AdStand: The couples as brand storytellers

Advertising is a singular seller. Women are used to sell to women,  men sell to men, mom sells to kids, fathers and even grandfathers sell to families. Advertising story tellers have not used the relationship that exists between couples to create enduring messages. And if they have then they have used it more as roles they play, like the earlier Airtel couple film where wife is boss of husband, but has slipped back in gender stereotype roles.

Off-late brands have discovered the relationship between husband and wife and have started to tell some enduring stories for themselves.

 

Bharat Matrimony, couples and wife’s ambitions

Matrimonial site is best suited to leverage the relationship between man and woman, they are the matchmakers and they are perfectly suited as brands. They have created a brand world where the man supports the woman in her quest for passion or purpose in life. The commercial

where he lets his wife go to another city for the opportunity she gets is nicely crafted. The later commercial where the husband helps wife chase her passion for dance

are apt for the brand. For a match-making brand to place woman’s ambition on top and celebrate it is a nice strategic move. Traditionally the brands in this sector will look at sticking closer to category codes of compatibility, knowing each other or parental approval, Bharat Matrimony could craft a different narrative using the couples and giving importance to wife’s ambitions

 

The way BM depicted the relationship, it was still labored, and with a very serious point of view. Yes it was progressive, but it wasn’t truly new age. The movies in the same time frame were building the relationship as more friendly, more open and definitely full of fun. This is the territory where the brands needed to get in.

Some of it can now be seen in categories like ecom, financial planning, consumer durables we are seeing a new wave of portrayal of couples.

 

Couple as glue to the brand narrative

Brands that operate across many categories tend to use same face as the glue that binds the brand together. Crompton has used the same couple as the glue across fans, and lights. The brand has built an easy going, friendly narrative using a young couple. Each ad has a small hint of their easy going relationship. Like this commercial about fan

is has both of them speaking about features with the overall wrapper of their relationship. The earlier commercials of both fans and lights were a lot more textured than the new ones. Crompton though is very different from Havels appliances which is a lot more about women and her take on relationship with her husband.

Amazon Prime India as a brand has got the warmest narratives currently. The brand has built an interesting loving banter between a young new age husband and wife where the wife is always able to trick the husband into dancing to her tunes. While the brand message and even the situation of changing the bulb could have been better crafted, the relationship between the couple is breath if fresh air.

Samsung did this almost 15 years back

Sometimes the fact that you have worked in advertising for so long can make you remember long forgotten campaigns. One such campaign is Samsung Home Appliances’ campaign that was built on relationship between a new age couples. Today the brands are useing the same couple across many ads, Samsung had different couples in every ad. The glue to the campaign was not a single couple, but the brand’s take on the relationship between the couple. The core messaging to the brand was playfulness. If you look at the campaign today, it will stand out for the progressiveness that is in vogue today. 15 years back, this campaign did depict the relationship in regular everyday manner. Travel back to 2003 and see these ads

and

 

Movies have been building upon the friendliness and love between the new age couples for sometime now. Advertising which often tapped into emerging popular culture seems to have missed this trend for a long time. Partly the reason may be the Television Serials, which are more over the top drama and less of a reflection of society today also contributed to advertising not catching the new wave.

Young couples today have a very different take on life and society, they are very different from the couples of even 2003. Brands can find a rich zone of story telling by simply being alive to the new visible romance that is on display everyday on a variety of social media channels.

 

AdStand: Beyond the tokenism of International Women’s Day

The good thing is that brands want to celebrate Women’s Day. Some do it by celebrating their relationship with women consumers, and some by turning it into a joke. This Women’s Day one brand turned it into a shopping day (because it is a retail shopping chain) and other decided to show movies with women in lead (because it is a movie chain). There are very few brands that looked at the International Women’s Day theme of #BeBoldForChange. Inox did it in unique way of declaring woman as the #HeadOfTheFamily, Anouk did it by an online film #SaveItForAnotherDay, or Kriti Sanon did a nice take in it for her brand Ms Taken.

This has become the story of Women’s Day, and I suspect a lot of it is to do with coming of social media. Brands cannot be seen left out on a #TrendingTopic and they have to be seen a part of conversation. The fear of being left out is something that grips most brands for them to push messages out. With social media and shareability on social media driving the reason to do the campaign the messages tend to become overtly preachy.

