Umbrellas makers and a digital opportunity, Marketing & Advertising News, ET BrandEquity


<p>Image used for representative purpose (iStock)</p>
Image used for representative purpose (iStock)

Many years ago there was a time when newspapers and television were the only means of knowing what was happening in the outside world. And during the school holidays, we would go through the newspapers end-to-end to see if a particular ad had appeared.

And then it would appear announcing when the first downpour was likely to start in Mumbai. A wonderful brand property created by MRF Tyres decades ago – MRF Rain Day.

Besides planning to splash in the first rain, we would also have a checklist ready at home to start planning for this day.

And the top item on this list would be bringing our old ones’ or restocking umbrellas. And I always wondered what equity an umbrella maker could have built by adding their own variant of rain day or an ongoing weather forecast.

Which brings us to the umbrella category itself. Just like Henry Ford’s famous quote on black cars for a long time the perception of umbrellas was black and long. And then there was one innovation; folding umbrellas, the advent of “Chotta Chatri”- that funny character played by Johnny Lever in 2002.

And for this category which is an integral part of the lives of everyone who lives in a place where it rains, there is room for so much more innovation beyond “long black “ which coffee enthusiasts will relate to and “Chotta Chatri.”

First is the clear opportunity for category expansion. While umbrellas are largely perceived as being of use during the rain, there is a whole new usage option for umbrella brands to tap into. India is experiencing one of its worst summers with heat waves and temperature warnings. While most people have to rely on clothing and some have started using sunscreen, a huge opportunity is for umbrella brands to start marketing UV protection umbrellas for use in summer. Just like sunscreens claim their SPF- sun protection factor- umbrellas need to start mentioning their UV protection factor – Umbrella’s ultraviolet protection factor or Temperature Protection Factor. For e.g. umbrella which provides protections for temperatures over 40 degrees, and even 45 and 50 degrees celsius which are rapidly becoming commonplace in parts of India.

Brands like John’s, Palay and Infispace are offering this in India but need to amplify their offerings and their voice. A century old umbrella brand in India is Sun Brand Umbrellas. Huge opportunity for them to own the sun protection umbrella space given the inherent advantages of their brand name.

Rains rarely arrive alone. When the rains arrive there are dark clouds, thunder, gusty winds and a huge orchestra of nature that heralds their arrival and accompanies them. Each of which is also a product attribute strengthening opportunity.

My parents would also advise me never to take a folding umbrella. They would say that a bit of wind with the rain and it will turn inside out and even fly away like a crow leaving you wet and unprotected.

Enter John’s Mini, an umbrella brand from Kerala made out of solid wires and even reinforced fiberglass ribs that withstand high winds. This brand needs a national presence.

Senz -a Dutch brand has the windproof umbrella which can withstand wind speeds of upto 100 kms per hour while you hold it in one hand. Its unique design has been tested in a wind tunnel and does not turn inside out while being lightweight.

An opportunity for more such variants from other brands mentioning the wind speed that these umbrellas can withstand.

Heavy rains also bring with them poor visibility especially during night time. And for such situations thebrollystore based out of the UK offers a special Glow umbrella. An umbrella with a night setting. Just switch on that setting in the dark and the LED shaft makes the umbrella user visible to passing vehicles in the dark while the built-in torch lights up the way. In many parts of India this torch will be invaluable while walking in the rain to avoid puddles and potholes. In fact it can even be marketed as an umbrella with pothole protection.

I have an inverse correlation relationship with my umbrella and rain. Whenever I remember to take my umbrella during the rainy season it never rains and when I forget, it inevitably does. For such situations Royal Walk Umbrellas of Bulgaria has created a rain reminder app. It sends notifications on your phone to remind you of the weather and to carry your umbrella. In India given that OTP has now entered our lexicon umbrella brands can create UTPs insead. Umbrella Time Ping sent on customer’s mobile phones to remind them to take their umbrella on a certain day.

There are an entire umbrella of benefits and innovations that exist and can be scaled or can be unleashed.

Meanwhile, remember Raj Kapoor and Nargis walking under one umbrella in the rain singing that iconic song “Pyaar Hua Ikraar Hua Hai”. Then they pass a tea stall owner who has an immensely contented and delighted expression sipping hot tea in the pouring rain. I need an umbrella which has an embedded tracker that leads me to such tea stalls in the pouring rain.

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  • Published On Jul 4, 2024 at 07:28 AM IST

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