Mumbai: A select group of brands is daring to be different. While most ads tout the benefits of their brands with so-called product shots, this set of particularly brave and confident brands, as experts call them, are refusing to get into the “hard sell” mode. For them, the focus in their ads is more on insight than the product.
For instance, the latest Titan ad featuring their brand ambassador, actor Aamir Khan, looks more like a promo for the Bollywood actor than it does for the brand.
The spot, which is running across all major television channels, has the actor urging consumers to live their dreams, and the brand’s new tag line says, “Be more.” The ad ends with a few quick shots of the watch.
Not run-of-the-mill: Brands can show courage in several ways—by actually backing the claim they make in ads, focusing on values or creating an idea that theoretically goes against the product itself.
“A brand needs a lot of confidence to do something like that,” says Piyush Pandey, vice-chairman, Asia Pacific, Ogilvy and Mather, or O&M, whose agency handles the Titan account.
“Take, for instance, Fevicol, it’s not even a display brand,” he says, implying that in both cases the insight was the focus and not the product. Fevicol too is handled by O&M.
It’s the same story for the award-winning Nike ad, featuring people playing cricket on the roofs of buses. Nowhere in the ad is the actual focus on the product.
That’s a difficult approach to take or stick to at a time when soaring inflation has made most advertisers focus on tangible benefits instead of brand insights.
Ads that once exalted the intangible benefits of the product now also have inserts that scream price, packaging and weight, along with brand tags to convince consumers about the value proposition.
Brave brands, however, are using this opportunity to stand out from the crowd.
Internationally, several brands such as Sony Bravia have actually chosen to take a risk with their creative work. The “balls” TV spot for Sony Bravia television had colour as its motif. A clear stance, where the insight and strategy were supreme.
So, what would make a brand confident or brave? According to Santosh Desai, managing director and CEO, Future Brands Ltd, confidence isn’t necessarily demonstrated by keeping the product out of the frame. There can be many ways in which a confident brand may display its courage, he says.
The first is when a brand can actually back the claim it is making. “Every day you will come across some ad that claims, that ‘nine out of 10 women prefer this brand’. So to my mind, any brand that can actually meet its claim, in a transparent manner and in full public view, is a confident brand.”
The second is when a brand is willing to focus on values and insights that bring the brand alive rather than just bringing in revenue. Mobile service provider Vodafone is one such example, says Desai. The brand’s focus has always been on its value-added services in advertising, whether it is customer care, caller ring tones or something else.
“What they advertise and talk about has nothing to do with the actual service,” says Desai. “As a brand they recognize that value added-services amount to a small chunk of their revenues in India. It takes a confident brand to focus on things that bring the brand alive, rather than just focus on factors that bring in the revenue,” says Desai.
The third is when a brand creates an idea that theoretically goes against the very thing that the category stands for. A case in point is that of Unilever’s beauty soap brand, Dove, says K.V. Sridhar, national creative director, Leo Burnett India Pvt. Ltd.
He says that the brand’s focus on “real beauty” goes a long way in challenging the stereotype. Some of their ads, including a short film titled Talk to Your Daughter, Before the Beauty Industry Does... are examples of the brand’s effort to promote real beauty.
That holds true for Hindustan Unilever Ltd’s detergent brand Surf Excel that goes against stereotypes with its Daag acche hai campaign.
Some experts go further, maintaining that a show of confidence cannot be limited to an ad campaign.
“A brand cannot be deemed confident or brave on the basis of one campaign,” says Anand Halve, co-founder, Chlorophyll Brand and Communications Consultancy Pvt. Ltd. “Companies also have to make that confidence and boldness an aspect of their business model. You have to be able to put your money where your mouth is.”