IntroductionThe Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) industry is growing by leaps and bounds. The growth is so vast and fast, thanks to a growing population, that needs the huge range of products, right from the infant stage to the old age stage.
There are several "niche" products too. A "niche" product is a product that offers some specific attribute to the customer, who sort of get hooked to the product, because of this attribute. Over a period of time, this special attribute remains with this product in popular perception of customers. The market also expands, though the loyal customer base will more or less be intact. In this article, we will focus on a) niche products across markets/ product categories b) promotion of niche products c) reliability of niche products d) how to sustain niche products or services.
Niche products across markets/ product categoriesA niche product is always developed with a particular class of customers in mind. Over a period of time, the customer base becomes very strong, and customer expectations of the particular product never changes. No attempt whatsoever is made to change the core offering. Once customers perceive the advertised benefits as real, and start using the product, it develops through word of mouth publicity.
It is also not true that any "niche" product will sell like hotcakes to any customer. The best example of one such niche product is the brand called "Meera" shampoo, manufactured and marketed by Cavinkare in the sachet segment. It has the traditional shihakkai base and is a hugely herbal product. It is advertised for the special shihakkai context, that lends the hair a very shiny look. This product is very famous in Tamil Nadu, and in Kerala, as rural folks still like to have the lake bath and then a shampoo which is traditional in nature. It is not available in this form in most parts of North India, as people out there, do not prefer the herbal variant. The same company also has a super duper hit product "Nyle" with the traditional chemical base for North Indian markets.
Raymonds suitings is a high-end, premium product, meant for the upper middle classes and the rich. It remains a product that is only for the rich and the sophisticated as it is a very costly range. Nano car is a niche product, as the family car is rather small and serves particular class of buyers. Lux, the beauty soap is a niche product. In Mysore, the "madhur vada"is a huge niche product. The special sweet called "palgova" which is made of pure ghee and sugar is made through a special process and is sold from a small town called Srivilliputhur in South Tamil Nadu.
Ditto for the "iruttu kadai halwa", which refers to a particular brand of halwa made in a very dark room, in the town of Tirunelveli, once again from South Tamil Nadu. This "niche"product is even exported abroad, but the chemistry of making it is a trade secret. There are hundreds of other shops in the same town, and all over Tamil Nadu. But none can equal this in terms of taste. The skills are not so easy to acquire.
The Tanjore painting is another niche product that is not at all available everywhere or purchased by everybody.
Promotion of niche productsNiche products or services are promoted very aggressively. Even today, Lux is advertised as a beauty soap. Hamam is hugely advertised as a health soap, for the fearless individuals. The advertisements on televisions always talk about core attributes and the attention span of the customer who watches the advertisement on television, is sought to be captured in full, In other words, the core attribute should firmly register in the mind of the customer for a very long time and he should recommend the use of the product to at least one hundred other people. This is the core purpose of all advertisements of all niche products.
These days, personal mails are also sent to customers. There is a huge movement involved in collecting feedback, particularly in specific restaurants that target specific classes of people, like organic food restaurants. Since the entire offering is hugely experimental in nature, the owners or promoters are so keen on customer feedback so that they can make improvements in the offering.
The print media for promotion is also a very viable option. For example, soaps like Hamam and Lux occupy so much space in the vernacular press. They are also advertised in the National newspapers in English. The promotion is always an ongoing process. Certain new innovations may be made in terms of packaging, but the core attributes remain the same.
Reliability of niche productsIt should be noted that each niche product always carries a special reputation. The customers vouch safe for the product attributes and are always willing to recommend the same to their friends with similar ideas for using the product or service.
At a much larger level, the "niche" marketing of services often takes off, after a sustained campaign highlighting the various attractions related to the particular range of services.
For example, years ago, when the State of Kerala was advertised as "God's Own Country" and the memorable campaign showed acres of lovely lands and coconut trees and the backwaters of the place called Alleppey, millions of tourists from across the world got to experience the taste of Kerala in total.
They were simply astonished to find the State so beautiful in so many respects. Since then, Kerala has always occupied a special place in Indian Tourism. Several case studies have been made on Kerala's efforts to promote it as a tourist paradise.
How to sustain "niche" products or services The KPN brand of buses is the largest single private bus operator in India. When it was started, it offered a new alternative to the then famous Tamil Nadu Transport Corporation long distance buses. KPN was able to build a niche only because the offering was seen as a huge value for money. Yes, the money was indeed extra, but the buses would ply faster than the normal Government buses and also be very punctual. Over the years, the same reliability and service offering in terms of facilities has not changed one bit.
Similarly, Raymonds is still exclusive even today. Bata, as a brand, stands tall over hundreds of new competitors. Its products are always very good. The manufacturers spend a lot of money and effort to make the brand an integral part of the customer's memory at any point in time. Advertising is only one part of the whole story. Reliability and sustainability with specific brands is a huge ask that is always taken very seriously. If any customer demands a sudden refund, no questions are asked and the KPN Management refunds the money. The buses are very clean and offer good comfort. The core attributes are always protected.
Conclusion Niche products and services will go on for ever. In India, there will be hundreds of niche products that will occupy the shelves in the years to come. The niche products will always be niche products. This will never change. The customers of such niche products will always be a very happy lot. For, they will always get what they exactly want.