AdStand: The couples as brand storytellers

Advertising is a singular seller. Women are used to sell to women,  men sell to men, mom sells to kids, fathers and even grandfathers sell to families. Advertising story tellers have not used the relationship that exists between couples to create enduring messages. And if they have then they have used it more as roles they play, like the earlier Airtel couple film where wife is boss of husband, but has slipped back in gender stereotype roles.

Off-late brands have discovered the relationship between husband and wife and have started to tell some enduring stories for themselves.


Bharat Matrimony, couples and wife’s ambitions

Matrimonial site is best suited to leverage the relationship between man and woman, they are the matchmakers and they are perfectly suited as brands. They have created a brand world where the man supports the woman in her quest for passion or purpose in life. The commercial

where he lets his wife go to another city for the opportunity she gets is nicely crafted. The later commercial where the husband helps wife chase her passion for dance

are apt for the brand. For a match-making brand to place woman’s ambition on top and celebrate it is a nice strategic move. Traditionally the brands in this sector will look at sticking closer to category codes of compatibility, knowing each other or parental approval, Bharat Matrimony could craft a different narrative using the couples and giving importance to wife’s ambitions


The way BM depicted the relationship, it was still labored, and with a very serious point of view. Yes it was progressive, but it wasn’t truly new age. The movies in the same time frame were building the relationship as more friendly, more open and definitely full of fun. This is the territory where the brands needed to get in.

Some of it can now be seen in categories like ecom, financial planning, consumer durables we are seeing a new wave of portrayal of couples.


Couple as glue to the brand narrative

Brands that operate across many categories tend to use same face as the glue that binds the brand together. Crompton has used the same couple as the glue across fans, and lights. The brand has built an easy going, friendly narrative using a young couple. Each ad has a small hint of their easy going relationship. Like this commercial about fan

is has both of them speaking about features with the overall wrapper of their relationship. The earlier commercials of both fans and lights were a lot more textured than the new ones. Crompton though is very different from Havels appliances which is a lot more about women and her take on relationship with her husband.

Amazon Prime India as a brand has got the warmest narratives currently. The brand has built an interesting loving banter between a young new age husband and wife where the wife is always able to trick the husband into dancing to her tunes. While the brand message and even the situation of changing the bulb could have been better crafted, the relationship between the couple is breath if fresh air.

Samsung did this almost 15 years back

Sometimes the fact that you have worked in advertising for so long can make you remember long forgotten campaigns. One such campaign is Samsung Home Appliances’ campaign that was built on relationship between a new age couples. Today the brands are useing the same couple across many ads, Samsung had different couples in every ad. The glue to the campaign was not a single couple, but the brand’s take on the relationship between the couple. The core messaging to the brand was playfulness. If you look at the campaign today, it will stand out for the progressiveness that is in vogue today. 15 years back, this campaign did depict the relationship in regular everyday manner. Travel back to 2003 and see these ads



Movies have been building upon the friendliness and love between the new age couples for sometime now. Advertising which often tapped into emerging popular culture seems to have missed this trend for a long time. Partly the reason may be the Television Serials, which are more over the top drama and less of a reflection of society today also contributed to advertising not catching the new wave.

Young couples today have a very different take on life and society, they are very different from the couples of even 2003. Brands can find a rich zone of story telling by simply being alive to the new visible romance that is on display everyday on a variety of social media channels.


AdStand: The Milk Sellers

Milk is integral to India, almost every urban home in India is a consumer of milk. The day starts in India with milk, from tea to coffee to a glass of milk. A whopping 10% of global milk production comes from India. Yet for all these years, milk has not seen many brands come in and build traction. We have seen distribution brands being built by cooperative dairies, but otherwise fresh packaged milk has remained a liquid commodity. This has started to change rapidly. In last few months there have been a slew of brands that have been launched in the market. Corporates like Coca Cola are trying their hand in milk market, though not in fresh packaged milk.

Amul has been the leading players in fresh milk. Amul has almost created the category in India. Amul then let many state level cooperatives launch their own brands. Mother Dairy, Verka, Vijaya, Nandini and Saras are the local state level brands that now play at the national level.

Now there are a host of brands that are being launched, some are aimed at the small regional level, some at the national level. There are even tech start-ups that deliver fresh packaged milk to your doorstep. The start-up world has entered the world of gwalas.

The organic food culture has come to fresh packaged milk world in a big way.

