Part 7: Thums Up Story: Competition & Brand building strategies

Previously, we had seen how Parle successfully filled the void left by Coca Cola by launching the spicy cola drink called Thums Up:

Although Thums Up turned into an instant success, the NCR region was a tough market to crack, especially due to the intensive competition from Campa Cola which had not only strongly established itself in the NCR region, but had even begun to experiment with price cuts to avoid its customers from swaying towards Thums Up. Ramesh Chauhan could have responded with price cut for Thums Up, but his experience at Parle-G biscuits (which had very low profit margin due to cut-throat competition) had taught him that price wars were never ending battle. Hence, he asked his marketing team to think of a strategy which could be almost impossible for Campa Cola to replicate. As a result, his team came up with the idea of introducing a larger bottle for the same price and called it “Maha Cola”.
Introducing a larger bottle (instead of the price cut) turned out to be brilliant strategy because it could not be replicated easily by rivals since it involved manufacturing new bottles. This strategy helped Thums Up capture more than 60% of the cola marketshare and Thums Up became synomymous with Food & Friends. Advertisements showing mouth watering snacks along with Thums Up had become a common sight in billboards & magazines.
Over the next few years, Thums Up used “out of the box” marketing techniques to build its brand. For example, whenever there was a film shooting in Mumbai, Ramesh Chauhan would send several crates of Thums Up to the film crew for free, and directors would oblige by using the drink in films, thus improving its brand 
visibility & awareness. Since cricket fever had hit an all time high (especially in the early 1980s due to India’s World Cup Win), Ramesh Chauhan hit upon the idea of associating the drink with the sport as well, by sponsoring Cricket matches and roping in popular Cricketers as brand ambassadors.
Although initially portrayed as an Indian Cola, over the next few years, Thums Up tried to please the elitists as well by rolling out ads which had western influence, like beaches & bikinis.
By the mid 1980s, Thums Up had become a cult. Such was the extent of the cult that even a mountain in Maharashtra was renamed as “Thums Up Mountain” because its peak resembled the Thums Up logo.
Location of the mountain:

While Parle’s Thums Up was gaining strength, it was beginning to eat into the market of Parle’s other brands like Gold Spot & Limca, and hence the next challenge for Ramesh Chauhan was to work on strategies to redefine all of his brands and consolidate them into a well-defined product portfolio.

We shall find out about these in the next part tomorrow.

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