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ITC increases focus on Classmate
Business Standard - 08 Jul 2013

Classmate  range of notebooks was the first to be launched in 2003

A  man's signature is perhaps one of the most impressive portrayals of his  identity. We have all toiled hard, as a child, to get that signature worthy of  the person we aspire to be. Keeping this proposition in mind, ITC has launched  a campaign for its Classmate range of pens.

Writing instruments for ITC is a relatively  new segment. Its Classmate range of notebooks was the first to be launched in  2003. Pens and other writing instruments were included around three years  earlier. The current campaign is its first mainstream ad to get heard in a Rs  2,600-2,800 crore market of writing instruments that include pens and pencils.

The TV commercial opens with a young,  school-going girl scribbling in her notebook. What she is writing is hidden  from view, as she stops anyone from looking into her diary. She finally finds  inspiration in a fair when she sees ribbons flying in the air. The pages of the  diary are then revealed to have her signature, which she had been trying to  perfect over time. The background score emphasises on the uniqueness of her  dastakhat or signature.

"Classmate  as a brand recognises that an individual is born unique. Therefore, we must  recognise, nurture and celebrate this uniqueness. We came up with a similar  campaign last year and have decided to extend it this year but with specific  focus on the pens this time," says Karan Kumar, marketing manager,  education and stationery business.

ITC  will bank on cross-promotions with its notebooks, as range enjoys a 18-20 per  cent market share of the Rs 3,000-3,500-crore market. But in writing  instruments, it has has only two per cent owing to its late entry. At the  moment, its focus is on brand creation and communication. This reflects on its  budget allocation too. Of the Rs 35-50 crore advertising budget, a lion's chunk  is being spent on consumer connect.

According  to Kumar, the age when children first start using pens is significant for them.  The permission to use pens in schools, as against the pencils they had used so  far, is a sort of a rite-of-passage for the child, a sign of empowerment. Which  is why they try to imitate the first grown-up habit they can imagine - carve  out a unique signature for themselves.

"The  inspiration came from real-life experiences. I have seen my 10-year-old  daughter trying to carve out a signature for herself and practising it day-in  and day-out. We wanted to keep it as real and honest as possible, so we went to  Darjeeling and chose a young girl from the schools there. With the location,  the beautiful child and the lyrics by Gulzar, we were able to capture the  essence of finding oneself through the signature," said Sam Ahmed, chief  creative officer and vice-chairman, Rediffusion.

The  commercial was launched in Hindi and Tamil on July 2. While the lyrics for the  Hindi version have been penned by Padma Bhushan Gulzar, the Tamil TV commercial  has lyrics by six-times National Award-winner Vairamuthu. The Hindi edit lasts  for 60 seconds, and the two Tamil ones for 40 seconds and 30 seconds.

ITC  plans to extend the campaign to different media. It will be using the social  medium extensively to increase the outreach, according to Kumar. There will  also be school contact engagement programmes and on-ground contact. It also  plans to release these creatives on the back-covers of its notebook range, by  way of cross-promotion.

An expanding portfolio has  helped the brand grow over the years, claims Kumar. The company launched its  art material range, Classmate Color Crew, in 2012. It is planning more  launches, including new models of writing instruments, variants of geometry  boxes, sub-categories in the art stationery range and a premium range of  notebooks.

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