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How Renault India Made An SUV Cool: A Case Study on the Gang of Dusters

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About Renault

Renault is a French Automobile giant. Its models are highly awarded, having won the coveted European Car of the Year award 6 times in the last 40 years along with numerous national-level awards in Spain, Australia, Ireland, the United States, Denmark, and elsewhere. It commenced its India operations in terms of sales from mid-2011 in partnership with its global partner Nissan Motor Company, having signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Government of Tamil Nadu in February 2008 to set up a manufacturing plant in Oragadam near Chennai. This marked their second innings in India after having endured a flop stint earlier. It is, as of today, the largest European brand in the Indian car market, en route to closing 2016 with a market share of 5 per cent.

Renault Duster

The Renault Duster is a compact Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV) which uses the proven and potent 1.5-litre dCi K9K diesel engine, churning out maximum power output of up to 110PS. Having been launched on the 4th July, 2012 in India, it has gone on to spellbind the industry and consumers alike. The model has won several prestigious awards (more than 29) including the eminent ‘Indian Car Of The Year’ (ICOTY) 2013. It has changed the way India looks at SUVs with cranking the sales figures to the tune of 140,000 plus since launch. Priced in the 8-14 lac range, it is currently available in 12 different variants, out of which 10 are diesel (including All-Wheel Drive system option) and 2 are petrol.

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Renault’s Business Objectives

When French automotive behemoth first entered India, it was through a joint venture with Mahindra & Mahindra. It bet big on their maiden product offering ‘Logan’ – a mid-sized sedan that was launched in 2007. But the car, with its passé looks and costly pricing, failed to woo the Indian consumers. The magnitude of failure was such that Renault ended up calling off the joint venture in 2010. Its brand name took a colossal hit in India. Therefore, the purpose was clear – to re-establish Renault’s image in India, and also to rebuild its footprint in the country from the scratch. And, so the models ‘Fluence’ and ‘Koleos’ were launched in May and September of 2011 respectively. These were basically positioned as “image drivers”. The next to get introduced was the ‘Pulse’ in January 2012, aimed at further resurrecting its image and importantly to lead sales, although it was also positioned as a premium offering. However, none of these models could hit well on the sales chart. Hence, Renault needed a “volume driver”. And, that’s when the Duster came in the picture with Renault identifying a gap in the SUV segment in the price range of 8-12 lacs. Hence, they conducted various studies and researches to really understand the Indian consumer. They had to be bang-on this time. They came to know that the Exterior design was a critical factor in the purchase. People looked-for an SUV with rugged, butch looks – but at the same time with the comfort and fuel efficiency of a sedan. Riding on this came the Indian version of the Duster. However, Renault knew that this was not enough and that they had to go further. The segment consisted of the Mahindras and Tatas which offered butch SUVs. But, they were unrefined and coarse while completely lacking the coolness (apart from lacking the engineering finesse and fuel efficiency too). Also, Renault could envision the cut-throat competition as well (at the very least knowing that the rebadged Duster would be launched by Nissan as “Terrano” according to their alliance). And, so the most important aspect became the ‘cool quotient’ and the ‘urbaneness’ that had to be attached

Therefore, the purpose was clear – to re-establish Renault’s image in India, and also to rebuild its footprint in the country from the scratch. And, so the models ‘Fluence’ and ‘Koleos’ were launched in May and September of 2011 respectively. These were basically positioned as “image drivers”. The next to get introduced was the ‘Pulse’ in January 2012, aimed at further resurrecting its image and importantly to lead sales, although it was also positioned as a premium offering. However, none of these models could hit well on the sales chart. Hence, Renault needed a “volume driver”. And, that’s when the Duster came in the picture with Renault identifying a gap in the SUV segment in the price range of 8-12 lacs. Hence, they conducted various studies and researches to really understand the Indian consumer. They had to be bang-on this time. They came to know that the Exterior design was a critical factor in the purchase. People looked-for an SUV with rugged, butch looks – but at the same time with the comfort and fuel efficiency of a sedan. Riding on this came the Indian version of the Duster. However, Renault knew that this was not enough and that they had to go further. The segment consisted of the Mahindras and Tatas which offered butch SUVs. But, they were unrefined and coarse while completely lacking the coolness (apart from lacking the engineering finesse and fuel efficiency too). Also, Renault could envision the cut-throat competition as well (at the very least knowing that the rebadged Duster would be launched by Nissan as “Terrano” according to their alliance). And, so the most important aspect became the ‘cool quotient’ and the ‘urbaneness’ that had to be attached

Hence, Renault needed a “volume driver”. And, that’s when the Duster came in the picture with Renault identifying a gap in the SUV segment in the price range of 8-12 lacs. Hence, they conducted various studies and researches to really understand the Indian consumer. They had to be bang-on this time. They came to know that the Exterior design was a critical factor in the purchase. People looked-for an SUV with rugged, butch looks – but at the same time with the comfort and fuel efficiency of a sedan. Riding on this came the Indian version of the Duster. However, Renault knew that this was not enough and that they had to go further. The segment consisted of the Mahindras and Tatas which offered butch SUVs. But, they were unrefined and coarse while completely lacking the coolness (apart from lacking the engineering finesse and fuel efficiency too). Also, Renault could envision the cut-throat competition as well (at the very least knowing that the rebadged Duster would be launched by Nissan as “Terrano” according to their alliance). And, so the most important aspect became the ‘cool quotient’ and the ‘urbaneness’ that had to be attached

