Last year, consumers were seen thronging the local pan shop around the corner of every neighborhood, asking for something common and usually in ‘bulk’. They were buying something, which was up until then, bought only in lieu of loose change.
Yes, we are talking about ‘Pulse,’ a raw mango-flavoured hard-boiled candy (HBC) with a piquant powder filling in the centre that hit the sweet spot with adults and children alike.
Launched in mid-2015 by DS group – the makers of Baba chewing tobacco, Pass Pass mouth freshener, and Rajnigandha paan masala – Pulse candy broke all records, both in terms of sales and demand. Within the initial six months of its launch, the brand achieved Rs. 50 crore sales, followed by Rs. 100 crore in eight months, more than Rs. 150 crore in the first year and now in the second year, it has already crossed Rs. 300 crore mark.
Not only revenue, sales and demand, the product even made a breakthrough in the stagnant candy category, pushing annual growth of the entire HBC category. Surprisingly, Pulse did all this and much more without going aggressive on its ATL marketing, during the first six months.
To understand how a candy became a nationwide sensation, team Markup caught up with Shashank Surana, vice-president (new product development), DS Group, to know the behind-the-scene of Pulse and how digital marketing and social media became one of the major contributors in making it the real pulse of India.
- Hard-boiled candy segment is considered as an impulse-driven purchase where consumers normally buy them in exchange of loose cash. However, Pulse broke all records and has had tremendous growth. How was the idea germinated?
Yes, it traditionally is an impulse category; however, the consumer’s love for pulse altered the segment dynamics. Consumers who usually buy candy in single pieces are seen buying Pulse jars- completely new phenomena in the marketplace. We saw impulse buying being changed to the ‘Pulse’ buying!
At the outset, we observed that raw mango and mango flavor together constitute about 50 percent of the total candy market in India, but consumers want something value added than just a simple candy. Our insight told us that the kaccha aam (raw mango), in any form, is eaten with a tangy powder, across India. These insights were pulled together and the team started working on creating a product out of it. After extensive taste sampling, the final mandate was given to Kaccha aam flavor with a tangy twist. And that gave birth to Pulse; a powder filled Kaccha aam flavored candy.
A category breaker in the hard-boiled candy segment, ‘Pulse’ extends a different experience that begins with the taste of fruity flavor and peaks with a tangy surprise. Therefore, the real experience of the candy begins when the other candies’ experience ends. This unique and innovative combination of tastes has made our product stand out from the clutter and has become nationwide favorite.
- Tell us about the brand’s major milestones.
From becoming the category leader to achieving a record sales figure in no time, Pulse witnessed various milestones. Here’s a lowdown on the major ones:
– Pulse is now one of the top brands in HBC category
– The brand achieved Rs. 50cr in sales within 6 month of launch, Rs. 100 crores in 8 months, more than Rs. 150 crores in first year and now in the 2nd year, we have crossed Rs. 300 crore
-In a period of two years, we have launched two new variants; Guava in Dec 2015 and Orange in October and will soon be launching a new flavor this year
-The candy was traditionally perceived as a kid’s product; however, pulse cut across all age groups and is loved by everyone
-The pulse experience was priced at Rs.1 candy that was launched in a predominately 50 Paisa market. Subsequently, more players shifted to the Rs 1 category, another change in the segment dynamics that was initiated by us
-The hard boiled-candy market also saw a phenomenal growth of approximately 20 per cent annually. Without Pulse, the market was just growing at 10-12 per cent annually in the previous two years
- Pulse crossed Rs 50 crore mark within six months of its launch without any formal advertising push. How?
Pulse candy has made a place for itself in the market and the consumers have been the brand ambassadors of the product. We did not do aggressive ATL marketing, however, the launch was supported by BTL activities like in-shop display, exclusive merchandise promotion and focused sampling through various consumer contact activities to gather visibility and reach. During the brand building process, we used digital media effectively not only to promote the brand, but also to connect with consumers.
- Was there any difference in the marketing strategy as well? Please elaborate.
The product stood out due to its USP, powdered filled candy with a tangy twist and caught the fancy of young consumers of today, who demand innovation in terms of formats and flavors. We had a good product and it was sampled extensively at offices, metros, malls, et al. We kept driving the brand through digital marketing and BTL activations primarily focusing on youth who helped in propagating our product on social media.
We also focused on widening our distribution network to ensure availability pan India. We decided to focus on digital media initially because the youth were driving the product supported by outdoor, POP’s and BTL push initially. We are now in process of launching our maiden TVC to take the brand’s popularity to the next level and further strengthen the consumer-connect.
- How much did digital marketing and social media contribute to the promotion and growth of the brand?
Digital marketing and social media are one of the major contributors to building the brand initially. Pulse grew into a robust and active community, digitally, with more than a million committed and loyal followers, most of which developed organically. Social media stories, dub smash, and promotional videos by consumers went viral and helped Pulse become the ‘Pulse of India’.
Hashtags like ‘#PulseofIndia’ to memes like ‘my face when I am eating a Pulse Candy’ have trended organically on social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram since its launch in April 2015. We used digital marketing effectively not only to promote the brand, but also to connect with consumers who are spread across length and breadth of the country. We created digital campaigns to build on buzz around the brand and gained a lot of word of mouth for the brand.
- How do you engage with your target audience on social media?
Our TG is between 15-34 years of age, is very experimental and experience-driven. They are young Indians interested in sports, Bollywood, etc. So, we keep refreshing our content from time to time and tap them on social platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. We make sure the content that we post on these sites stays relevant and talk to our TG in their own language.
We have even sponsored many music concerts and been present at college festivals and other popular youth hangouts. We always try to connect with our audience in communication and media that they use.
- Would you like to forecast any particular marketing trend in your segment for 2017?
With consumers’ demanding differentiation, the market will see a lot of innovation, especially in the FMCG sector going ahead. While the brands will continue to invest in traditional advertising, the focus would shift to direct consumer connect, whether through social media or on ground activities or native advertising. The brands will create engaging content that appeals to their target audience to grow organically and stay relevant in social and mobile media.