There are many small dairies that are aggressively building local offers to supply fresh organic milk. Milcch in Gurgaon, Pride of Cows in Mumbai, Madras Milk in Chennai are all building traction for premium milk. These brands are also creating a new language for milk brands. There is the hyperbole of Madras Milk about being the new standard of milk, to confidence of Pride of Cows about being full of love to Milcch’s claim of being innocent. Farmers are leveraging technology and consumers are getting better choices.




It’s not just that the action is seen in the niche organic or high quality milk market, the action in the mainstream milk market has also heated up.

Mother Dairy has been very active building both the delivery and fresh milk through a host of campaigns. The challenge to Mother Dairy is coming from aggressive brand like Kwality, which is investing heavily in brand building to gain consumer traction.


Kwality has signed up a celebrity, known for fitness and is aggressively investing in advertising. As an erstwhile ice-cream player, the brand is not new to the dairy segment. There are two big symbols of milk communication, the milk moustache that Got Milk Campaign uses and the milk splash that is used by many brands. Kwality has used the wings that give Akshay extra power.


Milk Life, a brand of USA, has been doing the same for many years, and the content it has on the site is extensive. Milk Life became the template for Coca Cola’s campaign for Fairlife Milk. They used milk as fashion statement for today’s models.

Not all appeals in milk advertising are positive. Gurgaon-based Milkor is using fear as appeal to sell milk. Milk is fed to snakes in India in search of blessing; to see milk take the shape of a snake is rather scary. In fear an appeal that can work for a niche unknown brand? Incidentally Milkor is world’s leading brand of Grenade Launchers.


What is worth pondering over is the fact that despite such a large production base, India does not have a milk brand that is known in the world. We aren’t even known for our prowess in dairy.

Now if cow and buffalo milk is not for you, then there is camel milk available in India. No, not from a home-grown dairy, but from UAE. Check out

The milk wars may just be beginning, there are many more salvos to be fired. Remember Mahatma Gandhi was fond of goat milk.

Original published here:

The R Day Weekend

This was the week when brands went into overdrive with Republic Day messages. The whole country seemed to be draped in tricolour and the entire country seemed to be on sale. Zomato even turned every word of Happy Republic Day into a food item!

Commerce usually triumphs patriotism.

This is where #belikebill meme had an interesting take on Republic Day. This is India. India minds its own business. India always feels young. Be like India. Well #belikebill did win the Republic Day social media war.

Mumbai Traffic Police around the same time broke on social media with some really funny tweets. In its effort to be seen as cool and young, it ran a series of tweets that could easily have been written by stand-up comics. Now that is the real issue: should cops come across as witty and funny? Is that the value that ordinary citizens expect from a law enforcement agency? Or should they come across as resolute, determined, watchful and tough? How long will cops be able to manage a funny tone of voice?

Delhi Traffic Police meanwhile took its game on social media many notches up. On the shared public transport app called Ridlr (DTP twitter handle is @RidlrDel), it is asking citizens to upload pictures or videos of traffic violators so that they can take action. Either way, the police are now using social media; once they move from adopter phase to interaction phase, one can expect a lot of things to change.

There is a huge amount of action happening in the video streaming end and social networks. Facebook till now allowed celebrities to live stream content to their followers; this has now been opened up to the public. Anyone can use an iPhone and live stream to select audience on FB. While this is currently available only in the US, it would be available on Android and iOS and across the globe in no time. Also, GoPro Hero now integrates with Periscope for iPhone and can now broadcast directly. Portable live video will open up completely new platforms for brands.

Imagine if brands let their commercial shoots be available live on FB. Till now brands tried to do this in a small manner on Snapchat. Video is the new frontier that will change the game.

ICICI is running a fabulous platform that allows the underprivileged to earn a sustainable livelihood. They have a short film chronicling the story of Manoj Kumar who, from being a scrap seller, learns from the books he collects and then joins the mainstream workforce. It’s a heart-warming tale that has been narrated very well.

Today, more than ever, brands have no option but to make an impression every day, consistently. To do that, brands have to move away from small victories to long sustained campaigns. Today, the tools have also changed.

Be like ICICI and the Raddi Library.

Original Published Here:

2016: Crystal Gazing

2015 was the year of mobile. There is no part of life that is now doesn’t have an active involvement of mobile phones. For many generations, newspaper was the morning habit and TV the evening habit, this has now changed. The day starts with mobile and ends with mobile. It doesn’t matter what brand or make or OS you have on phone, what makes a difference is the apps that people have on phone. The millennial who started, as extremely aware and opinionated kids are now the drivers of mobile age

2015 was the Ante Mobile year: the year mobile changed everything.

