An Opportunity for Snack/Food/Beverage brands!

At some point in time, a few years back, I was an account planner with a then emerging advertising agency. I was there for almost two years and dint really do lot of work that I could speak about out loud but I did learn a lot in the process and it helped shape my thinking quite a bit. It has programmed my mind to question every premise My mind was already wired to question everything and a stint with the agency made me learn to try and find reasons for all the actions. Today something interesting happened. During one of those long taxi rides, I started questioning a basic premise and it led me to come up with some amazing insights that a food/beverage/snack company may want to look at.

So, while I was on my way from Bangalore airport to Indiranagar (about 90 minutes cab ride through open highways and crowded city), I had this desperate urge to take a break, rest for a bit, seep in the scenery, tame my mind/thoughts, relax my head/body, eat/munch onto something and generally stop. And there were tons of places where I could have done that. It was an open highway with shops that sold stuff ranging from cheap country made liquor to tea to coconut water to aerated drinks to snacks to chips, cigarettes etc. And this is when I realized that for a non-smoker like me, there is no alternative to smoking a cigarette when I want to take an unscheduled break.

Let me take a break from the back story a bit and talk about a cigarette. A typical planner, would define the cigarette and the use as...
  • A social object. When I am smoking, there is an instant connect with anyone else who is smoking close by. Both the smoker and the other unknown smoker, suddenly belong to the same tribe. They could start by sharing a light, a stick, a tea, a conversation and eventually a relationship. I can safely say that people bond over a cigarette and its as social an object as they come. 
  • Cheap at 5. It costs anywhere between a rupee and 10. This is the right price point that customers in India are oblivious to. They can spend this kinda money without thinking too much about it. Ofcourse this is a gross generalization (more on this in the next planning posts).
  • Kill time. A typical tick takes about 5 minutes to consume. This is the right amount of time that someone may want to kill when they are taking a break. Anything short is too short. Anything longer is too long. This is the right amount when you could disappear from that long/boring meeting and yet go unnoticed. This is the right amount of time that you need to recharge your batteries.
  • Un-awkward. If I am standing on a corner idle, I become an eye sore for everyone else. I dont have a business there. But, if I am holding on to a lit cigarette, I suddenly become a part of the scenery. No one questions my presence. My role is defined. I can pass off as yet another cigarette smoker that is just having his regular fix of nicotine. No one would give me a second look. And no, a cig is not alone here. You could have tea, hold a newspaper or may be merely fiddle with your phone.
  • Savor the after taste. After I have had it, there is that after taste that I can savor for long. Of course there are people who have issues with the after smoke but thats a different story. Then the kick that nicotine gives, also helps and for the ease of convinience, I would add to the after taste category.
  • Available. Its as ubiquitous as condoms, potatoes, water and air are. There are small kiosks after every two feets (at least in India, even at remote locations). I can buy a pack, I can buy one stick, I can buy alternatives, I can experiment. Nothing is as easy as buying a cig in India.
  • Does not affect appetite. Unlike a juice, or a tea or fruits, I can have as many cigs and as often and it would not affect my apetite. I would not skip a cig because having too much of it will make my stomach full and make my skip my dinner/lunch. So it serves the purpose of giving me a break, recharging my batteries and yet not affect my subconscious mind (assuming the ones smoking are aware and yet ignore the results of excessive smoking).
So after this rather large description of a cigerrete as a commodity that we humans consume, here is the million dollar question. Can brands/businesses in the foods, beverages or snacks industries, take these lessons from cigerrettes and create a product? Or may be create an experience? Or may be create a social object? Or something that

To make it simpler, can someone come up with a fmcg product that is cheap (<INR 10), available everywhere, allows me to kill those 5 minutes, makes me bond with other patrons of the product and does not give me anything but a break from the rigmarole?

More I think about it, more lucrative this seems. Ofcourse everyone would have tried taking this space. From things like coconut water to road side tea to street snacks to big established brands like Snickers (break at 4 PM), Kit Kat (have a break, have a kit kat), all the snacks (Hippo, Lays etc), lot of biscuits and million other assorted things have tried but they lack one thing or other. No one has been able to crack this bit as yet and when someone does, it would be a huge huge market waiting for them.

Wonder what do people in the business have to say about this? I can think of a response that one of clients for my ex-agency would have some up with. What else could be a valid response? And this is more of gut feel research right now and I would love to spend more time and effort on this. Primarily to validate the assertations and to unearth more such ideas. Anyone wants to commission a research? 

Published first on sgSandbox

1 comment:

Ashbisu said...

Itna lamba bhaashan! But u missed the most essential point... cigarettes are "addictive". So what u r essentially asking is that "can someone come up with another cheap, readily available form of addiction?"  

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