11 Dec 2020 19:54 IST

Takeaways from outrage over Tanishq ads

Companies should think long-term and design campaigns that are in synergy with their brand messaging

Before I get into my piece, I think it’s important to clarify that I am a great admirer of Titan Company Ltd and have featured them proudly in my books. So I am not one looking for a moment of editorial fame by taking pot-shots at a market leader. Having said that, the two recent Tanishq ads, one about an inter-religious baby shower, and another a well-meaning but slightly pontificating ad for Diwali asking people not to burst crackers, had the internet bristling.

Unlike some other brands which woo and court controversy (any publicity is better than no publicity), Tanishq is an understated, overachieving brand, and a true jewel in the Tata crown. Even a fervent admirer like me felt that they withdrew both the ads rather hastily, though one cannot truly understand the pressures that corporates go through. So instead of worrying about the right and wrong of their choice of creative or action of withdrawal, let’s look at the learnings, if any, from an advertising, branding, and communication perspective.

Who’s watching your commercial?

Marketers have a fairly clear profile of their customers and target audience, thanks to extensive market research. But, the trouble is from the netizens at large —Twitter warriors who are largely underemployed but hugely chauvinistic, just waiting to jump on to any protest bandwagon. Never mind the fact that they may never step into a Tanishq store in their life! But they are vocal about their feelings even if not based on logic. These rants have the capability to hurt brands and this is probably why the brand pulled down the (offensive?) TV commercials.

Even if Tanishq customers didn’t really care about the commercial or weren't hurt, their interests are being hijacked by a more vociferous and impulsive set of people sitting in front of their computers, spewing hate through their smartphones.

Why waste the festival season?

Let’s not forget that the festival season is important for brands like Tanishq and it is imperative that brands have a media presence during these crucial weeks, given that this has already been a pandemic-ridden year. Pulling these ads at times like these must have had the sales team with their targets fuming. And if one had to salvage their social conscience and speak about the much-needed communal harmony, why not do it in the lean season?

Are you flirting with social causes?

Many brands bitten by the altruistic bug, forget what they are selling, and become evangelists for 30 seconds. There are other brands that seem to find this less taken route something to follow in the long term, like Red Label tea. Here are a few commercials of the brand over a period of time.


















Makes sense if you ask me, as tea is a product as old as the hills where it is grown, and coming up with new messaging is always a challenge. More importantly, I strongly feel that brands should think long-term and not just look for a campaign that has very little synergy with their overall long term communication strategy.

Is it intrinsic to your product category?

The ideal messaging is one that reiterates the brand message, and this reminded me of the Lifebuoy commercial created some time ago.






It resonates because India is still dirty, people still don’t care about their neighbourhoods, and hopefully, the next generation will care more for the environment than we do. Any initiative that furthers that is to be welcomed. But most significantly, the social message is the brand’s message of health and hygiene.

Back to Tanishq. Tanishq has had some great commercials in the past which are all about the product and its usage. Here’s one for the wedding season to savour.








Brands are constantly learning from their mistakes and those of others. Sometimes, ad agencies and brand managers can get carried away. I feel some things just cannot be delegated, and that is the brand’s advertising, particularly when advertising matters so much to a brand’s well-being and growth. Who is the custodian of your brand’s advertising?