2016 then may be called Post Mobile era

Here is what I think the future may hold for 2016.

Social Networking will move to messaging apps: The hottest social networking place will not be FB or Twitter or Insta or Snapchat, but would be Whatsapp, and may be Hike, Line and Wechat. Whatsapp is already mirroring numbers of FB. What this will mean is that organic growth activity will die completely and brands will have to find intrusive strategies to speak with audiences. On the flip side, social networking will become a lot more about friends and a lot less about likes and followers. Broadcast based social networks will become one segment, participation based messengers will become the other.

Moving picture ads will see a transformation, they will find newer platforms to play on a mobile device and not just live on TV. The ability of the story to engage with audience on social platforms will define how the ads are crafted for TV. Moving picture ads for brands may become more participative or more interactive. Snapchat and whatsapp have a good chance to become the new TV station of your mobile.

Brands will actively repackage themselves to become chat worthy. While consumers will continue to buy regular household stuff regularly (even that has become tech enabled with Amazon Buttons), most indulgence or long purchase cycle driven brands will find newer ways to connect. This may mean fashion closets in hotel rooms to candy packs that make phone recharges happen. Digital graffiti will be the new indicator of pop culture. Mobiles will make consumers multitask every moment and drive the feeling of time poverty even more.

In the after mobile world, the old format of advertising will have to find new methods of engaging. Two things will happen. One the ads will have to be more intrusive for the short attention span consumers. Two the ads have to have multiple contexts, local contexts will help the brands connect better. In the Ante Mobile world brands used languages to be closer to consumers, in post mobile world hyper local contexts will drive communication.

The last of the possible trend in post mobile world may come as a bit of surprise, I expect people to have lot more friends in real world. Mobiles will play the matchmaker and make people physically meet each other. In the Ante Mobile world, networks allowed people to stay anonymous, in the new Post Mobile world; anonymity will be a barrier to status. Anonymity will be shunned and mobile personal social networks will drive societal status. This would be a radical departure from Ante Mobile age

The Post Mobile age has dawned, and 2016 will be just the start. I am not saying that all of it will come true exactly the way I have predicted, but they may move in this direction for sure

Originally written for

AdStand: Looking back on 2015 – Episode 1

The year is coming to an end, and it is a good time to look back at the year that has gone by. Every year that passes by leaves an imprint for the next year to follow. 2015 may be leaving behind a major trend that may be changing the world of communication in a major way.

In June this year Chevrolet sent out a press release in the US written almost completely in Emoji. The press release was for the Chevy Cruise 2016 model for global markets. The release generated global buzz, may be more than the overall coverage that the car launch generated.

Emojis are small electronic images and icons that help users express emotions.

Emoji’s are an awesome development. The start of language for humankind was pictures. As far back as 3300 BCE Egyptians were using Hieroglyphs to write the story of the kingdom. Hieroglyphs were a series of pictures that were used to tell the glory of a kingdom to its citizens. Language evolved to have what we now know as alphabets. And, in the last couple of years, it has evolved to become a series of pictures again. Emoji’s are the new age Hieroglyphs, and mobiles are the new edifices where they are displayed. Mobile phones became central to the way we live in more ways than it can be imagined and changed the language forever.

This is the first big trend of 2015: The Year of the Apps.

2015 will be the year where apps became mainstream categories. Apps till now were mobile presence of mainstream brands, but that changed in 2015.

Take payments for instance. Apps have redefined how people pay, transact and shop. It is difficult to believe that consumers can trust their mobile device to hold money and pay money to another user. The category of mobile payments did not exist even a year back. Not just mobile payments, banks too have adapted to the world of mobile. Bank apps now allow you to do new things like video chat, ask questions and do everything that traditional bank accounts let you do.

Mobiles are making pictures and videos mobile and ubiquitous. With apps like Meerkat and Periscope, photos and videos are now always available on demand everywhere. While pictures were for a long time, now even video is.

The category of Music has seen a revival thanks to music that is available through apps. From Apple to Deezer to Spotify to Gaana, songs are now available online anytime they are wanted. Last year Apple released the new U2 album exclusively online; today this has become mainstream with the possibility that music may never be available in offline format.

Games are the new category that have moved to mobile, what started as an innovation from Angry Birds, became an epidemic with Candy Crush, and now has become mainstream with NFS and FIFA 16 moving to apps on mobile devices.

By the end of the year cops across the country have hitched on to the bandwagon. Now citizens can report traffic violations, file an FIR and in some cases even pay pending challans. This is serious mainstreaming of apps.

