With a commanding 50% share of the passenger car market in India, Maruti Suzuki’s marketing strategy has taken a different direction to its rivals as it deploys celebrities to promote sales channels rather than particular auto brands.

“The strategy of engaging celebrities for channels is unique and is paying off handsomely,” RS Kalsi, executive director, sales and marketing at Maruti Suzuki India, told the Business Standard. “It has evolved as an important pillar in company’s ‘customer-centric approach’.”

Maruti Suzuki operates three dealership brands – Nexa for premium cars, Arena for mass market vehicles and True Value for used cars – with the target audience for each having very different profiles in terms of income and what they need from a sales outlet.

A buyer of a premium model, for example, is more likely to know what he or she wants while someone buying a mass-market model may be doing so for the first time and require more guidance from a sales executive.

Accordingly, the channels are fronted by different high-profile actors whose image and qualities are thought to reflect those Maruti wants to promote for each: thus Ranveer Sigh brings an urbane worldliness to Nexa, Varun Dhawan an air of friendly inclusiveness to Arena , while Rajkummar Rao, the Standard noted, is “a natural fit for the used car business where the company wants to project a transparent and trustworthy image”.

The Nexa brand was only launched in 2015, part of Maruti Suzuki’s efforts to crack the top-end of the market and distance itself from an association with budget models. Since then it has sold 23,500,000 cars from over 2,000 dealerships.

“The proof of the pudding lies in the fact that they could finally market higher end cars,” said Rohit Kumar, head of automotive practice at market research firm Kantar TNS.

Other observers remain unconvinced, noting that some models have failed to gain traction and arguing that sales growth is simply linked to the spread of dealerships. And some also feel that Arena and Nexa are not sufficiently differentiated.

Sourced from Business Standard; additional content by WARC staff