Horlicks- Strong, Stronger, Sharper
Horlicks has learnt to defy age. By successfully launching variants at different points in time, it has strengthened its core brand values, apart from addressing new consumer needs and thus bringing such consumers into its fold. Never more has success of a brand in India been so paradoxical than Horlicks from the GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare (GSKCH) stable.
GSKCH’s health food drink (HFD) brands – Horlicks, Boost, Maltova and Viva – account for 58.6 per cent by value and 65.1 per cent by volume of a Rs 5,000-crore market, per date from market researcher Nielsen for 2013. Horlicks and its variants account for almost half the HFD market by volume. Cadbury India’s Bournvita had a share of 17 per cent and Heinz’s Complan at 11 per cent, Horlicks’s share of the branded health food drinks market-50% by volume.
“Horlicks remained largely a family drink till the 1990s,” says Jayant Singh, Executive Vice President, Marketing, GSKCH. The company then recognized that there was a specific need for toddlers in the one to three years age group and launched Junior Horlicks in 1995. It had made a bid for its first brand line-extension with biscuits in 1992, but that hardly moved the needle for the company. “The market, for various economic and other social conditions, was undergoing several changes and we saw only single-digit growth in our top line,” says Singh.
This was a period of turmoil in the consumer products market, as India, after liberalization, saw the entry of several new brands both from domestic and international players. Bournvita and Complan were seen to be strong contenders in west and northern parts of the country, so was local player Jagatjit Industries with its brand Maltova and Viva in the north. GSKCH acquired Maltova and Viva and effectively prevented competition from opening a new front.
It simultaneously invested in consumer research and aggressive brand strategy. “We would visit homes and the company wanted to listen in to the consumer needs even in the early 1980s,”says BinduSethi, Chief Strategy Officer at ad agency JWT. “It was this consumer voice that found reflection in the repositioning of Horlicks as a drink targeted at children in 2003, with the ‘Epang, Opang, Jhapang’ campaign,” she says.
This was the tipping point. What appeared to be a natural slot for the brand to slip into, actually followed heated debate within the company: Horlicks was a family drink until then, the great “family nourisher”. All branding and communication spoke to different family members and how it meant different things to different people, while the new campaign spoke to children directly. “There were worries that it would disengage a loyal adult base,” says CharubalaSheshadri, Marketing Director, Wellness (OTC) and Oral Health, GSKCH, who joined the company in 2004 as marketing manager for Horlicks.
This campaign, however, was just the precursor. The company has always viewed Horlicks equity as a bank deposit since. “It has invested at every critical juncture in the brand and its nutrition profile backing it with proof of science,” says Sheshadri. In 2003, it offered its newly formulated Horlicks to the National Institute of Nutrition (NIN) at Hyderabad, which conducted research to prove its effect on the growth of children. “We clearly identified three key benefit areas to do with bone health of children, muscle health and their ability to focus better,” says Singh. This led to the “Taller, Stronger, Sharper” campaign.
In this, the company tapped into the growing pester power of children who now were key decision makers not only with what they ate, but also other key decisions around the household. There was someone else too, pushing for this change. The company now had a new Managing Director in Zubair Ahmed in 2007. He inherited a company that had already accelerated into double-digit growth. By then, the company had speeded up its brand variant launches with Horlicks Lite in 2005, aimed at diabetics and Horlicks NutriBar in 2006 (this launch did notwork as planned). “We were already a part of the morning menu with milk. Now we are growing in our presence with various extensions and adjacents,” says Ahmed.
The company found that women were an ignored segment as there was no specific product addressing their specific need. This led to the launch of Women’s Horlicks in 2008, creating a blockbuster product. “It has been growing 60-65 per cent year on year [even if] on a small base,” says Singh. But the effect has been that Horlicks Lite combined with Women’s Horlicks ensured that the company clocked growth of more than 17 per cent in revenues until 2011. Given that competition was also pumping up volume on the benefit of micronutrients and research-backed offering, in 2012 GSKCH again decided to challenge itself to deliver further on its by-now older promise of “Taller, Stronger, Sharper”. Aided by its R&D centre, it formulated a blend of Horlicks that was guided by its earlier study done by NIN. The results showed five clear areas of benefit: more bone area, more muscle, better concentration, more active nutrients, and healthier blood. This led to its launch of the “5 Signs of Growth” positioning and campaign. GSKCH had its hiccups with its Horlicks extensions. The 2010 launch of Chill Dood, its flavoured milk range, did not take off. Nor did its attempt to launch cream biscuits and noodles, under the brand Horlicks Foodles, in 2009. “I think it has huge potential in the health segment of biscuits with digestive, diabetic, milk, etc. However, in segments like noodles and snacking where taste is supreme, they will find it difficult to compete with the likes of Nestle and ITC,” says Alagh, the marketing consultant and former managing director of biscuit maker Britannia Industries.
According to Alagh, GSKCH needs to transform brand Horlicks from “purely health, especially aimed at children, to a tasty but healthy positioning” for all. Therein lies the challenge. Industry insiders say much of the company’s success has come from adjacent brand variants such as Horlicks Junior, Women’s Horlicks, Horlicks Lite and Mother’s Horlicks and not from extensions into biscuits, noodles and, even low-priced HFD variants such as Asha.
Latest extensions like Horlicks ProMind and Horlicks Gold are yet to establish themselves conclusively, though they have shown promising off take in their test markets in the south. GSKCH thinks successes far outnumber failures. “We are already the second-largest brand in the south after Quaker Oats,” points out Singh. GSKCH is certainly on a fast track.
Extensions have so far been a mixed bag for Horlicks. Critically discuss this statement citing relevant instances from the case.
"Looking for a Similar Assignment? Get Expert Help at an Amazing Discount!"
Looking for a Similar Assignment? Our Experts can help. Use the coupon code SAVE30 to get your first order at 30% off!