A well-known phrase in the advertising industry states, "When all else fails, use emotion. And when that seems a trifle out-of-sync proposition in the product category, rush to good ol' mother's love".
In India, "maa ka pyaar" (a mother's love) is a surefire winner. This is exactly what the snack brand "Hippo" did with its munchies variant. Initially, Parle Agro tried to tackle the global hunger issue with their product but then shifted their focus to selling it based on the promise of love and care.
However, none of the strategies could stop Parle Agro from discontinuing Hippo chips. In this article, we'll examine the issues and failures that contributed to Hippo Chips' demise and explore the causes of its failure.
Let's discuss what happened to Hippo chips and why did hippo chips fail?
Launched in 2009, Hippo Chips were a common snack found in lunchboxes and pantries all over the nation. Hippo Chips soared to fame and were well-known for their distinctive form and delightful crunch. But as time went on, the brand gradually disappeared, leaving people to wonder what went wrong.
About Hippo Chips
Hippo's packaging was larger than the average snack packet, with a giant hippo logo on the front, bright colours intended to stand out from the crowd, and distinct flavours. The word HIPPO was spelt out in big, bold letters to match the personality of the creature on the front of the packet, a hefty fat hippo.
Hippo Snacks were launched in the following flavours:
- Chinese Manchurian,
- Indian Chatpatta,
- Hot-n-Sweet Tomato,
- Italian Pizza,
- Yoghurt Mint Chutney,
- Thai Chilli Cream,
- Afghani Tikka Masala, and
- Greek Yogurt.
The brand sought to be a guilt-free snack during hunger moments; hence, the tagline "Hippo Fights Hunger" was chosen. Hippo was promoted with 'Hunger is the root of all evil. So, don't go hungry.'
Hippo chips had several unique features that set them apart from other snacks:
- They were made from wheat
- Instead of being fried, they were baked.
- Their marketing approach was excellent.
- They quickly became popular in the market shortly after their introduction.
Campaigns by Hippo Chips
Parle ran some innovative marketing campaigns that leveraged social media very effectively.
1. The Plan-T Campaign
Following its demand and supply issues, Hippo snacks India recognized the problem it was encountering and did not want the consumers to take the empty retail shelves as a manifestation of the brand's failure in a short period.
They did not want to spend huge amounts of money outsourcing the distribution and supply tasks to withstand the demand-supply problem, so they directly communicated with their customers. This led to the beginning of the Plan-T campaign. To solve their difficulty, they urged their Twitter followers to submit a tweet with the hashtag @HelloMeHippoabout.
The goal of this campaign was to include customers in every step of Hippo's supply chain across multiple locations, and it was successful since it drew a large number of enthusiastic participants.
Using Twitter, Hippo recruited 400 new workers to help with sales and distribution at no expense. Its sales increased by 76% in the preliminary phase of its takeoff. Before the campaign launch, Hippo had 800 followers on Twitter, which soon increased by 300% to 4000 followers, which was equal to 50% of its sales and distribution network.
Hippo gathered data from Twitter, analysed it, and forwarded it to regional distributors in the affected locations, who then refilled the shop shelves, ensuring that customers were satisfied within hours.
Hippo was qualified to evaluate markets and observe potential markets for its business development with the help of this campaign. The good thing about Hippo was that it recognised its shortcomings and modified them into strengths by leveraging social media. Hippo used social media to connect with consumers and procure real-time outcomes to availability problems. The Twitter handle of Hippo was very active indeed! Before getting deactivated, it had more than 4000 tweets posted daily on everyday titbits.
2. Indian Food League
In 2012, Hippo inaugurated an online campaign named IFL (Indian Food League) to attract cricket fans during the IPL (Indian Premier League) session.
Indian Food League was modelled to fascinate all cricket fans and apprehend the emotional rivalry amongst Indian cities during the IPL. The IFL rode on the already existing rivalry among T20 teams by pitting these regions' popular flavours and dishes against each other and getting people to comment in support of their favourite flavour on the IFL microsite.
The dishes chosen were the speciality of that particular city, like Papdi Chat from Delhi, Kanda Poha from Pune, Dum Biryani from Hyderabad, Paratha from Punjab, Idli Sambhar from Chennai, Pav Bhaji from Mumbai, Dal Bati from Rajasthan, Masala Dosa from Banglore and Rosgolla from Kolkata.
The front of the pack would inform Hippo munchers to join the IFL. The back of the pack bore a QR Code that would direct Hippo munchers directly to the IFL microsite. They had to be as funny as possible to win that contest. Winners were declared daily and awarded with Hippo bean bags. IFL earned a stupendous acknowledgement, with Hippos sales going up during the IPL season.
Now the question arises: if they were so great, then why were they discontinued? What happened to Hippo Chips?
