Monday, June 30, 2008


Of Butter and Underwear..........

Why Ban Amul?

By Harish Bijoor

Q: Lux Cozy and Amul Macho ads. Have been banned by the I&B Ministry. What does this mean for the freedom of expression? And what does it mean to the creative man at large? Why all this hullabaloo?

-Jayesh Mehta, Mumbai

A: 'Jayesh-bhai', Lux, once upon a time was a cake of soap and Amul a butter I layered my toast with. Today, they seem something else altogether.

First of all these brands of inner-wear have benefited immensely from being raised in parliament. The best of brands promoted with the best of creative input and the best of media exposure seldom enter into the hallowed portals of the parliament of India. These two have.

In the bargain, Lux Cozy and Amul Macho have hogged the lime-light of editorial coverage in both print and television mediums for sure. They have got a bigger bang for their advertising buck than what any media-planner can afford to get and give. In the years gone by, MR Coffee got the same time of attention with Arbaaz Khan and more importantly Malaika Arora coming to the fore on the brand with a piping hot set of sequences of sex, stimulus, steam and coffee of course, as an incidental.

Having said all of this, I personally do believe these pieces of creatives are not fit for being telecast on a mass medium at large. Don’t get me wrong. I am as liberal as you and everyone else in the big cities of India largely is. I am just a little more sensitive on this issue. Sensitive to the fact that India does not live in its metros. India is much more. Three fourths of this country lives in its villages. Another three-fifths of the balance 25% of the urban population lives in the Tier 2 towns of this country. Let’s get sensitive to social needs, wants, desires, aspirations and mores of these viewers and consumers who live in Real India.

Why the hullabaloo? Just for this one reason. Real India hates the sexual innuendo thrown at them and their children from the popular and mass mediums of the day. There is an innocent child-audience out there asking questions out there. There is a bigger child-audience as well out there which is not asking questions of their parents, but is nevertheless getting their answers.

I do believe these brands have understood the market wrong, and have gotten carried away by “creative excellence” as a route to the heart and soul of the consumer. The creatives are exciting, and maybe even excellent. But they lack insight.

The key insight to bother about is this. Most of India is not too excited about the Dada Kondke genre of double entendre advertising. The women of Real India are particularly not excited about this, as they have to deal with the ruffians on the roads who get a bit too carried away by advertising and its exciting creatives.

One more insight to care about. In intimate apparel and under-garment advertising/marketing, it is important to ensure that product endorsement is handled by the same-sex entity. A panty must be endorsed by a woman and a man’s jock by a man. The moment the product is endorsed by the opposite sex entity, as in the case of Amul Macho, one treads into the realm of controversy. Crass appeal is a matter of worry then.

Q: What is the biggest change in the Indian consumer at large? Is it overt consumptiveness? And how is the marketer approaching this change?

-Roopa Mehrotra, Kolkata

A: Roopa, the Indian consumer has changed dramatically. She has become very out-door oriented for a start. In addition to this, she has become spend-oriented from the old savings-oriented Indian. Eating out and the market for narcissism is big. Spending on brands has perked up from the spending on commodity. The skew of spends between brands and commodity is shifting with the scales tilting in favor of brand-spends. Overt consumptiveness is surely here, but only across a small segment of the haves.

Brand marketers have largely geared themselves to this new consumer and everything is targeted accordingly. Some more trends then. The increasing number of double income no kids (Dinks) households is adding to the eating-out mania in the country. This is significant considering that this eating-out pattern is not led only by gastronomic-greed or gastronomic-variety-seeking behavior. Instead, it is all about eating out because one has to. It is eating out by compulsion.

As this spreads, the market for RTE foods and RTD beverages is bound to increase. The RTE market is directly related to the fatigue of eating out.

The process is cyclical. In the beginning you eat good old home food. Then you move on to outside food that is wholesome. And then on to junk food. Tired of it all, one wants to then try RTE foods which can be either heated in a microwave or cooled in a cooler. RTE is the last development in the cycle. Therefore this happens when society is highly evolved in its eating out pattern. Evolved to a point of fatigue.

Statistics available in the eating-out market indicate that we are just about climbing this hierarchy. In Delhi a person eats out 6.2 times and in Mumbai the number stands at 7 times a month. This number is still small. If you take numbers pertaining to the young and single population however, it is much more robust. The eating out habit in the age-group of the 21-30 year old groups in Mumbai stands at 23 and in Bangalore at 27, as per a recent study of ours titled "Retail Eatouts Probe 2007"

Harish Bijoor is a business strategy specialist and CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc.


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