People looked-for an SUV with rugged, butch looks – but at the same time with the comfort and fuel efficiency of a sedan. Riding on this came the Indian version of the Duster. However, Renault knew that this was not enough and that they had to go further. The segment consisted of the Mahindras and Tatas which offered butch SUVs. But, they were unrefined and coarse while completely lacking the coolness (apart from lacking the engineering finesse and fuel efficiency too). Also, Renault could envision the cut-throat competition as well (at the very least knowing that the rebadged Duster would be launched by Nissan as “Terrano” according to their alliance). And, so the most important aspect became the ‘cool quotient’ and the ‘urbaneness’ that had to be attached with the vehicle. That’s what established the premise for its entire marketing for the model, which came to ultimately overpower the engineering excellence (which is the best-in-segment) in the success story of the Duster.

Strategy adopted by the French maker- Renault

Renault’s strategy has been clear – to make the Duster an even more solid proposition, to achieve the “cool quotient” and the “urbaneness” to make it the “volume driver”. Enter the “Gang of Dusters”.

Renault Gang of Dusters

The Gang of Dusters, launched in August 2013, is a special initiative by Renault which organises expeditions to bring together like-minded, adventure-seeking Duster owners. Traversing across some of the most breath-taking landscapes in India in the Duster, the Gang of Dusters is a gateway for those who want to go off the beaten path. It’s an opportunity to interact with and befriend fellow adventure enthusiasts. And as Renault likes to put it – “…Gang of Dusters is more than just a community. It’s an experience where memories are made.”. The GoD is in perfect sync with their latest TV commercial which encourages people to get on the highway and explore uncharted territories with the Duster. The customers registered in the GoD are also presented with some unique offerings beside the adventure trips:

  • Special offers on paid services, accessory fitment, value added services, wheel alignment, insurance renewal, et cetera.
  • Complementary services including car wash, general check-ups, AC performance, engine coating and more.
  • Third party vendors’ (like Autocar, Ebay, Yatra, Fab Furnish, et cetera) discount coupons.

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Renault decided to use the Digital platforms and importantly the Social Media to make Gang of Dusters a great success. They categorically targeted the Youth and those ‘young at heart’ Duster owners (and potential buyers) by creating a robust community on Facebook, generating great traction on Twitter with #GangOfDusters, and a dedicated website. Going a mile further, yet again, they launched a dedicated App for the Duster which featured the GoD apart from other functionalities. The entire Digital ecosystem of GoD thrives on their core strategy.

Renault Duster's App's Screengrab

Renault Duster’s App’s Screengrab

Gang of Dusters_Renault

GoD’s Website’s Screengrab

Recently, in 2015, Renault Gang of Dusters became the title sponsor of the MTV’s ‘Roadies X4’ in a deal pegged at ₹10-12 crores. Interestingly, the show, which is hugely popular among the youth, had been associated with Hero for 12 years. For the first time in its history, the gangs and gang leaders will be seen driving the Renault Duster in the digital and television series. It was loud and clear, Renault’s idea to paint the Duster in the shades of “coolness” and “urbaneness”. And, boy, have they not been successful!

Renault Roadies X4

MTV’s Roadies X4


Results Achieved

  • The Gang of Dusters has become extremely popular with more than 40,000+ customers in the gang.
  • The GoD has undertaken and completed 14 expeditions already, covering various locations in India. There are many upcoming trips as well.
  • The Duster App has more than 50,000+ downloads, the Facebook page has more than 9100+ likes, the Twitter #GangOfDusters has extensive interactions.
  • Renault has sold more than 140,000+ Dusters in the country.

What Renault has essentially created, while achieving phenomenal sales, is a healthy, passionate community of Duster owners. A community which goes on expeditions creating new relationships and memories. A community which has a cool quotient!

Learnings

The concept of creating a community of a product owners’ is not new or revolutionary. A lot of manufacturers in other industries have also attempted similar things. In fact, Mahindra has a community of Mahindra owners called “Purple Club” which offers almost similar privileges to that of the Gang of Dusters. However, it is nowhere as active and thriving as the GoD (the “Great Mahindra Escape” under the Purple Club barely has 700 likes!). This is clearly due to the fact that Mahindra has not tapped the potential of Digital elements to create anything like GoD. Hence, the “coolness” evades it. The new entrant in the segment – Hyundai Creta, which was launched last year, and the Duster’s cousin Terrano does not even have a community like that of GoD! The entire activity undertaken by Renault has borne fruits and will continue to do so.

Of all the things that can be learnt, the importance and ever-growing need of Digital Marketing tops the list. The way Renault utilised the Digital ecospace toward achieving their objectives is the primary thing. It lets you know lucidly the potential of Digital Marketing, of the significant things it can achieve! How it can make a great product even greater (and cooler!)!

Inputs/Images Credits: Renault, Gang of Dusters, Motoroids, OnCars, Business Standard, AutoCar India, Television Post, Viacom18 (MTV; Voot; Roadies X4), Wikipedia

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