From chalks to lozenges – a dream situation for a brand

Do you know that mathematicians around the world are obsessed over one brand of chalk?

Just Google ‘chalk mathematicians’ and you would stumble, from multiple sources, the astonishing story of how mathematicians are hoarding on a Japanese brand of chalk!

The chalk is called Fulltouch, manufactured by the Japanese company, Hagoromo. The story has been reported many, many times on news websites. Here are 2 good resources: Gizmodo (2015) | CNN (2020)

I read through the details in astonished surprise.

First, I had no idea that there were professional mathematicians. Rather, I was aware that mathematics is a stream that people study, but that they also make it a career/profession was news to me.

Second is the fact that mathematicians are still using chalk and board, in an era of near-ubiquitous digital devices!

Third, when Hagoromo announced that they were ceasing production and shutting shop, it started a ‘chalkapocalypse’ where mathematicians started buying the chalk in bulk and hoarding it!

The details seemed oddly familiar to me, however! Where have I heard about a fairly niche product with an obsessed largely niche clientele (B2C, not B2B!) that hoarded the product because of news of the company’s demise?

And then I remembered – it happened right here in India!

Even though it has not been reported as widely as Hagoromo Fulltouch-Mathematicians, there is at least one extensive report in the Scroll – Kushal Kanthil!

The throat lozenge brand is a staple of singers in India, for many, many years! When there were rumors of the company stopping production, there was panic among the singers community! Thankfully, the rumors were put to rest by the manufacturer who was amused at them and assured that the fully intend to continue manufacturing.

What happened with Hagoromo and Kushal Kanthil is a dream scenario for brands and marketers – a dedicated subset of audience that depends exclusively on a particular brand even if seemingly similar equivalents exist. The brands’ need has been etched in this dedicated user base’s minds and they do the word-of-mouth themselves among others like them (in the same community/profession).

Any marketing/advertising for such products would only be needed to bring newer buyers into the fold. From what I found, both these products do not advertise (in any big manner) at all, since the sales from regular customers is more than sufficient.

The question is, how does a brand/product attain this haloed level? Is there a formula to reach this stature at all? Can it be reverse-engineered by identifying a niche user category and consciously (using research) producing the best product for them?

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