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Special Columns
Arindam Chaudhuri, Editor-in-Chief, 4Ps B&M Editorial

Arindam Chaudhuri

A.Sandeep Editor’s Desk

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Despite being populated with innumerous product categories, the Indian FMCG sector has invested dramatically in promoting creativity to ensure a distinct brand imagery that has broken the clutter
It was an irksome Wednesday afternoon. Mrs. Kathuria, a housewife, had just switched on the TV to calm down her foul mood. Her son, Rohan, who was hitherto quite excited about rescuing his best buddy in school from a bunch of bullies, had just been scolded by his mother for ruining his uniform, which was now completely mud-soiled. And suddenly, in the background, starts the jingle, ‘Agar daag lagne se kuch acha hota hai, toh daag ache hain!’ A scene right out of a TV advertisement? Wrong! What we described is actually verbatim how the mother of a truant school going kid (aren’t all of them) in one fine South Delhi household explained to us the moments preceding the jingle (which had started in the background during the break in the afternoon soap serial). But that’s not what’s important. What’s important is what she told us further on. “The moment I heard the jingle, my fury reduced immensely and I, in a way, felt less angry at my son – well, the coincidence between what the ad was showing and what was happening every day in front of me could not be ignored,” exclaimed Mrs. Kathuria. So what’s the dope we’re pushing here?

Creativity! Compare any standard (say) American FMCG advertisement to a standard Indian FMCG advertisement, and the difference would hit you fantastically hard. Comedy, shock, surrealism – Indian advertisements score miles ahead of Western advertisements in ensuring that the brand is recalled like nobody’s business by the consumers. Think about it. If we were to ask you to fill in the blanks in the punch line, “xxxx ki safedi,” a majority Indians would bang on hit the right target!

To some extent, Surf (and of course, ‘washing powder Nirma’) was amongst the first ones, daring to be different at a time when the advertising of detergent powders a few years back showed the same run-of-the-mill commercials promising greater whiteness, gentle on clothes proposition, floral fragrances, et al. And this in fact was true for most of the product categories in the Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) category? How many TVCs of toothpastes, soaps, creams, et al, of different companies could were differentiated from one another? Hardly. Didn’t all toothpastes promise fresh breath and white teeth just a few years back? Didn’t one-third shampoos promise Zero Dandruff, another third promise Zero Hair Fall and remaining guarantee shine and strength (in fact, don’t they do so even now)? Clearly, even in India, till just a few years back FMCG products, in most categories, were unable to create a unique brand promise!

“How can FMCG product categories create a unique brand promise when they are promising the exact same thing to the consumers?” questions Neeta Walia, Director, Brand Talk. “But they can certainly communicate it differently so as to create a distinct brand image in the minds of the consumer,” she adds.

Most FMCG products are low-involvement products and are required by consumers on a day-to-day basis. The buying pattern is more habit-led as compared to high-involvement products whose purchase requires more research. And hence, within a 30-second spot on TV, the advertiser previously was more concerned about communicating the functional benefits of the product, which left a minimal scope for creativity and therefore led to a fatigue in advertising. However, since creating a unique brand promise was/is difficult (considering that most of the products in one category provide more or less similar functional benefits), advertisers since then have gone radically ahead and created unique brand imagery, in fact moving away from the actual qualities of the product.

Take the case of Tata Tea’s Jaago Re! campaign. The Indian tea market has been predominantly captured by HUL with its brands Brooke Bond, Red label, Taj Mahal and Taaza. In an endeavour to replace HUL from its leadership position in the tea category, Tata Tea launched a disruptive insight and generated the big idea in the form of ‘Jaago Re!’ deduced from a research of young Indians over their perception of ‘waking up’ – considering that tea is essentially a wake up drink. A breakthrough integrated communication strategy helped Tata Tea’s volume share grew by 2.5% over HUL’s entire tea portfolio with over 50% market share in each of its variants. A recent ad by Emami for Boroplus decided against using the cliched style of communicating soft and beautiful skin and instead cast men who fall short of words to describe the skin of women in their lives and metaphorically (by comparing the skin to flower petals) explain their emotions.

Re-positioning of products has also led to the creation of some creative masterpieces, the classic example being the re-positioning of Perfetti Van Melle India’s Happydent chewing gum. First launched as a teeth whitening chewing gum, the product positioning failed miserably as Indians could not accept the brand. The product was then re-launched and re-positioned with the breakthrough commercials such as the Photographer Flash and the Palace ads. The Happydent Palace ad went on to win EFFIES Gold in 2007. In fact, a cursory glance at the winners of EFFIES in the last 2-3 years reveals that FMCG product categories have invariably ruled the charts. In 2009, as many as 10 Consumer Products won EFFIES – the maximum in all other product categories.

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