This is what made me look for commercials that could have been done for International Women’s Day, but were normal everyday brand commercials. Each of these commercials made a deep impact on the brand, they did it by not overtly espousing a cause, were done by large mainstream brand, were definitely not preachy.

First one is a landmark commercial of Indian Advertising. Way back in 90s, TV had just started to become the lead medium of communication; brands were aggressively adopting TVC as the way to connect. Cadbury’s Dairy Milk did this commercial where the girl unabashedly celebrated the success of her friend. The girl jumping up with joy, dodging the security guard to run on to the field and dance with gay abandon. Remember it was 90s, and the message was about joy of eating chocolate. This could well have been the narrative about women celebrating their love without being judged. I know you guessed the TVC, but if you didn’t then here it is

About a decade later, the Samsung Washing Machines did an ad, that in today’s times may carry a click bait headline like: her husband challenged her to play football, what happened next will make you wonder! This was a commercial where the wife dressed in salwar-kameez challenges her husband for a game of football, trips him and beats him at his own game. All the things that brands today will not like to do or do it only for special occasion like Woman’s Day. This was a simple tale, told without the packaging of empowerment and did well for the brand. Here’s the original

 

Around the same time Hyundai broke the rules of car advertising by the tale of a girl, a boy and the father of the girl. It took a brave client to defy research to make the ad. Car ads in those days, and even today was about running product shots, here the car is almost a prop in the narrative. Here’s the ad:

This was the tale of small town India, about the ambitions of women and prejudices of father. In today’s time this would have become the narrative of changing desires if girls and how they are choosing their own partners.

A couple of years later HDFC Life’s ad was a fantastic take on how a girl can make his father’s life happier. The commercial

a part of their ongoing campaign about self-reliance was really progressive without the usual preachy tonality that we tend to see in today’s commercials. Here the daughter’s desire for a better car for father, and that she planned this fir her dad is priceless. I haven’t seen this narrative by brands even as father-son bonding. Compare HDFC to #NayiSoch from Star Plus which they did as a part of their women’s day campaign by roping in Amir Khan. HDFC Life beats the Star Plus commercial hands down, despite being made ten years earlier.

Post 2008, it is difficult to find commercials that can be picked as commercials that made women centric narrative as every day non-preachy affair. Ariel did #ShareTheLoad, but if they looked into their own brand history, they will find a TVC where husband did laundry to win a favour from wife. That too is over ten years back.

The professionals who created these ads are still in the industry. The clients, the agency pros, the researchers, all of them are still around, then where did the progress stop?

And Why?

My hunch is the emergence of social media and the ‘insight’ that social relevance in brand message makes an ad go viral. Now that none of the commercials this Women’s Day truly went viral, brands should relook at their narratives.

No more tokenism should be the mantra.

AdStand: Gender identity and Wedding in Ads

This is the season where brands create messages that are socially responsible. Star Plus after its “Son of Devki” campaign is back with “Gurdeep Singh and Daughters” featuring Aamir Khan and two daughters. Family business in India has always been about Sons, and the sons are always on the masthead, having a daughter on the masthead of business is a nice step. IndiaMart last year while celebrating father’s Day had a similar take, where there is “Bedi and Daughters” instead of “Bedi and Sons” Incidentally both commercials have Sikhs as fathers who give their daughters equal space. May be there is something about the entrepreneurial spirit of the Sikh’s that inspired both narratives.

This is fantastic to come from a brand that is primarily women centric and produces content that is women centric. While a lot of the content from the channel may not be true to the sentiment in the ad, it’s powerful enough to be noticed and debated.

Gender identity is rather new to advertising. Most brands traditionally have not gone beyond the stereotypical roles. Even when brands have broken the mold, they have balanced it with the traditional homemaker roles. Even the Star Plus ad, balances women’s ability to actively grow business under the patriarchal lordship their father. We can argue, that the story could have been told from the daughter’s perspective, but that wasn’t the case. There is a long way to go before brands take the traditional women centric brands and tell stories that are reflective of modern times and values.

There is an odd Fastrack or Tansihq, but most brands have not been brave enough.

