Complan Case Study

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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. 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...
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