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Tata Salt's new communication strategy attempts to elevate the brand to the status of a national icon desh ka namak

(the country's salt). With this positioning, Tata Chemicals, the manufacturers of Tata Salt, hopes to break the brand
clutter caused by recent entrants in the salt market.

The pioneer in India's branded-salt industry, Tata Salt has held the No.1 position in the country since its launch in
1983. It has a 37 per cent share of the branded-salt market and an 18 per cent share of the total salt market.

Tata Chemicals' salt story began in 1983, when it needed fresh water for the boilers that produced soda ash at its
Mithapur plant. Fresh water was scarce, so the company set up a process to generate it by using seawater, a freely
available resource. Salt, of high quality and purity, was a by-product.

Says Kapil Mehan, vice president (sales and marketing), Tata Chemicals: "At that time both Unicef and the Indian
government were promoting the intake of iodine for health reasons. Salt is the most economical and convenient
dietary vehicle for iodine consumption."

The Tata brand advantage


These factors led to Tata Chemicals taking up salt production. "We marketed the product by prefixing the Tata name
to it," says Mr Mehan. "Our positioning statement emerged: Namak ho Tata ka, Tata namak." The line remains an
audio mnemonic for the brand. The communication was built around the fact that Tata Salt, India's first iodised salt,
was manufactured by a Tata company.

The first competitive challenge came in the early 1990s with the launch of Captain Cook. Positioned as a freeflowing
salt, it helped create awareness about brands in the salt segment. Tata Chemicals responded by releasing ads to
counter Captain Cook's claims. As more consumers moved from non-branded or local products to the national
brands, Tata Salt's inherent superiority and strong distribution network ensured its continuing growth in terms of
market share and category expansion.

In 1996, Annapurna, another national salt brand, was launched. It was positioned on the health benefits of iodine.
According to Mr Mehan, by that time iodisation had become almost a hygiene factor and consumers did not perceive
it as a differentiator.

The rising number of players in the branded-salt segment got Tata Chemicals to think of strategies to combat the
possibility of its market share being eroded. In 1998, the company conducted a comprehensive market research
study to understand the consumer psyche. The results ranked Tata Salt high on attributes such as iodisation, free
flow, purity and whiteness (consumers thought of Tata Salt as a saltier salt). The next commercial showed Sanjeev
Kapoor, the famous chef, endorsing the product for these attributes.

Pressing the purity button


By late 2001 several brands had entered the market. In September, 2001, Tata Salt was relaunched with a new
advertisement that talked about its purity, a core property of the brand. The packaging was also changed to a more
premium-looking pack, a response to consumer feedback.

Tata Chemicals brought in consultants to track the brand and review its marketing strategy. The results showed that
Tata Salt's brand equity index was 7, which was ahead of the competition. But a study by Quadra Consultancy on the
marketing strategy revealed that, though the brand awareness was still strong, the differences between the players
was getting cloudy.
"In order to sustain a competitive advantage over a long period of time, what is needed is for the consumer to
perceive you to be different from others," adds Mr Mehan. "The best way to differentiate is to connect with the
consumer at an emotional level."

The challenge, according to Mr Mehan, was to take purity, a rational product benefit, and create an emotional link
with the consumers. A new agency, Bates India, was chosen to work on the communication. Says JS Mani, vice
president and general manager, Bates India: "A strong fact that emerged from our research was that consumers were
troubled about the gradual erosion of our value system. Another factor was that salt is deeply rooted in grassroots
values. Putting them together, we linked the product (salt) with integrity of character."

The advertisements, released in August 2002, show ordinary people doing their duties with integrity and commitment.
"Integrity should not be seen only in the context of a uniform, or as integral to the occupation," says Mr Mani. Apart
from a policeman and an army officer, there is a railway linesman checking the fishplates in spite of heavy rains, and
a taxi driver returning a cell phone but refusing the reward.

The emotional link


"Our campaign is a reassurance for Tata Salt users," says Mr Mehan. "By using Tata Salt, a pure salt, he is a pure
human being. That's the emotional link."

The communication route is interesting because Tata Salt's leadership position is implied, not stated. The
commercials end with the consumer stating: "Maine desh ka namak khaya hai." "If everyone is eating the salt, then it
suggests that Tata Salt is the leading salt in the market," says Mr Mani.

Additionally, the company decided to contribute 10 paise on every packet of Tata Salt sold between August 15 and
September 15, 2002, towards the education of deprived girl children. The Desh Ko Arpan programme encouraged
ordinary individuals to make a difference. Over Rs35 lakh was collected and given to Child Relief and You through
this initiative.

The new campaign got an enthusiastic response from all Tata Chemicals employees, who signed a specially
designed poster reiterating their commitment to the product. "It was a very emotional event, " says Mr Mehan. "They
felt very proud to be part of a successful company with a No.1 brand."

Tata Chemicals had taken over the distribution of Tata Salt in December 2001 to make it more efficient. "The selling
and logistics functions are now separate entities," says Mr Mehan. "Sales and distribution teams concentrate on
developing markets and improving the penetration level of Tata Salt. The team is structured and focused like an
FMCG company."

In order to strengthen relations with its channel partners, the company organised a workshop to help them manage
business through insights into marketing and strategy skills. The workshop was greatly appreciated by the partners.