There isn’t a category that is now not available as an app. Groceries, vegetables, medicines, doctors, eye wear, beauty products, fashion advice, driving tips, music, movies, deliveries, food, reviews, tickets, and whatever else that can be imagined.

Mobiles phones are no longer about make, price range or features; they are today only about apps that are installed on it. Smart watches are pushing this even deeper with integration between life and mobile device getting deeper. Did you not reach out for your mobile phone first thing today morning?

This is the first of the four trends of 2015. Next trend in next post.

Original published here:

Lessons from ecom brands

Communication industry has often been dominated by certain category for a long time. Rules, codes practices are evolved from the categories that dominate the landscape. The packaged goods domination created the famous product window and a complex product demonstration. The automobile industry took the product window forward and created longwinded demonstrations of the product. Automobile advertising was surprisingly narcissist in approach as the world always revolved around their cars or bikes or trucks or busses. The cell phone and cellular network domination brought a lot of tech mumbo jumbo to mainstream conversation. Thanks to this industry we know a lot about processor, screens, apps, speed and many more such things that should have no connection to why someone buys or chooses a cell phone or cellular network. Cell Phones sold the tech babble much more successfully than the PC brands!

Last two years seem to be the age of ecom brands. Most of these brands are armed with bottomless resources, play the game of dominance in media, and have created an eco system of their own. This is a very large bunch of brands that span categories like fashion, technology, automobiles, books, groceries, housing, buying and selling, travel, food delivery, bill payment, furniture, dating, art, auction jobs, and almost every other thing that you cannot think of. What it means that the category called ecom is a misnomer; almost the entire communication industry is a part of it. Yet there seem to be something that defines that you are being engaged by a brand that belongs to the new age category and somehow is rewriting the old rules of communication. Here’s my quick look at what the world of ecom is teaching us

 First, it is obvious that if you are an ecom brand you will redefine the concept of pricing. Normally a brand will build a sense of ‘brand’, as to what values it stands for, what is the reason for consumers to trust it and then eventually give an offer to pre pone the buying decision. Ecom brands have collapsed the whole cycle, in fact sale communication is now not tactical, it’s strategic. Three brands have turned the entire ‘sale’ communication on its head.

Snapdeal is a brand that has being built on the premise of saying ‘never pay full price’ has taken Amir Khan and made the search for discounts and deals into a memorable appeal. The brand audaciously even implies that Mr. Khan is proud to hunt for deals for himself. Flipkart turned the sale communication into a self-indulgent look at creating communication. The whole set up of agency executives struggling to create one more ad for never ending sale on Flipkart helps in consumers engaging with the brand. Amazon is the third brand using the sale as an aggressive brand building activity. The initial ‘aur dikhao’ was about setting up the fact that the platform has hundreds of products at the best possible prices. Notice that they used price as a strategic tool, and not as a tactic to drive shoppers to site. The new communication currently by Amazon to push the sale has a very different tonality and treats price as a tactic to drive conversions. Ecom brands are making sure that they use price as a strategy and not as a tactic

Secondly, humor is a big part of the ecom brand arsenal. Often to sell concepts or ideas that are different or difficult to fathom, humor is used to create the brand appeal. The entire bunch of brands in the servicies category like Freecharge, PayTM, Ola Cabs, Quickr, Olx are using humor in different ways. The Freecharge ads are delightful in the way they portray the gender gap between father and sons to sell phone recharge is phenomenal. The brand uses the insight of middle class fathers thinking their sons are frittering away life and sons need to prove that they are smarter in delightful way. They get the cultural context absolutely correctly. The Olx commercial of the harassed by snoring wife and seeking a way out has a ring of human truth, again in a delightful way. Both brands also end up using price as a strategic tool. The Ola cab ads to my mind miss the mark completely with their tale of forgetful protagonist who needs to escape sticky situations. The ads could have been funnier if they were crafted better.

The third is many brands dipping into the old world of packaged goods brand demo route to educate users on how to use their app or service. May be they have a reason to do so, may be the intention is widen the user base, for me, they seem to miss the mark completely as they create no engagement with potential users.

In contrast is the fourth bunch of ads that use strange animals as mascots to create appeal. Now a mouse can get you a job, a dog can get you a car, a panda can get you a meal and even a humble owl can be a reason to get food delivered home. Mouse is about rat race, dogs run after cars, panda is always in active graze mode and knows about food, owl may be has highly developed taste buds, but all are funny.

