What is the history of Nuvoco's premium brands and how they have transformed over the years? How do you think your premium brands affected the top- and bottom-line?
At the outset, I would like to mention that in Nuvoco we do not look at a range in terms of "premium brands". Our endeavour is to understand customer needs and develop the right value added products and solutions for him. We refer to this range as value-added products (VAP) and expert care solution (ECS). Cement being a commodity; it has always been challenging for cement manufacturers to offer clear differentiation vis-a-vis competition. This is where an effective branding and marketing strategy play an important role. The skill lies not just in capturing a market and selling a product; but in creating a distinct brand space for it.
Nuvoco started its brand building journey since its inception in 1999. Concreto, today, is a Gold Standard for slag cement in the markets where it is available; consistently delivering the highest Brand Equity in the category over the last decade. While most brands choose to focus primarily on (clichTd) product features like strength and trust; each brand in the Nuvoco portfolio is clearly distinguished on either product propositions or unique consumer benefits. Void Reduction Technology (VRT), which strengthens a structure from within and increases its longevity, is a differentiating factor for Duraguard. While Concreto has its "5 Star Advantage" that translates into unique consumer benefits, and enables the users to construct "good homes" that reflect their value system in life.
Building cement brands like Duraguard, Concreto, Duraguard Microfiber, Infracem and Concrete brands like Agile, Artiste, Instamix, XLite, and others has taken consistent efforts, which have paid off in the medium to the long term. Any brand building takes place over a period of time, and that requires faith and persistence; even in the face of opposition or environmental setbacks. The benefits accrue over time and contribute significantly to the top and bottom-line.
What are Nuvoco's premium cement as well as concrete brands and how do they promise to deliver better value over and above normal cement? Can you cite examples of value creation for company and customer through premium branding?
Nuvoco contributes to nation-building by providing innovative and world-class products and services, from home building, to infrastructure projects. Our brands enjoy high recall, and are a preferred choice for our customers.
Some of our acclaimed brands are:
Nuvoco's "premium" cement brands:
Duraguard Microfiber is a newly launched, next-generation cement; comprising fibre technology, which results in structures with high strength, damp resistance and minimal cracks. It is PPC cement with a difference; it has the features of Duraguard enhanced with a unique Microfibre technology, which is a distinct differentiator.
Duraguard: is a Portland Pozzolana Cement (PPC), with unique and uniform particle size distribution. What makes it unique is its innovative production process, Void Reduction Technology (VRT), which enables it to create a highly dense concrete mix; thereby enhancing structural durability and making it resistant to cracks. It is perfectly suited for a variety of construction jobs, from building foundations to fixing tiles, from plastering to roof casting.
Concreto: a versatile and premium slag cement, is designed to highlight its five distinct advantages; namely Super strength, Best freshness, lightest colour, Superior finish and Assured quality; in addition to reiterating its Gold Standard position. Concreto is one of the best cement brands available in the Indian market. It exceeds all specifications by industry ratings and public consensus.
Value-added concrete brands:
Agile: is a self-consolidating concrete and screed. Its free flowing property eliminates the need for vibration and allows easy placement; thereby reducing the number of pour points on a worksite. Agile's easy fluidity allows for the perfect filling of all shapes; with high quality surface finish. Some of the projects where Agile has been used are World One (Mumbai) and Nazrul Tirtha (Kolkata).
Artiste: is a range of decorative concrete that combines freedom of design with low maintenance and durability. It offers great looks, outstanding performance, and is available in a wide variety of textures and colours. One such project where Artiste has been used on the walkway is Khodaldham Temple Rajkot.
Instamix: is a range of world-class, ready-to-use wet premixed concrete designed to ensure cost-effective and easy construction in any location. It is available in bags and delivered straight to job site.
Instamix Microne: is a non-shrink, high strength, pre-mix wet micro concrete produced in our ready mix concrete plants and supplied in 35kg ready to pour bags. Instamix Microne is blended with micro fibres and special admixtures that provide prefect bond with existing concrete surface for a durable and strong structure.
How you have taken advantage of introduction of PPC and PSC in building your premium brands?
Strength is the cement category truth and many brands have tried communicating strength in various ways. However, at Nuvoco, we have focussed on product attributes which helps the consumers to view our product offering uniquely. For instance, the PPC category has less molecular gaps as compared to other types of cement. In sharing this insight with our customers; we communicate that our Duraguard cement has VRT, which strengthens structures from within and increases their longevity by making concrete impenetrable. This works as a reason to believe (RTB).
Concreto is a Gold Standard in the PSC category, and is equally well-suited for low, medium and heavy duty applications. It provides the lightest shade among all other cements available in the market and can also be used for giving better finishing to the exterior and interiors of a building. Consequently, it is highly desirable to the end consumer. Hence, that is one of the"5 Star" advantages in addition to better finish, freshness, etc that Concreto has been built upon.
What factors played a strong role in your branding exercises - what worked and what not? How do you link packaging strategies to premium brands?