While at gender identity and speaking with women consumers, fairness Cream as the category has borne the biggest brunt. The colour of skin has always been the tool to get ahead, be happy, successful or whatever else. Dark skin was always the curse. The new fairness cream commercials have tried to tone down the rhetoric, but they remain focused on ‘fair is better’.

The portrayal that needs to change in Indian advertising is wedding. From jewllery to automobiles, weddings in India have always been shown as grand and indulgent. Even on content when YRF did a web-series called Bang Baaja Bride, the weddings were large, lavish, grand and indulgent. Why is it that in popular culture, weddings have not been deglamorized?  The jewellery brands may not; weddings are the single biggest occasion for buying jewllery, but a host of other brands have not done so. Expensive cars sponsor wedding shows, one German Marquee brand even encourages parents to gift the car as part of dowry.

There are many brands which have wedding as central theme, and the portrayal of wedding has been stuck in time. Bollywood may have a reason to mount wedding films on grand scale, but commercially it may be time to look at austereness.

Gurdeep Singh and Daughters is a fine way to look at gender portrayal, not in the way it has been currently told, but exactly in the way it has not been told. About ambitions, about skills, about ability to further family name, and dare I say about weddings that are not grand, lavish and Bollywoodish.

Original published here: http://bestmediainfo.com/2017/03/ad-stand-gender-identity-and-wedding-in-ads/

Ad Stand: When brands tap into activism

We live in interesting times. These are times when the leadership of country has muddled messages but the business leadership is pushing for probity and transparency. We live in times when the leadership of country wants you to forget the real issues but brands are raising the issues that matter. We live in times where we vote because of the muddled unclear messages, but we buy the brands because they shine on a new path.

We live in times where business and advertising are pushing the correct thing and that too from unlikely brands.

Tata Tea: Alarm bajne se pehle

 

This could easily have been an ad from a political party, a party that questions norms and wants to create new rules. We live in times where if a political party had put this out as a message we would have laughed at it. These are good times where we as consumers are happy with a tea brand waking us up from our slumber. Tata Tea has been at the edge of activism and has always balanced the brand with evocative messages. This time they have pushed the envelope successfully to create a message that resonates with today’s times. I wish to see more, more than what the brand is doing in its website and social media pages. I am sure something is brewing

Mirinda: #ReleaseThePressure

 

For three minutes and a little over, this video is all about how a whole generation is lost to pressure of exams. How a whole generation is struggling to come to grips with a competitive world and how a whole generation has to get marks for parental love and approval. For a while I thought I was watching a promo for an upcoming film like Taare Zammen Par or 3 Idiots. To look back, there has been little institutional effort from the country to reduce pressure of performance on children. Whatever little has happened has been reversed and has been welcomed by parents. The brand too has been brave to not let any of the brand cues to be there in the video and leave the message as pure as it can be. May be it should have left the last frame too. The bottle cap with Release the Pressure written on it is incongruous to the whole video. Is it one off, or Mirinda will have a second one in the series? This is one brave experiment though coming from a brand that is often at receiving end of consumers for being junk and carrier of excessive sugar.

Tanishq Rivaah: Did it miss a trick?

 

Tanishq comes from the same agency that created #AlarmBajneSePehle and that is the stark contrast. This is a very well-made commercial about the love that exists between fathers and daughters and how difficult it is for the fathers to see the chrysalis turn butterfly and now getting ready to spread wings. There are moments that will lead every father teary eyed, and may be every bride to be in same state. So where is the problem? Dowry and expensive jewellery at weddings is where the problem lies. While Tata Tea and Mirinda score, Tanishq gets beaten. The entire set-up is of traditional weddings with all brides bedecked in expensive jewellery. Is this where the brand missed a trick? What if the entire narrative was not just about indulgent, expensive weddings, but also about simple minimalistic ones? What if the brand actually took the hashtag of Mirinda, and did release some pressure. This is one activism that is badly needed in the country, may be this is where a jewellery brand needs to go.

In any other times, the Tanishq ad would not have faced this conundrum, but coming in a week where two brands broke the mould, this becomes striking.

These are interesting times, where emotions of love, affection, taste, and enjoyment can be fused with responsibility, goodness and made to work for the brand.

Maybe the world should be actually run by a few brands.

