Thursday, July 15, 2010


As a brand owner you need to knock at the gateway to the user’s mind. But the main task is to locate these gateways

Have you noticed that six months ago MTV dropped the words ‘music’ and ‘television’ from its logo? MTV is no more about English music or even music or dating shows. It has customised its programming strategy to include show genres like relationships, careers, campus fests, reality shows, dating, and even films of one hour duration. Over the past couple of years MTV has brought several non-music programs like Roadies, Splitsvilla, and Stuntmania to offer shows which developed cult following. And why not, nearly 88% of the youth have at least one favourite channel, which they tune into regularly. So the idea behind transformation: To compete in the space that youth identifies with while viewing TV as the entertainment category. The broader question of course is: How do you actually market a specific brand when it is surrounded by near identical offerings from rivals? The total number of ads on TV, print, and radio together everyday exceeded 65,000 last year. An average consumer is bombarded by an estimated 3,000 advertising messages from all the media, not counting Internet. So how does our brand win? Well, the simple proposition is that a successful brand belongs to the consumer, not the marketer. Go ahead and create a sense of belongingness. Customise and personalise the offering to the extent possible. So earn the love, intimacy, and respect for your brand. Then translate them into loyalty. Question is, how? As the brand owner you need to knock at the gateway to the user’s mind. So, the main task is to locate these gateways. This is what this article seeks to do for you.


When Onida decided to enter the TV industry, it had two problems at hand. It was actually a watch making company with little known brand equity. Second, its promotional budget was very limited. But the product did have certain distinct advantages. It was a vertical set with controls at the bottom. All the other sets had the horizontal look, with the controls along the sides of the screen. Besides looking different the set performed better in terms of picture quality, sharpness, etc. The initial message: “The boss is not late. It is the others who arrived in a hurry.” The company consciously decided against a feature based campaign, since most leading competitors were inundating the public with these kind of messages. Instead, the company decided to use envy as an emotional platform, personified by the green devil: ‘Neighbour’s envy, owner’s pride’ is one of the classic campaign which very successfully highlighted the points of differentiation. The dare devilry immortalised an unknown brand.

Principle-1: In a seemingly commoditised category make a last ditch attempt to locate some points of difference. Present it dramatically before the target audience. Keep your communication refreshed over time.


After Coca Cola left India, Thums Up replaced it successfully. There were many consumers who relished the image of a fizzy aerated water in a crowned bottle, which could be popped to yield a profusion of foam. Yet, there was a significant section, which wanted the most preferred taste with similar imagery, yet considered a fizzy drink to be unhealthy. Came in Frooti, which offered mango as a drink, not a juice – an entirely new product concept. The advertising task was to sell the idea to the young generation that no fizz did not mean staid or flat; rather, it connotes fun. The punch line used – ‘a real fruit drink in a freaked out pack.’ The ad moved away from the niceties of Queen’s English and utilised language straight from teenager parlance. It won instant favour with the TG.

Principle-2: Catapult your brand into a different or even ‘unrelated’ category where your brand can belong legitimately.


Jaago Re campaign of Tata Tea was started in 2007. It continues successfully to appeal to the norms and value system of the target audience. It attempts to project tea from merely being a physical and emotional revitaliser to become a catalyst for social awareness. While normal tea is just about waking up, Tata Tea campaign aims at creating an awakening exhorting Indians to act against their own apathy and mediocrity towards social issues.

Principle-3: Appeal to the consumer’s sense of duty, morals, pride, etc.


Very few things have the power to evoke in us the sense of being one nation. Pakistan as an adversary, a cricket victory, or may be a disaster like Gujarat earthquake. And of course Hamara Bajaj. No ad, essentially trying to defend a product, has ever managed to evoke in its viewers the intense, incredibly sweet feeling of being Indian. Towards end 1989 Vespa and Honda technologies had arrived in Indian Scooters market. Bajaj needed to upgrade too. The competitors were trying to (de)market Bajaj as behind times and fuddyduddy. It was decided to broaden the Bajaj positioning beyond the mere transportation onto larger canvas of Indian way of living. To convert the idea into a commercial where typically Indian situations were shown where Bajaj Scooter was being used in some way or the other that every Indian could identify with: Parsis who were so fastidious in cleaning their scooters or a Punjabi family en masse riding on its scooter. The shooting was not around the product, because of the product primarily, but around the emotions and moments shared with the product, around the product, because of the product. The lyrics translated in English read: This earth, this sky, our legacy, our past... This glorious tapestry of our glorious India – Humara Bajaj. The immensely successful commercial looked at the product in a macro cultural perspective and gave it a status beyond its usage, beyond its competition, built on the deepest sentiments of a diverse nation.

Principle-4: Position your brand as a cultural asset that plays an important role beyond mere functionality.


During the 90s Bata Power shoes ad campaign was created to gain new converts & reassure the faithfuls. ‘You are tired of being just a roll number. Another pair of blue jeans in the crowd. There is more to life than coffee & cigarettes... And spouting Marxian thoughts aloud. There is majesty to be found in the mountains. All it takes is some gasoline. And the power to have a dream.’ The Power shoes were expected to be a tool for self expression.

Interestingly, there is a new hypothesis being propagated nowadays: Men now are more concerned about their physical appearance because more and more women are becoming independent, financially as also in term of deciding whether to bear a child or not. So men have developed a sense of threatened masculinity. Since men have had to relinquish their traditional roles as breadwinners, fathers, etc, it leaves them with only their own body to demonstrate their masculinity. Wonder if there are hidden lessons in this for the brand owners!

Principle-5: Power up your brand with a provocative ideology that your consumer wishes to subscribe.


VST realised that while demographically cigarette smokers were becoming younger, psychographically their lifestyle had changed. But brand personality of most brands in the cigarette market was similar to the macho he man or the successful executive / businessman. VST decided to offer a new brand Charms, which aimed to create for itself a new brand image, but which would match with the self image of the TG – the college & new graduate group. This group gave importance to intellectual and emotional liberty, freedom of all senses. So the ad said: ‘Charms is the spirit of freedom. Charms is the way you are.’ Note, first, the articulation of the need of the TG – the spirit of freedom. And then the insistence on identification – ‘Charms is the way you are.’ Within two years, the brand had 13% share of the cigarette market.

Principle-6: Solidarity principle: Position your brand as an ally on one important emotional issue that others have ignored, denied, or not understood.