Hippo Snacks: Various Hypothesis for Failure
Several hypotheses floating around the internet claim that Hippo toasties could not survive the competition, and thus, the product died down. However, it is hard to believe so. Also, Parle kept quiet on the issue and never disclosed why they had to discontinue their product.
On the other hand, many Hippo loyalists believe that it stopped manufacturing because the company couldn't handle its production due to the massive demand, and the success destroyed Hippo.
1. Advertising and Branding Problems
Hippo Chips didn't include any MSG (Monosodium Glutamate), had no GMO (Genetically Modified Organism), zero cholesterol, and zero trans-fat; Parle claimed the product was healthier than many others available at the time. The manufacturers claimed that they were baked rather than fried.
On the other hand, Parle never advertised it for its purported health benefits, so people never had a practical reason to switch to Hippo. The snack was not marketed as a healthier option because no one knows whether a speciality positioning such as health food as a snack option would be successful.
Hippo also had its branding problems, like putting a huge fat hippo on the front of the packet while promoting it as a healthier alternative to other snacks.
2. Demand Problem
Within a few months of its takeoff, demand was becoming more and more, and it was becoming problematic to meet the heightening demand.
After its launch, Hippo earned a tremendous response from customers all over India. The retail racks at several stores were becoming empty quicker than anticipated, leading to a demand-supply situation for the company, leaving the racks across 200,000 stores empty.
Hippo had to deal with a lot of competition, which was one of their main challenges. Other well-known businesses, including Lays, Monaco, and Bingo, followed suit after its inception. It had to stand out in a crowded snack industry and build strong brand importance in consumers' thoughts.
It needed to come up with something unique that would set it apart from the competition. But other than its flavours and packaging, it failed to come up with something else that would help it conquer all the other brands.
Marketing Mix of Hippo Chips
- Product – Parle introduced an excellent product named Hippo Chips. These chips were free from MSG (Monosodium Glutamate) and GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms). They contained zero cholesterol and zero trans fat. According to Parle, these chips were healthier than many other competitors in the market at that time. The manufacturer claimed that the chips were baked and not fried. Therefore, we can conclude that the product was made with healthy components.
- Price – The snacks were priced at Rs. 10 and Rs. 20, making them competitive.
- Place – The products were readily available at all grocery stores, and in case of a shortage, volunteers ensured quick restocking.
- Promotion – It could be argued that the company failed to position their product effectively. Despite receiving positive feedback for their marketing campaigns, Parle neglected to emphasize all the unique advantages that their product had to offer. Some of these advantages included being free of MSG, GMOs, trans fats, and cholesterol, as well as being baked instead of fried. Promoting the chips as a healthy snack could have been a major selling point for the brand. Meanwhile, Hippo faced branding issues, such as using a large, overweight hippo on its packaging while marketing the product as a healthy snack option.
Lesson Learnt From the Failure of Hippo Chips
- Staying Relevant: Brands must continuously evolve and adapt to changing trends and consumer preferences. Hippo Chips failed to keep up with these changes, which ultimately led to its downfall.
- Innovation: To succeed in the competitive snack industry, brands must continuously innovate and offer new and unique products. Hippo Chips failed to do so, leading to a lack of excitement and interest among consumers.
- Market Research: Conducting market research and understanding your target audience is crucial for success. Hippo Chips may have failed to recognize shifting consumer preferences, leading to a decline in popularity.
- Brand Image: A strong and consistent brand image is important for building recognition and loyalty among consumers. Hippo Chips may have failed to maintain a consistent image and message, which hurt its ability to connect with its target audience.
- Competition: In any industry, it's important to be aware of your competition and the strategies they are using. Hippo Chips may have failed to keep up with the innovations and strategies of its competitors, leading to a loss of market share.
Everything appeared to be in order, but the product still died. In the late 2000s, the brand managed to overwhelm other brands for a period. Perhaps because the production costs were too high, consumers were too fixated on traditional chips, and because Hippo was not advertised or branded properly, the excitement fizzled out. It was discontinued, much to their loyalists' displeasure. Their Twitter account was disabled in 2014. Only old tweets and an online petition demanding the brand's relaunch exist today.
Why were Hippo chips discontinued?
Hippo Chips was not marketed correctly and faced a lot of competition, leading to its failure.
Which company made Hippo Chips?
Parle Agro manufactured and launched Hippo Chips in 2009.
What are the key takeaways from the failure of Hippo chips for entrepreneurs and start-up founders?
The key takeaways for entrepreneurs and start-up founders are the importance of thorough market research, securing adequate resources, and staying up-to-date on industry standards and requirements.
Are hippo chips still available?
Hippo Chips were discontinued in 2014 by Parle Agro, the manufacturer.