We all love Parle G, CrackJack, Hide & Seek, and Monaco, all made by Parle. (1)  We remember the taste of Parle G or Crack Jack, perhaps even start craving them. Such has been their brand's presence in the market for many decades. However, not everything they do is as successful. Today, we discuss one such failure that Parle faced. The brand in discussion is Hippo chips.

I don’t remember much about the product, but I do remember the adverts they used to put out. A hippo hand approaches various conflict situations and gives the 'evildoers' hippo chips with the song in the background, “Pyar bante chalo.” (2). I remember this song specifically. I am sure many others must remember the same!

This says a lot about the brand. For one thing, they got a sticky branding message for people to remember them even now, after almost ten years of being aired. So, what lead to the demise of the brand itself?

Hippo Chips: The Start

2009 saw the launch of the Hippo brand, which marked the company's entry into the Indian food snack market. At that time, India began to see an increase in the popularity of healthy baked snacks, and Parle quickly seized the chance to launch its product version.

Hippo chips were distinct from other snacks in several ways:

  • they were made from wheat
  • they were baked rather than fried;
  • they had an excellent marketing approach,
  • they quickly became popular in the market shortly after its introduction.

Still, they were taken off the shelves very shortly! What could be the reason?

Hippo Snacks: Various Hypothesis for Failure

Several hypotheses floating around the internet claim that Hippo chips couldn't endure the competition, and, as a result, the product was discontinued. However, it is difficult to imagine that to be the case, and Parle has remained silent on the topic and has never explained why they were forced to stop producing their product.

Many people who are devoted to Hippo feel that the firm went out of business because it could not keep up with the tremendous demand for its products, leading to the company's demise.

Hippo Snacks Details

Hippo Snacks were launched in the following flavors:

  • Chinese Manchurian,
  • Indian Chatpatta,
  • Hot-n-Sweet Tomato,
  • Italian Pizza,
  • Yogurt Mint Chutney,
  • Thai Chilli Cream,
  • Afghani Tikka Masala, and
  • Greek Yogurt.

The company aimed to create a snack that satisfied hunger without causing feelings of guilt. They promoted their product, "Hippo Fights Hunger." They gave the reasoning that hunger was the root cause of all evil, so everyone should eat Hippo chips to drive away hunger and stop all evil.

Hippo Chips' Marketing Initiatives

Parle ran some innovative marketing campaigns that leveraged social media very effectively.

Plan-T

As a result of problems with demand and supply, Hippo was aware of the challenge it was facing. The company did not want its customers to interpret the empty store shelves as evidence that the brand had been unsuccessful in a relatively short time.

They did this because they did not want to face the demand-supply problem by wasting significant money to outsource the distribution and supply chores. Instead, they communicated directly with their clients.

This ultimately resulted in the launch of the Plan-T campaign. They asked their Twitter followers to send them a tweet including the hashtag "@HelloMeHippoabout" so that they may find a solution to their problem.

This campaign was effective because it attracted a huge number of passionate participants, which enabled it to accomplish its goal of involving customers in every step of Hippo's supply chain across several locations.

Hippo was able to hire people for free by recruiting them on Twitter to assist with sales and distribution. People tagged them on Twitter and informed them where the stocks were dry. So, the stock went where needed, solving the problem of over-inventory in stores.

Hippo collected data from Twitter, analyzed it, and then passed it to regional distributors in the affected places. These distributors then restocked the shop shelves, guaranteeing that customers were satisfied within hours of Hippo's intervention.

With the support of this campaign, Hippo gained the qualifications necessary to evaluate existing markets and observe potential markets for its future business development. The positive aspect of Hippo was that it recognized its weaknesses and turned them into strengths by utilizing social media.

This was a significant accomplishment for the company. Hippo communicated with its customers and solicited real-time solutions to availability issues through social media.

The Twitter handle of Hippo was very active indeed! Before getting deactivated, it had more than 4000 tweets posted daily on everyday titbits.

Indian Food League

During the 2012 season of the Indian Premier League (IPL), Hippo launched an internet marketing campaign with the catchy term "Indian Food League" to attract cricket enthusiasts. (3)

IPL was very popular, and the company tried to leverage the same for Hippo chips. The concept of the Indian Food League was conceived to captivate all cricket fans and understand the intense competition between the various cities in India during the IPL.

The campaign made a competition of popular flavors and cuisines from each region against one another. It encouraged people to leave comments on the IFL microsite in support of the flavor they consider to be their personal favorite.

Hippo munchers would be informed on the front of the package to sign up for the IFL. On the back of the package was a QR Code that, when scanned, would take Hippo munchers straight to the microsite for the IFL.

They needed to be as hilarious as possible to win that contest. Winners were selected daily and presented with bean bags shaped like hippos. The increase in Hippos sales that occurred throughout the IPL season was a tremendous testament to the success of the IFL.

Why Did Hippo Chips Fail to Take Off?

There are four major Ps of Marketing: Product, Price, Promotion, and Place. (4)

1. Product – The product that Parle had put was an excellent one! Hippo Chips did not contain any MSG (Monosodium Glutamate), seemed to have no GMO (Genetically Modified Organism), zero cholesterol, & zero trans-fat. The manufacturer, Parle, stated that the product was healthier than many other competitors in the market at the time. The manufacturers said they were baked and not fried in their marketing materials. So, we can say that the product component was well in place.

2. Price – The snacks were priced at Rs. 10 and Rs. 20 price points. So, the pricing too was competitive.

3. Place – The products were available in every other grocery shop. And if there was a shortage of stock, the volunteers made sure the product was made available in the shortest span of time.

4. Promotion – Perhaps, we can say that company failed to place their product properly. Even though the marketing campaigns were well received, Parle failed to highlight all the distinct advantages with which the product came. No MSG, No GMO, zero trans-fat, zero cholesterol, and the fact that these were baked and not fried were some of the USPs that the brand could have highlighted more. Promoting it as a healthy chip could have been kept as a major bullet point in their campaigns. Hippo also had issues with its branding, such as depicting a large, obese hippo on the front of its packaging while marketing the product as a healthy option for other types of snacks.

Other Alleged Reasons

Another issue highlighted as the root cause of the failure brand is the DEMAND PROBLEM.

Within a few months, the demand for the product far outplaced the availability.

Following its initial release, Hippo received an extremely positive response from clients all around India. The retail racks at numerous locations were becoming empty faster than anticipated, which led to a demand-supply situation for the corporation, which ultimately resulted in the racks at all 200,000 of its stores being empty.

However, this point seems ill-placed. Parle is an industry veteran with an extensive network of distribution channels and robust manufacturing plants.  Their Parle G brands are made available in every corner of India. So, for them not to be able to meet the demand of the product seems a bit difficult to believe.

One of the most significant obstacles that Hippo needed to overcome was the abundance of competition in their industry. After its founding, several other well-known companies, including Lays, Monaco, and Bingo, began to adopt its practices. It needed to establish strong brand importance in customers' minds to succeed in the competitive snack sector.

It was necessary to develop something original that would set it apart from the other options available on the market. However, aside from its flavors and packaging, it could not come up with anything else to help it conquer all other brands on the market.

Final Thoughts

Even though it appeared that everything was in order, the product was still unable to be saved. It's possible that the production costs were too high, customers were too focused on regular chips, and Hippo Chips wasn't sold or branded well enough, all of which contributed to the enthusiasm fading away. It was discontinued, much to the dissatisfaction of their devoted followers.

2014 was the year when their Twitter account was deactivated. Today, all that remains of the brand is its old TV adverts on youtube and a redundant Twitter handle. (5)

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