Original published here http://bestmediainfo.com/2017/02/ad-stand-when-brands-tap-into-activism/

AdStand: When brands break walls

We live in strange times. The times where the leader of the free world wants to build walls and the brands from the same free world break the walls down. The war between the political brinkmanship and brand statesmanship has never been so stark as it has been now.

Whoever thought that there would be a time when the leader of men will become jingoistic, small minded and tight fisted, and purveyors of transactions will become global, large hearted and celebrate the human diversity.

The chaos started with Donald Trump banning refugees from six predominantly Muslim countries from entering US, in a clear act of religious discrimination. The backlash against the executive order was massive from the public and from the establishment too. The courts stepped in and within 24 hours, the travel ban was put in limbo. The massive backlash from ordinary Americans and from citizens of almost every country gave brands the fuel needed to create messages of unity and celebrating diversity.

 

AirBnB released its ad on Superbowl to make a simple point: The world is more beautiful the more you accept. The entire copy of the ad — “We believe no matter who you are, where you’re from, who you love or who you worship, we all belong. The world is more beautiful the more you accept” — is a powerful statement against what the political powers to be have made the country out to be. The #WeAccept campaign is an evolution from the film they released last November.

Coke dipped back into its archives to pull out an ad from 2014. America the Beautiful spot starts in English and then the verses keep flowing into multiple languages, including Hindi and Arabic and various others.

The ad from Coke was very polarising when it was aired last. The reactions this time too has been sharply divided for both the commercials. While many hated the commercials, many more loved not only the message but also the bravery of the brand to take sides and be more than just a brand, being politically correct with the timely message.

This is where both Coke and AirBnB score very big, they refuse to tow the middle of the road line and are aggressive in displaying their progressive (and some may even say correct) side in the current scenario.

Leo Burnett’s #ReverseForKindness is the most insightful piece that I have seen recently on the culture gap and human diversity. The simple act of writing English like Arabic, not left to right but right to left, creates a strong impact. The underlying message that the directional way of writing language does not change the way of expressing thoughts is very powerful. In these times where the leaders of nations are busy dividing people, this is a powerful message of unity.

These brand messages are the real positives in these troubled political times. In India, brands rarely display their political belief. They stick to the middle of the road acceptable protocol of messaging and almost never live on the edge. I am not expecting brands to jump into the fray and start to display their political leanings immediately, but being culturally sensitive and having a contra point of view is not always a bad thing for brands.

With a small dosage of hate come a large dollop of admiration and a long lasting memorability.

Add some admiration to it too.

Original published here: http://bestmediainfo.com/2017/02/ad-stand-when-brands-break-walls/

AdStand: The Milk Sellers

Milk is integral to India, almost every urban home in India is a consumer of milk. The day starts in India with milk, from tea to coffee to a glass of milk. A whopping 10% of global milk production comes from India. Yet for all these years, milk has not seen many brands come in and build traction. We have seen distribution brands being built by cooperative dairies, but otherwise fresh packaged milk has remained a liquid commodity. This has started to change rapidly. In last few months there have been a slew of brands that have been launched in the market. Corporates like Coca Cola are trying their hand in milk market, though not in fresh packaged milk.

Amul has been the leading players in fresh milk. Amul has almost created the category in India. Amul then let many state level cooperatives launch their own brands. Mother Dairy, Verka, Vijaya, Nandini and Saras are the local state level brands that now play at the national level.

Now there are a host of brands that are being launched, some are aimed at the small regional level, some at the national level. There are even tech start-ups that deliver fresh packaged milk to your doorstep. The start-up world has entered the world of gwalas.

The organic food culture has come to fresh packaged milk world in a big way.

There are many small dairies that are aggressively building local offers to supply fresh organic milk. Milcch in Gurgaon, Pride of Cows in Mumbai, Madras Milk in Chennai are all building traction for premium milk. These brands are also creating a new language for milk brands. There is the hyperbole of Madras Milk about being the new standard of milk, to confidence of Pride of Cows about being full of love to Milcch’s claim of being innocent. Farmers are leveraging technology and consumers are getting better choices.

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It’s not just that the action is seen in the niche organic or high quality milk market, the action in the mainstream milk market has also heated up.

Mother Dairy has been very active building both the delivery and fresh milk through a host of campaigns. The challenge to Mother Dairy is coming from aggressive brand like Kwality, which is investing heavily in brand building to gain consumer traction.

