In our increasingly digitized lives, the amount of consumer behaviour data being shared is growing every second. As consumers take their product and service experience on to online forums, companies are just getting warmed up to this new avenue for reputation management. In-fact, conversations between members on forums and discussion boards are proving to be extremely critical in influencing the buying pattern of its members and their associates.
To understand the collective opinion of forums and the power that they generate towards a brand, we shall study two companies: Ford Motors and Skoda Auto. One who has benefited from the positive buzz on forums and another who has suffered despite having a strong market presence at the beginning. We shall then discuss the key points gleaned from both companies to guide those firms that are looking to build their brand presence on forums.
In the first part of this study, we shall take a closer look at Skoda Auto and its Indian operations.
Skoda-Auto, a Czech brand owned by VW since 1991, entered the Indian market in 1996. Using a single product portfolio, this hitherto unheard of brand took the market by storm. Focusing its media campaign on building the brand, Skoda-Auto laid emphasis on engineering strength, longevity of product, luxury, affordability.
They appeared to tick all the right boxes. Its Octavia was a strong, sturdy product. It offered a large boot space for all the luggage requirements of Indian families; it was built like a tank, and its power-train was reasonably quick and extremely fuel-efficient for such a large car. Even its marketing policies were slightly different from the competition at launch. Up until then, every car manufacturer had priced the diesel versions of their products at a premium over the petrol counterpart.
Skoda-Auto created history by pricing their petrol and diesel versions at par. The 2.0 engine Petrol versions were a favourite with boy-racers because of the handling and the sheer amount of power-enhancing mods that were possible with this engine.
The 1.9 TDi on the other hand was a frugal workhorse. It developed a decent amount of power and was torquey to boot. This was mated with gearing that gave it fantastic cruising capabilities, while being efficient in its fuel consumption. This led to a kind of halo image that earned the company accolades in terms of goodwill as well as steady sales.