There is a fifth bunch of brands, maturing in the way they use communication, go beyond price, humor, demos and brand mascots. These brands tell compelling stories about who they are and what they do. Make My Trip’s “dil to roaming hai” is a wonderful take on what travel can do to family bonding. For a brand that built itself as the most efficient travel site, the focus away from efficiency is a welcome move. The second is Jabong’s Be You campaign that celebrates individuality and turns that into fashion statement. I wish more brands from ecom turn into compelling storytellers.

Ecom as a category is relatively new, they face two big challenges of seeding new habit and of creating an alternate way of living, something that didn’t exist before. These are early days, and they will evolve in more exciting ways in coming days

Original appeared here:

Engaging with the Alpha Male

Women are the prime target for the marketers. From shampoos to fashion, from food to cosmetics they hold the key to brand’s success.  Youth is the other most important target, from beverages to cellphone; from bikes to online shopping they are the creators of trends. Brands have mastered in creating nuanced appeals for the two.

What about the alpha males? They sure are prime audience for a variety of categories. Cars, bikes, banks, insurance and off late fairness creams target them. To understand what the advertisers are saying to the males, I went through a series of ads targeting them.


Let’s start the day with an undergarment brand, Akshay Kumar, Hritik Roshan, Sunny Deol, the iconic alpha males are pedaling undergarments, it has to be an important category.

There is one undergarment brand called Rupa, which used to be endorsed by an Ex Miss Universe at some time, now is endorsed by the red hot Ranvir Singh. Today Ranvir is one really successful alpha male with his own brand of swagger and street mannerism. Ranvir is ensuring that we forget the feminity of the brand name and consider the brand as one made for the male world. He works hard to lend extra charm,swagger and a dash of Ravir style of humor. Its not often that a whale will take a punch in the nose and swim away, for the Hero has to get the damsel in distress. David Hasselhoff would have quit Bay Watch after watching this ad.

The critical question is how do you as reconcile to wearing an innerwear brand that is named like a beautiful girl even after endorsed by Ranvir?


After you have sorted your innerwear and get ready to move out of home, take your big bike out, suit up, slip on the helmet and go vroom. The girls will look back at you if you are the handsome John Abraham. Handsome hulk though has an issue with his skin colour. It takes double action, with some charcoal and clay and a dual colouured face wash to fix the problem and make him ‘fair’. Whatever happened to tall, dark and handsome? After building the excitement by being the big macho man, everything comes crashing down when you realize that you have to be fair to get ahead. Next time you take your bike out, grab a whitening face wash first, the big bike and the good looks won’t take you far.

Consider giving up on bike and consider looking at big muscular SUV. There is nothing that spells machismo like a car with muscle. There is Sushant Singh Rajput doing a high-energy dance and the Nissan Terrano responds with matching moves. Nissan Terrano is a big macho SUV, which is being serenaded by an alpha male. After the car and Sushant match steps for step, an attractive female comes and drives away the car leaving our guy looking a bit sheepish. So was the car an attractive female who Sushant was serenading? Or was the car a macho male who the attractive girl drives away with? Here the big guy gets neither the car, nor the girl!


There are beverage brands that celebrate being a man in their unique style. One such brand is Carlsberg, which makes possibly the world’s best bar glasses. We know the glasses are meant to hold beer; Carlsberg has a take on board meetings in its latest on TV. Board meetings obviously are meant for people with power and influence. This is a rich fertile territory and the brand could have created memorable male symbolism. The board meeting though turns out to be bit of an apology. To say that probably world’s best board meeting is conducted wearing swimming trunks inside a swimming pool is possibly what an imagination deprived teenager will dream of. Does this kind of board meeting appeal to someone with power and influence? Carlsberg seemed to have served flat beer in this ad.

It looks like being an alpha male in adland is a tough thing. Its time we engage the males in a far more intelligent manner, otherwise #feelslikeaman will mean #feelslikealoser


originally published at for #AdStand


Appeals collide


Appeals collide

Two different brands, two different categories, two different appeals, except that the appeals have got mixed up. The Garment ad looks like a paint ad, slightly innovative, has a new offer, the paint ad looks old with old world metaphors and a madly styled Katrina Kaif
This tells you that in today’s world using old metaphors can be bad for a brands’ health
The paint brand for instance has not moved up the ladder for many years. The consumer context has changed, the need from paints has changed, but the metaphor hasn’t, just the brand ambassador has. The garment ad on the other hand is very trendy, modern and has a new twist on colours
Amusing to see the two appear side by side.
There is a robust discussion about the two here