As Indian consumers regained their confidence levels, one sector in particular stood out: telecoms. While Tata Docomo experienced explosive growth as a result of its per-second billing strategy, Vodafone dominated the media with its sponsorship of the Indian Premier League (IPL).
"Two main themes emerged in the consumer market-the value of scale and of owning a cause," states Madhukar Sabnavis, country head of Ogilvy & Mather. Vodafone's campaign around the IPL-India's biggest national sporting event-is an example of the former. The initiative, based on instantly recognisable 'Zoozoos' branded characters, featured a total of 29 TV commercials, with one debuting every day of the tournament.
In another example, Volkswagen staged a 'takeover' of the Times of India, booking all available space in the newspaper to announce the launch of a range of new models.
Sabnavis points to Cadbury's Diwali campaign, which encouraged consumers to spread happiness among others during the festival period, as an example of a brand taking ownership of a cause.
While the approach was different from that of Tata Tea, which continues to position itself as a company taking a stand against corruption, Sabnavis says Cadbury benefited from associating itself with personal values.
A key message in communications was product value. Brands such as Vodafone drove growth by promoting value-added services; Tata Sky focused on its picture quality-a trend that was followed by the majority of direct-to-home (DTH) TV providers in the market; and television manufacturers fought for an edge by emphasising the quality of their LED products. While marketers continued to use above-the-line media extensively, there was evidence of increased experimentation with more personal channels.
"Brands in India are looking beyond the traditional media of print and television into digital and mobile," says Ambi M.G. Parameswaran, CEO of Draftfcb in Mumbai. "The use of SMS has revolutionised the way we do one-to-one communication. Its integration into print and television ads has created a new channel for communication and lead generation." Parameswaran adds that with the growth of supermarkets, modern retail formats and malls, the options for brands to connect with and engage potential consumers has increased dramatically. In particular, he notes that consumer gatherings offer increased opportunity for experiential marketing, allowing marketers to educate and offer product samples and coupons.
Pameswaran is optimistic that the emergence from the downturn will, in turn, lead to greater experimentation from consumers, who will look for experiences beyond the "tried and tested".
India top 20 brands
9 ICICI Bank
15 State Bank of India (SBI)
20 Mother Dairy
2 Star Utsav
3 Smile TV
1 Dainik Bhaskar
2 Dainik Jagran
3 Hindustan Times
4 Malayala Manorama
5 Amar Ujala
This article was originally published as part of the 2010 Top 1000 Brands report.