COMPLAN Too Much of a Good Thing? The problem of marketing Complan is somewhat unusual. It is, and it is perceived as, ‘far superior’ to competing products. And that is precisely the problem. As one housewife remarked, “It’s too much of a good thing. Do I really need all that? ” The origin of Complan explains its vastly superior formulation writing customer service goals . It was developed by Glaxo Laboratories as a complete and balanced nourishment for serious medical and surgical patients unable to take normal food. Introduced into the Indian market in the early sixties, Complan was first promoted ‘ethically’, that is, to doctors who then prescribed it for their patients.
This ethical positioning as complete and balanced nourishment obtained very good support from doctors and a growing, if modest, tonnage of sales was achieved. However, after some time growth levelled off. In 1970, Glaxo set up a Family Products group in the Company with the object of promoting some of its ethical brands over-the-counter, that is, promoting them directly to consumers with mass media advertising. It was judged that this would greatly increase their sales volume. Complan was one such product and it more than justified those expectations—for a while. Positioning by Competitor
In its very first public appearance, Complan adopted the strategy of ‘Positioning by Competitor’. It positioned itself directly against milk. ‘Your body needs 23 vital foods’, said the first ad, ‘Milk gives 9- Complan gives all 23’ (Exhibit 6. 6). Notice the semi-clinical look of the advertising which reflects the transition from ethical to consumer promotion. The copy gives considerable factual information about these 23 nutrients and how they affect bodily functions; e. g. protein to build up and repair tissues and cells; calcium for healthy teeth and bones; folic acid to form new blood cells; vitamin A for the eyes, etc.
This advertising and the position assumed by the brand created a high degree of awareness and trials. The consumer offtake of the brand rose from a volume index of 100 in 1969-70 to 298 in 1973-74. The steady growth also reflected that a considerable number who tried the brand stuck to it and repeatedly purchased it (Figure 6. 2). Despite the success of this strategy, there was cause for rethinking. What really did this positioning imply? Taken to its logical extreme, it meant that Complan should displace milk from the dining table. In India, particularly, milk has a unique position in the consumer’s psyche.
It is regarded as the source of life, growth and health; it is almost an object of reverence as a necessary ingredient in many religious rituals. Moreover, with Operation Flood well under way, milk, in the form of powder and also as fresh milk from the Mother Dairies, was being given a great deal of marketing and advertising support. Fighting milk would not be a cakewalk. And, as a socially aware corporate citizen, Glaxo wondered whether it should be in the business of ‘knocking’ milk which formed such a vital part of the nation’s health and nourishment plans.
Very wisely, this positioning strategy for Complan was abandoned. In fact, here was a classic instance of looking afresh at a key positioning decision: Which product class are we competing in? If not milk, then the logical product class definition had to be other malted milk-foods like Horlicks, Viva, Bournvita. This can also be described as the health beverage product class. Positioning vs. Horlicks The strategy seemed to be readymade! How should we reposition Complan? Why, against Horlicks, of course, the leader in the health beverage category?
Just ask the consumer to compare the label of Complan, so packed with all good nourishing things, with the label of Horlicks whose list of ingredients runs out after naming a few. The positioning strategy was similar to what had proved to successful earlier—positioning by attributes and by the main competitor. Research data also showed that many Complan users were earlier users of Horlicks. ‘The great nourisher’—Horlicks—was to be treated as the reservoir from which would flow a steady stream of consumers to Complan.
The new headline in the Press ads (1973-74) said: ‘Your body needs 23 vital foods every day. Check: how many do other food drinks give? ‘ The consumer was urged to read the label on the Complan tin and to compare it with the label of his present brand, assumed to be Horlicks (Exhibit 6. 7). This strategy bombed. The year 1974-75 was the first time when sales of Complan declined (Figure 6. 2). A thorough review seemed called for. Review of Strategy Sales data as well as consumer research, including group discussions, brought some key problems to the surface.
Price Complan’s price was almost twice that of Horlicks. Consumers agreed that Complan was a superior source of nourishment but they also felt it was ‘too much of a good thing’ for them. Did they really need it? Taste Its taste was almost universally disliked, violently so by children, who were often forced to drink it by health-conscious mothers. Even a spoonful of sugar couldn’t make it go down! Strategy Was Complan on the right track in its preoccupation with fighting the competitor, Horlicks, headon? Would it be better for Complan to achieve a perception in its own right?
Instead of making Horlicks the standard of comparison, should one try to create a unique position for Complan and then ask consumers to judge if Horlicks or any other competitor could be substituted in that position? Dialogue with the Consumer Complan’s dialogue with the consumer had evidently broken down. Several interviews had the following pattern. Mother: Elderly person : ‘I know Complan is good for him (my son), but he can’t stand the taste. ‘ ‘My doctor asked me to take Complan after my illness; now that I am all right, enough is enough. ‘ Housewife: ‘Complan is good but we can’t afford it. I think we’ll switch over to Horlicks.
It costs only half as much. ‘ ‘Madam, why do you use Horlicks? ‘ ‘Well, all of us work hard and I feel a bit more reassured if we take something extra, besides normal food. And it’s such a well-known product and a sort of family tradition, you see. ‘ ‘But Madam, Complan gives you so much more nourishment than Horlicks. ‘ Well, we’re not a sick family, you know. What we need is a bit of extra nourishment, not a daily dose of medicine’. Interviewer: Housewife: Interviewer: Housewife: A large mass of research data brought out one priceless nugget: In the Horlicks household there were more than two users of the product on the average.
