Harvest Gold had caught the attention with its witty ads under the ‘Bakwas Advertising, First Class Bread’ campaign, which continues till this day. Conceptualised by Equus, the campaign helped Harvest Gold hold its own against and surge ahead of players like Britannia Industries and Modern Foods and sundry local brands.
Brand: Harvest Gold
Past: National Advertising agency
Current Agency: Equus
The Harvest Gold story started in 1992, when Hassan, a chemical engineer from IIT Delhi, who had worked with Schlumberger in West Asia before returning to India in 1989, sold his stake in a partnership firm making telex-interfaces for PCs, decided to instead bake bread. Of the money that he got following the stake sale, Hassan invested Rs 40 lakh in setting up a Rs 1-crore unit at Rewari (Rajasthan) to supply 1,000 loaves a day to Gurgaon (Haryana).
However, the venture was not without some teething troubles. The first problem was producing a quality product. Most customers complained that the bread they had purchased would turn green within hours or had huge holes in the bread slices.
Hassan re-engineered the machines part-by-part. For instance, he said, “The rack-ovens did not provide for the rotation of the racks. Hence, the loaves often used to get burnt on one side.” With a little ingenuity, he managed to change that and also introduced other alterations that had an impact on the quality of the product.
Harvest Gold had to position its product in the premium segment, priced as it was at Rs 7 per standard loaf, compared to Rs 5.50 in the case of Modern, and Britannia’s Rs 6. However, the Gurgaon launch proved to be a success. And then Harvest Gold decided to break bread with customers in South Delhi. Despite the inroads that the company had made in that market, the problems were far from over. As sales increased, there were distribution-related glitches. For one, most of the distributors had profitable relationships with the large players and hence, demanded commissions that were four times as high as the 25 paise per standard loaf paid by Britannia and Modern. Even when such high commissions were paid, many of the distributors agreed to pick up only small quantities. So, Harvest Gold was forced to set up its own network.
To prevent damage to the bread carried in the traditional iron crates, where loaves are stacked vertically on top of each other, Hassan designed smaller, plastic crates, where each loaf was laid out horizontally. The strategy worked and competitors were forced to copy Harvest Gold’s technique. However, all this had still to be backed up by effective advertising. That’s when Siddiqui and Hassan met Suhel Seth, the then 36-year-old CEO of Equus Advertising, who was given a brief to convert a quality product into a brand. Seth did just that when he launched a snazzy campaign with the punch line, ‘Bakwaas Advertising-First Class Bread’. Seth explained, “The campaign had to appeal to the common man. Therefore, it had to be humorous and in Hinglish.”
Now, Siddiqui and Hassan have drawn up plans to appoint 10 franchisees across the country, including cities like Kolkata. By offering them technological support as well as plant and machinery, Harvest Gold hopes to extend its brand to other parts of the country.
Taab Siddiqui, Director, Harvest Gold, said, “I can’t say for sure that we have changed our style of advertising very much. The tenor has remained the same – it is funny and irreverent. However, I think, we Indians don’t have a great sense of humour, a case in point being the line: ‘Sardarni in a bikini’ in one of our limericks. It caused a section of the Sikh community some angst, which they brought to our notice in the form of protests, etc. I think we have become a bit cautious since.”
Siddiqui further said, “The copy of the ad is what makes it a hit. The ‘Bakwaas Advertising - First class bread’ campaign managed to get the bread out of the bread box and into the minds of the customer/ reader. Since this campaign was going to be a sustained effort in building the brand we (Harvest Gold and Equus) decided to talk about everything else other than the qualities of the product. We assumed that the customer was already aware that Harvest Gold bread was the best bread there was. The copy has always been irreverent, tongue-in-cheek. It mirrors what Harvest Gold as a company is thinking and doing things differently.”
“We spend about a crore in various brand building activities. We haven’t changed any taglines over the years; ‘Bakwaas Advertising’ has worked the best, so why change something that hasn’t been broken?” he asked.
Sreya Seth, Group Business Director, Equus, explained, “The advertising has been a comment on the times – the social, political, sporting seismic shifts that have occurred in India. To that extent, it has evolved as the country has and the situations have. It has never had a brand ambassador. It is just a central protagonist, who has remained unchanged.”
Seth added, “The advertising we have done for Harvest Gold is the parochial element the brand had to reflect. Yet, it had to be in sync with the changing times. Hence, it is a limerick in ‘Punjlish’ – Punjabi English. The tone is typically North Indian and yet the issues are from all over the country.”
Asheesh Sethi, President, Noshe Oceanic, observed, “I feel Harvest Gold started very ‘fresh’. It did raise many eyebrows, especially with clutter breaking advertising and great copy proposition. But I guess over the years, there has been a total ‘loss of ideas’. It has nothing fresh at all and, in fact, they have been simply dragging the same concept making it a dead-spot now. But then, on the flip side is that in a short time it did get its brand recognition that is all so important in this fiercely competitive environment. Way to go now is with fresher and still stronger ideas.”