Mivi’s nationalistic marketing missives

Mivi’s new campaign was long in the making and feels eventual.

We have gone through ‘Made in Germany’ and ‘Made in Japan’ TVs. ‘Made in the USA’ has long been an aspirational idea in India. But with recent geopolitical changes and the ‘Make in India’ movement spurred by the Government, and most importantly the anti ‘Made in China’ sentiment post the border skirmishes, we have a new narrative.

This new narrative is not just ‘Made in India’. That’s common enough as a message and is something more of an imperative too, to get the Government-sponsored benefits of making in India.

The new narrative is to go beyond just ‘We make in India’ and also target the ‘Assembled in India’ products that claim to ‘Make in India’ – I’m guessing Mivi had Noise, Fire, and boAt, among others, in mind for this communication. From what I read online, it seems that boAt is perhaps more specifically the target of this communication and Saksham Shukla, who plays the ‘Made in India’ product guy, is also possibly modeled somewhat to remind one of boAt’s famous (thanks to Shark Tank India) co-founder and CMO Aman Gupta (this is slightly more pronounced in the 2nd ad – see further down this post.

Not just that: boAt has also been recently vocal about its ‘Make in India’ ambitions:

Even Noise has said the same thing: “We want 80 percent of Noise’s production to take place in India”. (Indian Express)

In terms of narrative, the ad (and the subsequent ones in the series), which has been conceptualized by Word Dogs Creative and co-produced by Nipun Sood and Tushar Gupta, is very similar to the famous ‘I am a Mac. I am a PC’ campaign series by Apple, made by the agency TBWA\Media Arts Lab way back in 2006 (and ran until 2009).

Here is a compilation of all 66 short ads that were a part of that campaign:

The idea is similar: show 2 individuals who are seemingly polar opposites in every way – attire, attitude, and most importantly, the product they are endorsing, in a stark white backdrop. And exaggerate the downsides of your rival to a comical extreme.

Interestingly, while the Apple user in that series (played by Justin Long) was in cool casuals (t-shirt and jeans) and the PC user (played by John Hodgman) was in formals, the Mivi ads have it in reverse! The Mivi maker is in formals, while the ‘Made in Cina/Assembled in India’ maker is in cool casuals, which obviously are made to resemble boAt’s Aman Gupta… understandably. The way the ads play up Saksham’s antics, it is obvious that Mivi is directing us to think poorly of the supposedly assembled tech. brands sold in India.

And so, after Mivi’s first ad was released on January 23rd, boAt was the only brand to respond, but without going into the same ‘You vs. me’ vibe that Mivi used.

boAt took a massive front-page ad in the Hindustan Times on January 30th where the copy said,

They said ‘Manufacturing wearables in India is not possible’. We proved them wrong.

Who is they, and them, is anyone’s guess. It could be unknown people who whispered such things, or it could be Mivi that more recently (before this print ad) claimed that while others don’t design or manufacture in India, and only assemble products here, Mivi does everything in India.

But it was smart of boAt to keep things intentionally vague and not respond directly to Mivi’s taunt.

And Mivi seems to have only doubled down on the taunts with 2 more ads with the same narrative.

To be sure, when Apple launched its series to target PCs, they were challenging a very large set of players (OEMs). Even as of late-2022, PCs occupy about 75% of the computer market while Apple’s Mac has only a 15% market share. So it made/makes immense sense for Apple to go after PCs, just like how Burger King persistently goes after McDonald’s (US $23 billion in revenue for McDonald’s vs. US $1.8 billion revenue for Burger King, in late 2022).

Considering boAt has played up its market leadership very often (as also Noise and Fire), it makes sense for a smaller player like Mivi to use a potentially tangible differentiator to challenge the leader of the segment.

But this strategy comes with pitfalls.

For one, when a brand, a challenger at that, takes aim (directly or indirectly) at a rival or a set of rivals, no matter how valid the claims are, it is communicating its USP at the cost of a rival. That negativity imbibed in the communication could open the brand to, “Oh, if you can take a swipe at your rival, you should be ok with us taking a swipe at you too, no?”, from normal people.

This is quite apparent when you take a look at the many replies to Mivi’s tweets where quite a few people point out that it is not enough to design and manufacture in India, but it is equally important to make good quality products that don’t conk off unpredictably, and more important to offer good post-sales support.

Of course, product complaints come in for all tech. device manufacturers. But when the claim is about making in India, that pride comes with the responsibility of living up to it. For context, many products are still made in China and assembled/sold in India, and they all work flawlessly. For consumers, even beyond the current nationalistic sentiment of ‘Made in India’ vs. ‘Made in China’, a good, fully functional product and smooth, reliable after-sales service are more important than where the product is manufactured.

And even as we look through the online details of ‘Country of origin’ (made mandatory as a detail to be added for e-commerce listing by the Government of India), what is even more relevant for normal buyers is the reviews that offer a realistic picture (or at least a snapshot) of how good the product could potentially be.

For Mivi, post this challenger phase, what would be more useful is to communicate why exactly the ‘Made in India’ products are better for the Indian consumers than merely putting all assembled products under the ‘not worth it’ bucket sweepingly and derisively.

To be sure, we Indians do want to buy ‘Made in India’ products, but not at the cost of a poor experience, product-wise or service-wise.

For example, think of McDonald’s. It could simply launch the same set of products from elsewhere in the world and claim, ‘We are now in India’. But they did not do that. For winning in India, they not only produced the first-ever paneer burger but also set up the entire back-end facility to procure fresh paneer on a massive scale. Then, when they claim ‘Now in India’, we took the brand very seriously.

So Mivi could consider explaining why their made-in-India products are superior beyond simply using that basic claim itself as a badge of honor because that proclamation is the flavor of the season.

As for boAt, it’s worth noting how Intel turned the table by hiring Justin Long in 2021 to feature in a new ‘I am a PC’.

Unless Saksham Shukla and Chetan Goel have signed long-term contracts with Mivi, boAt could perfectly rope them in for a turning-the-table campaign 🙂