And, you thought comic books were merely fun and games and meant for some light reading.
But for one set of marketers, comics are serious stuff through which they hope to hook a young audience to their brands. Pizza chains to fruit juice marketers, all have come to believe in the power of the comic book to mesmerise children, while putting across a subtle message about their brand.
To project Dabur Foods' Real brand of fruit juice, the company recently launched its Real school contact programme with the creation of a comic book character, `Really 5', who symbolises "nutritious food, good health and happy living." Really 5 has a well-balanced diet of five elements ranging from eggs and milk to vegetables and nuts, and includes not just juice but Real fruit juice, identified as one of the power brands of Dabur.
Mr Sanjay Sharma, Head of Marketing, Dabur Foods Ltd said, "Kids have been constantly mesmerised by comic characters, which act as an instrument in injecting life into their world of fantasy. Real has used this medium to capture the attention of children and educate them about the elements of a nutritional diet or `Power of Five' in a more fascinating manner."
In the comic book, Really 5 battles with a junk food monster which overwhelms children to eat junk instead of healthy food. Really 5's virtuous diet vanquishes the monster's burgers and colas. Asked whether it is insidious branding, relating fruit juice with the Real brand, Mr Sharma says the concept behind the `power of five' is to "imbue in the minds of children, the constituents of a healthy diet."
Mr Sharma said the school contact programme is divided into two modules. While the first module extends from class II to V, the second covers nursery to class I. Both the modules have been implemented in Delhi, Noida, Gurgoan, Mumbai, Bangalore and Chennai. In Chennai, the campaign is divided into two phases. In Phase I, Dabur has targeted 20 schools reaching 1,200 students; the second phase will cover another 50 schools. "It's too early to comment on the impact of `schools marketing' on sales. But we would be tracking the progress of the programme and its impact," added Mr Sharma.
Pizza Corner, on the other hand, has been churning out comic books for its young clientele for the past several years. It launched a comic book hero, Zzapi Nercor, an anagram of Pizza Corner, in 1998. The comic book is now nine issues old. Mr Parag Dutta, COO, Pizza Corner India Pvt Ltd, said: "The Adventures of Zzapi Nercor is part of Pizza Corner's effort to further enhance its brand equity. The campaign is a full-fledged marketing initiative."
The Zzapi adventure series, with evil aliens Minodos and Paz Thuzi thrown in, did impact the pizza chain's sales positively, said Mr Dutta.
"The comic is interactive and there are loads of prizes," he added. There are various discounts and coupons attached to the comic which kids can get.
Having distributed nine lakh copies across its 20 dine-in outlets, Pizza Corner has priced the comic at Rs 15 from last edition on.
"Comic books are an integral part of our initiative to create a fun and creative dining atmosphere for children," added Mr Dutta.