sense. this happens more often than marketers admit.

How a product or service is named often creates consumer expectation because how we name a product becomes fundamental to creating consumer resonance. It would also be how consumers come to recognize the brand.

Image courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

Only two minutes?

You’ll be surprised at how important the mention of ‘2-minute’ in the name for Maggi was. When we were first thinking about it, the word ‘instant’ seemed a good choice. there were no instant products in the country and we would have been the first.

However, the word ‘instant’, which means ‘quick’, was understood only by the English-speaking population, which was a small fraction of the country at that time. the word ‘instant’ could have a negative connotation as it could imply an attempt to reduce work or being lazy.

‘Instant’ might also have been misconstrued as meaning ‘ready to eat’, which was not true because this product needed a short cooking time. ‘Instant’ also didn’t specify the time frame we were speaking of, so it could be one minute or ten.

To be crystal clear, we made the wording ‘2-minute noodles’, which was a much more specific way of communicating the benefit of quick cooking. it was a great competitive strategy because after the launch, no other brand could occupy the ‘2-minute’ slot without serving as a reminder of Maggi. the ‘2-minute’ had another great advantage of being easily translated into all regional languages, which made advertising’s job easier. it was a short and powerful UsP for the product which we were also able to leverage up front and boldly in packaging, and in all communication.

Think local

Sometimes, it’s not enough to just name a product and put it on a shelf. If you’re in a category that doesn’t exist or in one that is nascent or known only in a niche, it’s imperative to make sure that anyone seeing your brand or product is able to discover what you are.

There are many examples of international brands that have been launched in India with the assumption that people would know that some words are in french or German or Spanish.

Or perhaps managers feel that giving it a name they can’t pronounce will make it seem ‘exotic’. If you want them to understand butter, say ‘butter’ and not ‘beurre’. if you want people to buy cake, don’t call it ‘gateau’. The point is to simplify and make purchase as easy as possible. If you’re attempting to create a premium aura around the brand, and there’s no doubt that India still loves anything ‘imported’ or ‘foreign’, then by all means do that, but ensure that you’re giving an explanation.

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Anith Gopal
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