Decoding Maruti Suzuki’s strategy for the legendary Jimny in India

Maruti Suzuki unveiled their new SUV – Jimny – at the Auto Expo’23. Globally, the Jimny has been Suzuki’s workhorse, available since 1970. Though a launch date has not been fixed and the pricing of the vehicle has not been revealed, online bookings for Jimny has received enthusiastic response from consumers. As per media reports, pre-bookings for Maruti Jimny crossed 3,000 within two days of its unveiling. The SUV can be e-booked on the Nexa Experience website for just Rs 25,000.

Maruti Suzuki has rolled out a TVC to support the Jimny’s launch in India. Shot across the world, such as Spain and South Africa, the ad narrates stories of people who didn’t give up amid life’s hardships and tough terrains. The ad states that it is inspired by “True Stories”.

In conversation with Adgully, Shashank Srivastava, Senior Executive Officer, Marketing & Sales, Maruti Suzuki India, speaks at length about the new TVC for Jimny, the communications and marketing strategy, and the creative approach of this TVC while highlighting the success of the legendary off-roader, and more.

What was the idea and inspiration for the campaign?

We saw the global unveiling of the five-door Jimny at the Auto Expo for the first time in the world. Brand Jimny has been in existence for the last 52 years, having started in 1970. It’s a legacy brand of Suzuki, which was the first company in the world to get into this smaller-size 4x4 vehicle. Earlier, while everybody knew about the brand in India, Jimny was never introduced because the volumes were not so much because it’s more of a lifestyle vehicle. Now, I think the market is right as such a segment has now emerged and has got reasonable volumes and that is the reason why we have now decided to launch this brand in India.

When we showcased the Jimny at the last Auto Expo 2020, we got a lot of positive feedback from the consumers. From the responses we got a clear sense that they were looking for a five-door Jimny rather than a three-door Jimny. It’s the same in Japan as well – people there also wanted the five-door version, but in our case, it was an overwhelming majority, so we went ahead and developed the five-door Jimny. It is known to be an authentic SUV, it’s really a vehicle that can go to any terrain, and therefore, the design form for the Jimny is what we like to call ‘Purity of Function’.

Our campaign is also to have a touch of both the legacy part and the authentic off-roading part. I think that authenticity comes from actual true stories. So, you must have instances over a long period of such stories to build up. Moreover, they should be hard-hitting in the sense that they should stand out as stories.

There are three stories that we have presented in this campaign to bring in this authenticity, as well as the extreme capability of the Jimny. Therefore, we have said “Jimny Inspired by #TrueStories”. The first story is about the snowstorm called Filomena in Spain, where the Jimny came to the rescue and transported food and emergency supplies to drivers stranded in deep snow, making full use of the Jimny’s 4x4 capability. Also, a mother and her newborn daughter, Maria, who were released from the hospital, had no way to get home with her husband and two other children. Jimny was used to get her home safely in the middle of the snowstorm. Interestingly, the baby girl came to be known as the ‘Suzuki Baby’. Another story is a about a couple who wanted to conquer the five peaks of Africa. The Jimny took them through 10 African countries to scale the continent’s five highest peaks. They covered 7,000 km in 8 months and the Jimny tackled everything that the African landscape threw at them. The third story is about how the Jinmy helped scientists explore a poorly accessible archaeological site in Spain, known as ‘The Pit of Bones’. The rough roads presented a challenge best met by the rugged Jimny, which overcome muddy pits, rocky terrain, taking over 300 scientists through narrow passages. It helped them discover over 900,000-year-old specimens.

Why did you think there was a need for the narrative to be in the form of a poem? What is it that it lends to the entire theme?

The poem is used to bring out emotion and marry it with reality. So, the visuals, the verbal part, and the music part blend very well. And that is how we thought of this campaign.

How long did it take for the creative agency to transform the brief into the actual campaign?

It was quite fast. We were very sure because we had a global unveiling. It was about a month and a half and the briefing would have been about 15 days more. So, maybe about two months. It was tough because we also had a 10-day closure at the office in December. We wanted to capture the snow, so shooting was done in Manali, in Rohtang. The Pit of Bones bit was shot somewhere in Rajasthan. So, overall, it was done quickly. And you had to blend the story. So, the editing was very important, otherwise you cannot compress all these things – such as the authenticity and the extreme road experiences. I’m glad that Lintas did a fantastic job.

Going forward, do you plan to continue with more such true stories? What other social media campaigns can we expect to see in the coming times?

‘Inspired by True Stories’ can probably become ‘what’s your story’. As the usage of Jimny in India spreads, we will have our own instances that can be shared to showcase the prowess of the Jimny. By the way we were very pleasantly surprised to see that there is a huge Jimny followers club in India. We are getting more than 1,000 bookings on average every day; and it has been just about four or five days since the unveiling in India. Initially, I guess the booking rate will be much higher. Even assuming that the rate of bookings comes down later on, we will still have some steady inflow. I would guess that the waiting periods for the SUV would climb up. The demand for Jimny would be so high that the initial projection of a three-month waiting period may be too low. I think the waiting period is going to be much higher than that.

