Snapdeal failed miserably at building a distinct brand identity
From the glow of the once-admired brand the venture has seen its stock slip and slide.
Unbox Zindagi commercial by Snapdeal. (Image: BCCL)
It wasn't always so. The company, founded as a daily deals site by two friends Kunal Bahl and Rohit Bansal, later pivoted to ecommerce and snagged a list of marquee investors to back its ambitious plans.
While the unfettered growth story held until 2014, the last couple of years have seen the brand take a battering, with consumers shifting to larger rivals, clients taking to the internet, alleging non-payment of long-pending dues and new investors shying away from making any fresh commitments. It is little surprise then that Snapdeal is close to being sold for a billion dollars - or even less - to one time arch-rival-turned-saviour Flipkart. "Snapdeal was a part of the 'Rising Tide' phenomenon we saw in e-commerce," says Ambi Parameswaran, a brand strategist and Founder of Brand-Building.com, a brand advisory. "(But) it had no unique customer value proposition to offer, since all e-commerce brands were offering deals in a snap." In this context, the costly Unbox Zindagi campaign did not signify anything new. Particularly damaging at a time when the competition was running distinctive ads - Amazon pushing assortment with Aur Dikhao, and Flipkart explaining features via its revived 'kids as grownups' campaign. The costly (in money and reputation) Aamir Khan ads too did little to aid its brand building. If Flipkart built its delivery backbone - cofounders Sachin and Binny Bansal famously even made their own deliveries when the venture was little more than a book business - global giant Amazon was streets ahead in terms of technology. Snapdeal made a belated entry into the logistics space, backing GoJavas, but it may have missed the proverbial bus.
To try to make up for lost time, Snapdeal's high-voltage re-branding campaign may have been a last-ditch attempt to stay afloat. "It was evident that Snapdeal was heavily investing in branding and media in order to gain market traction," says Carl Savio, founder of Bluebot Digital, a digital marketing agency, who has worked with firms such as Practo, Bankbazaar and Bluestone. "Their last campaign seemed like an all-out attempt at shifting the needle… Advertising can only create desire and awareness - it cannot make-up for a bad product or influence market dynamics." Part of the challenge, for Snapdeal, is being noticed (or, was being noticed) in a cut-throat and rapidly commoditising market. "You tend to fight a never-winning brand battle in a commodity space," says marketing consultant, Harish Bijoor. "There are just too many doing the same thing, vying for the same set of eyeballs and wallets … the consumer surfs through them all and buys from the lowest price - great for the consumer, terrible for the brand. There is no brand here. Just plain old commodity." With a fire sale around the corner, Bahl and Bansal may have learnt some tough brand lessons along the way.