19 Nov 2015 15:03 IST

Utterly, butterly, baggage!

Successful brands that are advertising driven have a clear communication strategy, that is consistent and long term. Photo credit: Amul website

The tone of advertising can make your brand iconic. But can all companies bank on such ad strategy?

In my early years in advertising (and that was ages ago), Saatchi and Saatchi was the fastest growing advertising agency in the world and Concorde, the fastest plane.

When Concorde launched services between London and New York, the high profile ad agency created an interesting poster, which read: “Breakfast in London, lunch in New York”. Below that, an irate passenger had scribbled “and baggage in Bermuda”.

Well, if passengers are to be believed, British Airways had a problem with baggage then — which continues to be a problem now and if cynics are to be believed, will be a problem in the future too. But I digress. Those days, there was no twitter to compound and complicate the problem. The British, who have a sense of humour unlike us Indians, merely chuckled and moved on.

Now, history has repeated itself with a celebrity and it’s none other than Sachin Tendulkar, whom India idolises. When an annoyed Sachin Tendulkar tweeted about his misplaced baggage, British Airways asked for his particulars and expectedly, the entire (irate) Indian fan base erupted on Twitter.

How dare they?

“How dare British Airways not know who Sachin is?” fumed the Indian fan, “How can they ask for his details?” Of course the whole world follows cricket (or so they believe), so how can anyone not know Sachin, OUR Sachin? Never mind the fact that British Airways is a global airline and has employees from all over the world who may or may not know cricket.

Asking for particulars is the standard response they give to any passenger whose baggage has been misplaced. Amidst all the needless tension, angst and rage, a brand was doing what it always does — feed on news or controversy while making us smile.

Of course, people might also remember the time when Maria Sharapova, the tennis star too, did not know who Sachin Tendulkar was. Amul capitalised on that too.

Amul is an Indian brand, which has the capability of being an icon and has several credits to its name — particularly for its advertising, which is arguably the longest running advertising campaign in India. Scroll down to see the ad from my childhood, on the iconic James Bond movie, Goldfinger.

I have been following Amul over the years and have several favourites. Scroll down and take a look at one of Sachin and Bradman's ad (so the Sachin fans, who might be upset because of me, are distracted).

What does Amul teach us?

Amul is a way of life with most Indians. It created a continuing character in the guise of a little moppet who is instantly recognised across India. The strategy was to catch the fancy of the reader by capitalising on topical stuff like intolerance, which is the hottest issue doing the rounds now.

And since the issue like Sachin’s lost baggage has a high current reader interest, people actually look forward to Amul’s ad, wondering how they would depict this issue in advertising. In fact, a related interesting strategy of Amul is to use mainline media sparingly and focus on prominent hoardings in strategic parts of cities with frequently changing messaging, so that public interest remains high. In advertising, the ‘tone of voice’ or how the brand speaks to you, is an important part of brand building, and Amul’s tone of voice has been consistent: smart and tongue-in-cheek. Even the most hot headed critics and fans can see the humour the brand brings out.

Will this strategy work for other brands?

Successful brands that are advertising driven have a clear communication strategy, that is consistent and long term. Crucial to the strategy is understanding the category. In this case, we are talking about your packet of butter, which is part of your daily breakfast. All advertising has to do is make sure it is on top of your mind; and Amul has been doing this successfully for years.

There is no need to talk about product quality, or pricing, or getting into lifestyle ads shot in exotic places. Nor is there a need to overkill in the media with full page ads, the way the ecommerce brands are doing today. It is probably a strategy that will work only for a brand like Amul and perhaps in categories where the competition is not so intense.

But there can be no taking away from the fact that Amul is a winner and a brand which has the capability of being an icon. Yes, the little moppet is someone we can all be very proud of as Indians, however upset we may be with British Airways the way they handled the greatest Indian, Sachin Tendulkar! \

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