24 September 2015 12:58:54 IST

Nestle scores a century in an "away test"

Companies should integrate better with customers and local audiences through benevolent CSR programmes

To those of you who follow cricket: you must have observed one common trait among teams. Most sides, whether it is India, Australia, or even Bangladesh, tend to be “tigers at home”. Sadly, as Australia kept reminding us, like in England, they can be that despite being in alien conditions. And it is in this context that we must remember that Nestle, a global company headquartered in Switzerland, completes 100 years of being a part of India and its life, its fabric even, despite not being from here.

Let’s watch the company's recent commercial commemorating their 100 years in this country , which has seen several other global brands bite the dust.

It is a nostalgic commercial, giving an old world feel about India and the events that have made the nation what it is. The stuff that memories and dreams are made of. The whole commercial is about India and its glorious moments, of which Nestle has been a part. Forget macro India; closer home, I do remember some of my sweetest moments have been in slyly slurping Nestle condensed milk in our kitchen.

I am sure I am not alone as millions of Indians have been weaned on Nestum and Cerelac initially. And who can forget Maggi, whatever its current troubles, the ketchup with those mad commercials and, more recently, KitKat. But, as usual, I am digressing. The commercial goes back to 1947 and Jawaharlal Nehru’s famous tryst with destiny. It shows the nation’s pride at Rakesh Sharma’s exploits in space and India’s first World Cup win in 1983, an indelible moment in the lives of many Indians like me. It has a collage of shots of old and young enjoying glorious moments in everyday life, sweetened by Nestle.

Troubled times at the multinational

And yet, the last year has been a period of trauma for Nestle. We all know the chaos that Maggi noodles faced in the country, resulting in their being taken off the shelves. Newsprint, Facebook and Twitter have been bursting at the seams about Maggi and Nestle and what they could have done, and yours truly has added to the chaos on the subject. So, I will strive not to repeat myself and merely stop with saying that it is easy to be wise after the event as some of us have been.

But it must be said that Nestle, which had to use the tremendous love and equity that Nestle had with his customers, was hardly used as consumer testimonial in the height of the crisis. But I daresay some things are better late than never.

So, once Maggi was pushed off the shelves -- and here it must be mentioned that Nestle would exercise abundant caution and not release the product to the market again till every legal condition was met -- it released a number of commercials on YouTube featuring several youngsters, speaking to the camera and talking about how Maggi had been an integral part of their lives and how they missed it in their lives.

Whether it was being self-sufficient, or being able to rustle up late night meals or not being found out as poor cooks. Clearly, the brand has the stature and the long-standing relationship with customers to take the stance it does.

Watch the commercials which are in line with most modern advertising, primarily created for the social media and not so much on mainline television, given the costs associated with that powerful medium. Nestle 1 Nestle 2 Nestle 3 Nestle 4 Nestle 5

Some things worth pondering

Let me just give you a few random thoughts on the subject. People and brands should not reach out to others only in times of need and this is what the current communication reminds me about. Sadly, Nestle seems to have the same problem. I remember reading somewhere that Nestle first came into the country in 1912 and yet it remembers that it has been here for a century in 2015 only when it is in real hot water!

Yes, Nestle has been an integral part of India and Indians but must it remember this only now? I always remember the Tylenol crisis and why Johnson and Johnson was able to come out of it a lot easier than a brand like Eveready, which had absolutely no connect other than selling batteries for a profit.

I wish companies would integrate better with their customers and local audiences with benevolent CSR programmes as the bond cannot be created by advertising alone. Having said this, I would still like to believe that Nestle has a continuing future in the minds and hearts of India and its consumers.

Trust is neither built nor lost in a day and people like me will always remember the role Nestle played in our lives.

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