In the Complan household, the average number of product users was far less. This seemed significant—that Complan was perceived as something more special than Horlicks and was therefore more selectively used. While other brands like Bournvita and the industry were growing, Complan was not. But the more significant data was that even if there were few additional converts, there was steady repurchase of Complan by many households indicating that it had a core of loyal users despite its seeming handicaps. Why did they stick with Complan? Research plus judgement provided the answer.
There were many households with children who were fussy eaters and mothers constantly worried about their lack of nourishment. There were workaholic husbands who skipped breakfast or lunch. There were elders and convalescents for whom the housewife felt responsible when they went off their food. And there was this marvellous woman herself, busy taking care of others and thoroughly exhausted at the end of her daily chores. The New Look of Complan Complan strategy went through a radical change. It was now decided to position it—not by competitor—but by target user and usage occasion.
Complan’s position could now be stated as follows: Complan is ideal for totally fulfilling the nourishment needs of people who cannot or do not eat enough, because only Complan is complete with 23 vital foods for the body. Exhibit 6. 8 (1975-76) is an unambiguous example of advertising designed to serve a clear-cut positioning strategy. The cinema commercial (TV became available at a later date) dramatized these usage occasions more vividly: the problem eater child tossing his food aside; the husband rushing off with his uneaten breakfast on the table; the convalescing elder who has no appetite for food; the harassed housewife herself.
In such situations, to what could the worried mother and housewife turn? What health drink would assure her of all the nourishment that was needed in these special, but everyday situations? The ads clearly presented Complan as a product which was unique and complete in its nourishment value. It was no longer ‘too much of a good thing’ but the only brand with enough good things to give her the reassurance she needed. Could this position be adequately substituted by any other brand? No way. Not only Complan advertising, but the product itself wore a new and more attractive look.
The package design was cleaned up and modernized. The product’s taste was improved through a change in the manufacturing process. New flavours were introduced: Chocolate, because of its universal popularity, especially with the young; Cardamom Saffron, a typically Indian flavour with images of health and goodness; the Strawberry flavour was reserved for later introduction—as a delicious, iced drink. And the price was increased! With this ad, Complan broke away from comparison with Horlicks to carve out its own distinct niche as the only complete health beverage to suit specific occasions and users.
The Take-Off In a very real sense, this repositioning strategy, together with product improvements, provided the thrust for a take-off in sales. From an index number of 203 of sales volume in 1974-75 (1969-70 = 100), sales shot up to an index of 408 by 1978-79—a doubling of volume in four years. The availability of full-fledged commercial TV in 1978 and the heavy use of this medium by Complan gave the brand further thrust. It became clear that price was not the barrier to growth. By positioning Complan in a unique slot, consumers were persuaded to see that it had no real substitute and a new price-value perception was created for the brand.
A Sharper, Narrower Positioning We had mentioned in Chapter 4, when discussing Positioning by User that good brands are invariably versatile in terms of usage and benefit segments. If you read the fine print in the earlier ads for Complan this versatility would become apparent. Take the very first ad with which Complan went ‘public’ (Exhibit 6. 6). The copy reads: Who Should Take Complan Complan is ideal for growing children, busy adults (especially housewives and rushed officegoers), expectant and nursing mothers, elderly people and athletes.
It had long been surmised that the actual users of Complan were predominantly children of school-going age. Later research corroborated this belief. It was found that close to half of the actual users of Complan were of school-going age. This was a far younger age profile than for other malted milk beverages. It is noteworthy that with sales rapidly increasing, the next repositioning exercise brought about a much more focussed and narrower positioning by target user, instead of broadening its user positioning. This calls for a great degree of strategic clarity and courage.
The next ads positioned Complan single-mindedly for ‘growing children’ and were created and released by Lintas in 1981 (Exhibit 6. 9). Sales data (Figure 6. 2) show that Complan’s growth was accelerated following this most recent re-positioning. But, with hindsight, you may wish to go more deeply into the reasons for this sharply focussed positioning for growing children and apparent indifference to other users, such as the elderly and the busy, active adult. You should note, however, that Complan was consistently advertised to the medical profession through ads such as in Exhibit 6. 0. Also note that a much higher percentage of Complan sales came from chemists as compared to other malted milk drinks. New Questions You may now wish to debate the following issues. • Complan is the only beverage positioned for children which does not have a chocolate base (It has a variety, the most popular one, in chocolate flavour). An analysis of competitive advertising shows that all the ‘brown’ beverages which have a chocolate base—Bournvita, Maltova, Boost, and Nutramul—are also positioned for children.
Moreover, a new product, Sapan’s Active 25 has been introduced recently and positioned directly against Complan (Exhibit 6. 11). The ad claims that it has ‘real chocolate’ and ‘it’s got the one thing your kids will love. Taste. ‘ In early 1989, Cadbury’s launched Enriche for children between 2 and 10 years of age, with the claim of having 26 vital ingredients and as a ‘Total Nutrition Food’. How should Complan reinforce its position against such competitors? Complan, as we have seen, is versatile in its positioning opportunities.
Should its positioning for other target users—expectant mothers, convalescents, the elderly and even weight-watchers (as an earlier ad suggested)—be confined to the medical press only? Or could one expect even faster growth if the brand were positioned for all these target segments through consumer advertising? Can positioning theory help us to find an answer? • • • • Special analysis (1988) based on independent household panel data has shown something very significant.
Households which have received a much higher exposure of Complan’s TV advertising (as recorded in the housewife’s diary) compared to Horlicks, invariably purchased more Complan than Horlicks. Does this seem to call for experimentation with heavyweight TV advertising to medium and light Complan users to judge if the extra expenditure pays off in higher market shares and profits? Does it also suggest that the Media Planner for Complan should look for segments where it can command higher TV exposure than Horlicks within the available budget?