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Kwality has signed up a celebrity, known for fitness and is aggressively investing in advertising. As an erstwhile ice-cream player, the brand is not new to the dairy segment. There are two big symbols of milk communication, the milk moustache that Got Milk Campaign uses and the milk splash that is used by many brands. Kwality has used the wings that give Akshay extra power.

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Milk Life, a brand of USA, has been doing the same for many years, and the content it has on the site is extensive. Milk Life became the template for Coca Cola’s campaign for Fairlife Milk. They used milk as fashion statement for today’s models.

Not all appeals in milk advertising are positive. Gurgaon-based Milkor is using fear as appeal to sell milk. Milk is fed to snakes in India in search of blessing; to see milk take the shape of a snake is rather scary. In fear an appeal that can work for a niche unknown brand? Incidentally Milkor is world’s leading brand of Grenade Launchers.

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What is worth pondering over is the fact that despite such a large production base, India does not have a milk brand that is known in the world. We aren’t even known for our prowess in dairy.

Now if cow and buffalo milk is not for you, then there is camel milk available in India. No, not from a home-grown dairy, but from UAE. Check out  https://camelicious.in/

The milk wars may just be beginning, there are many more salvos to be fired. Remember Mahatma Gandhi was fond of goat milk.

Original published here: http://bestmediainfo.com/2017/01/ad-stand-the-milk-sellers/

AdStand: Gandhi, Amazon and Commerce

 

This has been an interesting week with two controversies that broke out of nowhere. First involved Khadi, Gandhi and Modi. The second was about Amazon selling doormats and flip-flops with images if Indian flag and Gandhiji’s pictures, not in India though.

 

This week KVIC released calendar and diary, which had pictures of PM spinning the Charkha instead of Bapu. The picture of Bapu spinning Charkha is iconic and is almost a symbol of what the Father of Nation stood for. The outrage on social media was enormous. Reportedly even the PM was not impressed by what KVIC had done. One argument that was given out was that Modi is a bigger brand name then Gandhiji and has made a significant impact to the sale of Khadi in India.

The question then is this: is either the PM of the Father of the Nation a brand name? Brand names are transactional. There is always a give and take involved with them. Without the layer of commerce and transaction a brand is just a method of recognition.

For me both the icons belong to the whole country and have no connection with being a brand. They espouse a certain symbology that has wider meaning than narrow commercial interests. Khadi can do with both the icons coming together to create a narrative that is uniquely Indian. Remember an American Denim brand can take khadi and launch ultra expensive pair of trousers and meet with commercial success.

Khadi needs a consistent brand building effort; it is an icon of India’s cultural heritage. What it needs is more contemporary image, something that may not get crafted by merely replacing one icon with another without changing the symbology. May be there is a lot that PM can give to Khadi.

 

The second controversy was about Amazon Canada selling doormats with Indian Flag and then Amazon selling Flip-Flops with Gandhi’s image. Both created a flurry of activity on social media with the External Affairs Minister leading the attack on Amazon.

We can debate whether the attack was an over reaction, and whether the might of Government could have been used to exert pressure on Amazon to remove the offending products from sale. When it comes to commerce, louder the noise wider the impact.

There are some lessons that Amazon can learn from Facebook which has a fairly stringent community guidelines about the kind of stuff that can be posted. Many of these are automated and FB bars using from posting stuff.

There are countries that have no qualms when the national icons are used for commerce, like USA allows the graphics of its flag to be used commercially, but we in India don’t. In the hyper connected world Amazon has no option but to live by the rules that have been set by various countries. Using global icons like Gandhi for commerce also falls in the same category, especially when the product becomes offensive.

 

Using icons of national importance for commerce is always a tough thing to do. Culturally India keeps commerce and national icons fairly insulated from each other. When Khadi uses Gandhi’s images it uses the images to build on the rich heritage of Indian and values India stands for. The imagery is of defiance, determination, and walking on a self-created path. We don’t use the national symbols fir commerce for we keep them at a higher pedestal than mere transactions.

These are lessons that are not easy to learn for those who are not seeped into India.

Let the PM endorse Khadi, but let him do it in newer more contemporary ways. Let him show the new path of discovery and determination.

Original Published here: http://bestmediainfo.com/2017/01/ad-stand-gandhi-amazon-and-commerce/