In a product like cement packaging firstly, plays an important role in protecting and enhancing shelf-life. We keep reviewing developments in this space and were the first to introduce tamper-proof Adstar bag for cement. Another move that was unheard of in the industry back then. We have been setting new benchmarks in this category since then. Concreto was launched with the new tamper-proof Adstar packaging, which keeps the cement fresh and prevents adulteration. The idea was to bring disruptive packaging that was entirely unique to the industry, which would not only enhance the "premium" imagery of the brand but also address a longstanding practical concern.
Visual impact is another critical role for brand building and recall, and which is why packaging forms such an important element in this process.
When rebranding Duraguard Microfiber following our transition to Nuvoco, we took another bold decision to introduce purple in the packaging design.
This kind of colour has never been used for packaging in the cement category, and bringing that into play also wordlessly conveyed Microfiber's exclusive status. Similar efforts in packaging have set us above and apart from others in product category, and have enabled in strengthening our brand recall. Also, our customer promise and USP is boldly stated on our packaging.
What are the time and costs involved in creating a premium brand for an all-India player or for a regional player? Give examples of how brand transition/ continuity are handled?
In the cement industry there are some strong examples of regional and national brands. Ultra Tech embarked on a branding journey after the acquisition of L&T Cement in 2004 and have ever since integrated new acquisition under a single brand. There are examples like ACC (over 80 years) as well as new entrants like Wonder Cement (as a regional player).
Today, when there are multiple brands in every industry imaginable it is hard to establish a brand and keep it top of mind of the customers. Having said that, it is essential to be honest, stick to your values and be creative when communicating this to your customers. The product / brand should consistently carry the values of the company while showcasing the product which will help to connect with the customers. Any disconnect between the brand promise and the customer experience will jeopardize faith.
A couple of years ago, Nuvoco underwent a transition from Lafarge. The name Lafarge had a brand equity that had been built over a period of time. During our transition; we were careful to ensure that the values and goodwill that was associated with our legacy name continued to the new organisation. A well defined four step process was chalked out. The first one was preparing the organisation to embrace change which involved team engagement, inside-out approach, interaction with leadership team, HR processes and defining Vision, Mission and Values. Then there was scenario building and planning which comprised of brand transition plan and positioning. This was followed by deconstructing the brand DNA which involved formulating the brand strategy; brand naming; visual brand identity and brand messaging. In the case of Nuvoco, it was Quality, Trust, and Innovation; with the quality and trust messages being reinforced on the product packaging. The company's construction development laboratory (a 17,000-square-foot facility in Mumbai) was re-christened Construction Development & Innovation Centre (CDIC); entrusted under new leadership with a fresh mandate to seek accreditation, and drive its 5-stage innovation process. Finally it was D-Day planning and execution, which included employees' engagement; dealer store elements; website; social and traditional media and last but not the least rebranding of offices. The names of the cement products did not change, which helped in maintaining the continuity. Branding on the packaging was gradually changed; with there being a phase where the two brands co-existed; before giving way to the branding that is currently seen. Since the management remained the same and were given independence to provide strategic thoughts and retain the legacy policy it was a smooth transition with continuity.
How relevant will cement or concrete brands be in India after, say, 20 years, particularly when bulk cement/ concrete use is rapidly growing in urban centres?
It is a myth that Concrete products do not require branding. In Nuvoco, about 40 per cent of our sales in concrete is value added products and include some well recognised brands like Agile, Artiste, Instamix etc.
As a matter-of-fact, a brand requires clearly establishing the value-differentiators and will therefore play a very important role in ensuring how a company performs, without being sucked into the commodity space. As more of concrete begins to substitute cement in the individual house builder (IHB) segment, customers will seek more knowledge through architects, influencers and on-line. There, branding will play an important role, provide the brand architecture is strong and value benefits are clearly and succinctly communicated.
To what extent branding is a priority for Indian cement companies when cement is considered to be a commodity? Is ad spends a gauge or any others reflect it better?
Cement is no longer just a commodity. Today, with the anticipated growth prospects, there is consolidation among cement companies as they rush to increase their capacity and reach in several parts of the country. With more and more cement companies getting into the national stream; product branding becomes a major differentiating factor.
Companies need to develop an effective branding and marketing strategy; the skill here lies not just in capturing a market and selling a commodity; but creating a distinct brand space. There is significant and visible competition amongst cement players to gain space in the consumer's minds. The regular cement consumer is generally not well aware of the physical and chemical characteristics of cement. His decision is based on the trust he lays in a brand. Hence a credible brand gains more likeability amongst consumers.
Branding helps differentiate the products and become value drivers. In the case of IHB, the mason or petty contractor plays an important role in recommending the brand, basis his own use and experience. A consistently performing brand helps him to recommend the product with confidence. Branding helps in better recall and recognition of the specific product, and drives repeat purchases. Similarly real estate developers and builders also prefer to be associated with dependable brands. In the case of institutional buyers, branding helps in official specification of the product especially in tenders.