The job of advertising is to communicate product benefit, increase brands’ top-of-mind recall and enable it to remain in consumers’ consideration.
But some pieces of communication go above and beyond this and bring about a paradigm shift in how the brand and the category are perceived.
Let’s look at a few brand campaigns over the last 2 decades that effectively achieved this.
Owning a powerful category attribute: The Hutch Pug
By the early 2000s, Mobile phones had slowly started becoming prevalent in India. But a big issue plaguing their adoption continued to be weak cellular network coverage. Given the inconsistent experience on this front, ‘Network Coverage’ became a big driver for the choice of a network service provider.
Launched in 1994, Hutch had established a wide network coverage pan India and felt ready to showcase its pan India footprint. However, mere claims wouldn’t do the job as they would be quickly lost in the sea of similarity.
This challenge gave birth to one of the most well-loved and remembered ads in India – the famous Pug ad. By using a simple creative hook of a young boy and his pet pug that follows him everywhere, the ad established a broader category benefit of seamless network connectivity.¹
The symbolic representation of network fidelity through a highly humane and well-understood relationship, this communication was a masterstroke of ingenuity. The ad neither showed technology (mobile phone) nor its consumers (people talking on mobile) and yet it managed to deliver a single-minded takeaway: “Wherever you go, our network follows.”
In fact, the ads were so popular that pug sales in India more than doubled after the launch of the ad.²
Breaking credibility barriers for the category: The Flipkart Kidults
E-commerce adoption did not happen overnight in India. In addition to the tech and ecosystem barriers, there were humungous trial barriers led by a lack of consumer trust.
A whole generation of consumers was wary of online shopping because of fundamental concerns which included the fear of duplicate products, concerns about sizing, lack of clarity on returns and even a doubt if the ordered product would eventually be delivered at all! Online shopping seemed both intimidating and complex- replete with potential pitfalls.
Flipkart, the leading Indian e-commerce player of the time had to not only tell the merits of online shopping but also convince consumers that online shopping was easy and safe. As a category pioneer and market leader, it was important to build the category before building the brand.
In 2011, Flipkart landed upon a communication platform that helped it achieve exactly this. Through a series of ads, it introduced its features meant to allay all existing fears about e-commerce one-by-one. This also included Flipkart’s pioneering use of COD (Cash on Delivery) which opened the category floodgates.
The standout feature of the ads was kids portrayed as adults– to drive home the point that shopping online is so easy that even a kid can confidently do it.
The ads were a massive hit and resulted in Flipkart’s fast growth. By 2015, Flipkart was sitting pretty by nearly owning half the market (with a 45% market share).³
Unfortunately, in the case of Flipkart, the momentum delivered by this communication was frittered away to some extent as the brand couldn’t crack a worthy follow-up to this campaign. Hence it ended up over-leveraging this creative device, which after a point became monotonous and predictable.
Amazon stole the march by launching some clutter-breaking communication like “Aur Dikhao” (2015) and “Aapki Dukaan” (2016), which spoke to the new needs of fledgling Indian e-commerce consumers.
Standing out in a cluttered category: TATA Tea ‘Jaago Re’
Chai as a category is cluttered and commoditized. Brands trying to stand out in the space typically use a clutch of promises ranging from ‘Freshness’ to ‘Bonding’. However, the space remains undifferentiated, with consumers’ choices often boiling down to habitual purchases.
That’s when Tata Tea made a momentous shift from a product benefit-led positioning to a broader brand purpose platform called ‘Jaago Re’.
However, regardless of how lofty the Purpose is, it is difficult to find consumer resonance until it has a clear category and brand connect. That’s where ‘Jaago Re’ stood out.
Tea as a beverage is well-known for its refreshing and rejuvenating properties. Building on this well-established functional benefit the brand elevated the stature of beverage as not just something that helps people ‘wake up’, but as a call for ‘social awakening’.
The brand cleverly rallied behind the biggest event in a democracy- the upcoming general elections.
The beautiful part of this campaign was that it had very clear legs for on-ground execution. The brand walked the talk by launching a website Jaagore.com to help first-time voters create IDs, register themselves, and find their nearest voting booth and of course, nudged them to go out and vote.⁴
Appealing to a broader base: Thanda Matlab Coca Cola
In the early 2000s, Coca-Cola was faced with a business challenge. In order to grow further, it needed to shift beyond its image of a drink for the urban youth to a mass beverage with a pan-India appeal. Product-wise, they launched a 200ml SKU priced at INR 5/- a good price point to facilitate this penetration. The key was to build its organic demand in the Indian heartland.
The communication that effectively delivered this strategic objective and later went on to win several industry awards was the iconic campaign of “Thanda Matlab Coca-Cola”.
The campaign appropriated a behaviour trait amongst the masses in the hinterland – anyone seeking relief from the scorching heat, asks for ‘Thanda’- a generic term for something cold and refreshing. Deliberately associating this word with Coca-Cola helped the brand instantly broaden its appeal.⁵
The ad was also clever in its casting – featuring Aamir Khan, a master when it came to slipping into the character, turned up in many avatars- who confidently dealt with city-dwellers without losing his authenticity. He perfectly portrayed the image of a quick-witted, confident small-town guy who doesn’t settle for less- thereby nicely capturing the nuances of the target segment.⁶
These are our favourite four campaigns that weren’t just blockbusters in terms of ad recall and creative execution but also brilliantly delivered on their strategic imperatives.
Is there any campaign that you think fits the bill? Let us know in the comments below.
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