Pierce Brosnan and pan masala. Did anyone ever imagine the Irish star, known for his roles as James Bond 007, endorsing pan masala? Well, the country was shaken as well as stirred to wake up on Friday morning and see Pierce Brosnan as the face of Pan Bahar on the front page of the Times of India. Soon, he stared out from hoardings and bus-stands too. Not surprisingly, there was a Twitter storm with many questioning the logic of engaging Brosnan to endorse pan masala, and others just making a joke out of it.
Social media was literally on fire on Friday, when the ad was released. Some expressed shock, some were amused and others constantly checked the once popular Bond’s Twitter handle to see if he really owned up to endorsing Pan Bahar, because no one could think of even a remote connection between him and the brand in question. Whether roping in the international star was a commercially viable move for the makers of Pan Bahar, only the subsequent sales of the brand can tell, but it is obviously a clever trick to extend the reach of a category like pan masala. Besides, the brand’s aim was to link success to a man who is the very personification of perfection…
“I am very excited to be chosen as the brand ambassador of a brand like Pan Bahar. Pan Bahar, like Bond, has stood the test of time and is a winner in its own right. It has got class. That’s something that never goes out of style,” said Pierce Brosnan.
With this campaign, Pan Bahar also hoped to leave the other brands in this category far behind. It created an energizing plot full of fast cars, macho men, stylish women and a sharp, stylish and handsome Brosnan in a slick TVC and a chic ad campaign.
The DDB Mudra team shot this campaign on location in Austin, Texas. Punning on 007, the brand presents Brosnan as the first Hollywood face of the ad in his stylish new avatar.
Calling itself the world’s most expensive pan masala, attempting to sway the target audience by roping in a star of Brosnan’s calibre… Will the newly appointed brand ambassador end up alienating the existing consumers of Pan Bahar or will he help in expanding the target base of the brand by leaps and bounds? Akhil Jain, CEO, Ashok & Co. Pan Bahar Limited talks about roping in Pierce Brosnan for what will probably be the most discussed ad campaign this festive season…
What was the insight behind signing on actor Pierce Brosnan for Pan Bahar?
We started this product category. We invented the concept of pan masala and the formulation was first made in 1936. At first, there wasn’t a brand and we started gaining popularity. In 1966, the management decided to come up with a brand and that’s how Pan Bahar came about, to make the concept of pan masala big and take it across the country. We are the masters in this trade and we wanted someone who was multi-talented, with a maturity that people would believe. Pierce Brosnan matched our needs – with his age, his expressions, etc. There were many things about him - he communicates a lot without saying a word and uses his body language to communicate, that’s his persona and that appeals to the male segment. Brosnan symbolizes a powerful man and that’s what we wanted, a master guy to endorse a master class blend. That was a key insight. As for the tonality and premiumness, we extended our earlier campaign which featured actor Saif Ali Khan and communicated class and sophistication. We had a couple of other options in our mind but we decided to go with Brosnan because of his popularity and his character was the right fit for the brand. In future, we want to place our brand in the very premium segment and create a sophisticated appeal around it. Today, critics see a disconnect but tomorrow things will change, definitely. Brosnan appeals to men and he is influential. There is an aspirational value attached and he also appeals to the younger audience. That’s the strongest connect. We didn’t have a craze that we wanted to invest in a Hollywood star, we just wanted someone who can appeal to the male audience. Let’s see how the consumer reacts.
What is your positioning?
The positioning is identity of success. Success is an aspiratonal thing and the parameters of success can be different and we wanted to build up our brand on this platform.
Could you give us an estimate of the spends you have allocated for the campaign?
We will not be able to reveal it.
Your TA is male, but is there a particular segment that you are targeting. Which markets are you concentrating on?
Consumption is happening across all age groups. This communication is targeted to males between 20-30 years, in the SEC A+, A and B. We are targeting pan-India. We are not specially focusing on the Southern region because the trend of consuming pan masala is not so high here compared to other regions. Though we have a presence in the South, it is greater in the Northern and eastern parts.
What are the marketing plans in place to promote the new campaign?
We will be using Digital in our marketing plan. We have a started a TV, Print and Outdoor campaign. We are also looking at on-ground activations and are sponsoring many events like Dandiya and Durga Puja. The campaign will run for two months.
Besides Saif Ali Khan, you have also used Feroz Khan and Fardeen Khan earlier…
We used Feroz Khan and Fardeen Khan when we re-launched Pan Bahar in 2006. We wanted to show the older generation connecting with the younger one, and thus used the father-son duo. We then re-positioned the brand from ‘Heritage pan masala’ to ‘identity of success’ to connect with the current consumer behaviour. People started accepting the premium brand to show there is status attached to where they were going. The consumer believes that people identify with his beliefs, what he eats or wears. So we re-positioned it. Saif Ali Khan endorsed us because of the heritage value, class and sophistication he has in his personality. It’s all about the right connect. We wanted to have the right people with us not just to gain popularity and establish the brand, but build the consumer perception which is based on particular parameters.
How big is the pan masala market and what is your market share?
I cannot give an exact answer because there is no body like ORG or AC Nielsen that covers this product category. So there is no organized data available as such.
Pan Bahar is positioned as a mouth freshener with no tobacco. However, many associate pan masala with tobacco. How do you correct this perception?
This is the biggest challenge for us. We are attempting to make the product popular with people and make them understand the difference. But yes, definitely the tobacco perception baggage is very heavy in people’s minds because gutka was present earlier and it dominated the whole market. At the product level, both look similar and the colour is almost the same and people mistake pan masala to be gutka. Pan masala is not gutka and there is no tobacco or nicotine present. The ingredients are Kewra, Supari, Katha, Catechu, cardamom seeds, saffron with fragrances and flavours of Sandalwood, Illaichi and Gulab. Because of gutka, people have dragged this innocent product into controversy and created a negative image. We are trying to see how we can tackle it. We want to educate people and create a difference. In a year or two, you will see results.
You don’t target women…
We have been trying and we will look at it in future as it is in our plans. The major chunk of consumption is from males and that’s why the focus is on the male audience. Women also consume the product, but the numbers are much higher for men. You will see more in this space in the next year or two.
What are your expectations from this campaign?
We are just looking at the campaign to help us become the market leader. We expect a lot in terms of consumer preferences also. I believe the non-consumers will also come in and we will become a competitive brand. I believe the negativity associated with the category will be broken after this campaign. We are approaching people indirectly with this campaign, educating them and creating the right feeling in the consumer’s mind.