Could you tell us about the distribution strategy for Jimny. While Maruti Suzuki has a strong pan-India distribution network, are there certain hiccups that you are anticipating? Also, how have you prepped up the technology for a five-door model?

As far as technology is concerned, most of the technology is there in the different models that we have. Maybe the 4x4 element is a little new here, for example, the gearbox has three options, you can have a two-wheel drive or a four-wheel drive, and then there is 4L mode where you can have a very high torque at a very low RPM. We conduct extensive training before launching any product. On the other hand, the other types of technology like EBD, ABS, or ESC Hill old ISOFIX are all there in our existing models. Maybe, you can say that we have had that experience in the off-roading part with the Gypsy earlier. But this sure is a new type of technology.

What is the media mix for the Jinmy campaign?

Initially, it will be largely digital, but going forward we will have to create that imagery because the emotive stuff in the stories is more to do with the videos. So, videos in digital as well as on television is something that we will do. Although I would say that unlike Fronx, our other newly-launched SUV, Jimny seems to have already established clearly in the minds of people as a brand. The brand positioning here is much clearer – authentic, off-roader lifestyle. I feel the task for brand positioning for Jimny is a little easier because people know about it. Therefore, we just need to do that nudging part and sustain it. After establishing the legacy, the authenticity, and the off-roading capabilities, the next level of the campaign will be to encourage people that nothing can stop the Jimny and that it will go beyond anything.

Over the years, the Jimny has built a strong legacy. However, the automobile industry is evolving – there is greater emphasis on EV and hybrid vehicles. Moreover, we have seen quite a few new launches at the Auto Expo. While Jimny may not have competition per se in terms of imagery and brand recall, how do you view the growing number of brands in the same category?

If you go back in time in the Indian automobile industry, there were no such special segments. The Maruti 800 was used by everybody – politicians, businessmen, car enthusiasts, and students. What we have found in our research across countries in the automobile industry is that as the volumes grow, special segments emerge because the economy grows as well. The same thing happened in India, while initially Maruti 800 was the only hatchback at that time, later on we launched the Zen. Then we launched the Swift, which was a slightly more premium performance-oriented hatchback because by that time that segment had grown big and sub-categories had emerged. Some people, who wanted to be individualistic and performance-oriented, went for the Swift, whereas some people, who were more family-oriented and wanted to travel within the city in a very comfortable fashion, went for the Ritz.

Later on, we had the Baleno because there was another category that was not into performance or individualistic style, but attached great importance to modern design, sharpness and edginess in the exterior design. As the segments grow, sub-segments emerge and the same thing is happening in the entry level SUV segment, the compact SUV segment. Earlier, we used to talk of SUVs as a segment, then we started to talk of compact SUVs, which include the Brezza, Sonet, Nexon, Venue, and that segment became very big. Earlier, it was just 5% of the overall market, but now it is about 23% of the market. The mid-size SUV is a slightly bigger SUV, where you have the Creta, Grand Vitara, Kia Seltos, MG Hector, and Harrier. Finally, there is a premium SUV category, which has the Fortuner, Endeavour, Pajero.

The compact SUVs, premium SUVs, and mid-size SUVs segment has grown very large – from 11-12% about eight years back to 42% of the market today. The biggest segment today is the compact SUV segment.

Our research showed that there are two segments that are emerging in relatively large volumes, but the current products are not able to satisfy those needs. One segment is the lifestyle segment, which is about people who are also authentic off-roaders. These are people who want to have status, who are professionals, who like to overcome extreme terrains, and so on. The competition here is the Mahindra Thar. Jimny is like a different product altogether. So, people were looking for this. And we believe that this segment will become quite large, as revealed by the bookings for Jimny – as per initial estimates the bookings could reach 30,000. I think with the entry of Jimny, this segment is going to grow much larger.

The second big category that is emerging are the young, urban, tech-savvy consumers who want a lot of features in their cars. They are looking for something beyond the normal design. This segment is very large and there are several vehicles in this category, and every vehicle seems to be similar in that SUV shape or form. These consumers want an SUV, but they want a fresh style. Although we have the Brezza in this segment and it is a market leader here, we still wanted another vehicle in this compact SUV segment, which is why we have launched the Fronx, because we see a huge potential in this expanding segment. We want to serve these type of customers as well.

Could you walk us through the R&D that went into the making of the five-door Jimny?

Both Suzuki and Maruti teams were involved. The basic platform was anyway available, but the challenge was to make the five-door version while retaining all the off-roading capabilities, etc. So, the effort was huge, of course. And that’s one of the reasons why it took so much time for us to bring the Jimny. We have been exporting the three-door Jimny since January 2021, and so far, have already exported 30,000 units of the three-door version.

The second challenge was localisation. A lot of components are specialised, but the terrain is different from the others. Since the testing part had to be done thoroughly, it took a lot of effort. We have invested over Rs 900 crore on R&D. I think the product has come out very well and will do very well in the market.


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