IMPACT Creative Talks: 'Brand life is much longer than a one-off stunt'
On the panel were Prahlad Kakkar, Manish Bhatt, Santosh Padhi and Sambit Mohanty
The third episode of IMPACT’s virtual webinar series, Creative Talks saw the participation of leaders from the advertising and creative industry presenting their views on the topic - “Does controversy help a brand sell?”. The panel also discussed the impact of controversies on a brand’s sales and how it affects the brand in the long run.
The panellists for the webinar were Prahlad Kakkar, ad filmmaker and the Founder of Genesis Films; Manish Bhatt, Founder, Scarecrow M&C Saatchi; Santosh Padhi, CCO and Co-founder, Taproot Dentsu; and Sambit Mohanty, Head of Creative, South, McCann WorldGroup. The session was moderated by Neeta Nair, Assistant Editor, IMPACT.
After the recent Patanjali controversy over it’s latest offering ‘Coronil’, Mohanty shared his views on the brand’s approach of proverbially "jumping down the cliff and grow their wings on the way down. Cautioning about using controversy to propel products, he said, "Customer will try your products once or twice but after that, he is going to reject it outright.”
While commenting on Coronil, Mohanty expressed his scepticism but added that in a nation of 1.3 billion people, there will be gullible people who would want to give it a try.
Whether a controversy can help brands to boost their sales, Manish Bhatt stated, “What I understood is that awareness is something which stunts can’t manage, but building a brand and sustainable image is impossible through short-cuts of advertising. Those things are just fly by night sort of a buzz, you can do that but brand life is much longer than these one-offs and I think over a period of time, these things will not work.”
Santosh Padhi elaborated on Patanjali’s struggle with FMCG category and what went wrong for the brand, which initially was doing well, he stated, “I feel a little bit of credit has to be given to him (Baba Ramdev) because the entire brand wasn’t built purely on controversies. There was something good about that brand where they spotted that India who was the creator of Ayurveda needs to be given back."
But then after that, he didn’t have the vision to go to the right people. Today whatever we do, you need to have a right partner. He’s never ever got the right partner to do justice with the core idea, he never came to the right side of people like us to take the brand forward. And that’s where he absolutely messed it up because it had its potential, it had right ingredients and it had spotted the right target audience. I think he was too greedy to keep the product to himself. I mean a brand who is launching products right from ghee to jeans, where do you stand and what kind of strategy is this? I have heard there are a lot of fabulous products in the line, he should have concentrated on those. Their honey did magically well in the initial days, soaps and oils did well but he never concentrated on the packaging, it never appeals to me. If they would have put a little bit of effort then I would have gone and bought it. He took a lot of things for granted and so I think the brand never flew and it’s backfiring now. That’s the power of communication, strategy and visionary, that he never had.”
Addressing the controversy around his Paan Bahar ad and why he considered a global icon, Pierce Brosnan for endorsing a local brand, Mohanty said, “I know there’s a lot of controversies on that particular act and I would consider that particular piece of work as an ‘act’ and not so much an ‘ad’ because we never set out to create something controversial. It was more of a marketing ploy, I would say a disruptive strategy in a market where PaanBahar as a brand was on the 4th or 5th and number one was this brand called ‘Rajnigandha’. It happened to become controversial because of the nature of the product and also because a former Bond was endorsing it, that’s something that nobody had ever imagined would happen.
"I think Paan Masala is a product that inherently suffers from an inferiority complex, there is very little glamour associated with having Paan Masala as apposed to cigarettes or alcohol and which is why I think celebrity endorsements play a really major role in making it look appealing to the masses. But from the outside, we were very clear that we didn’t want a Bollywood celebrity and we were like, let’s go big or go home. So my suggestion was that if you have to do it then do it with a global star and at that time, of course, Daniel Craig was already the new Bond but Pierce Brosnan was very much fresh in the minds of people as Bond. Paan Masala is usually consumed by older people and most of the people, I think identified him with Bond. So one hand, you had competitions like Manoj Bajpayee, Ajay Devgan and Shahrukh Khan and on the other hand, you have James Bond, who is an international icon endorsing a local brand. So it really created a lot of shockwaves but the impact it had on the sales was unprecedented, the brand grew by 20-30% that year.”
While sharing about how negative publicity works, PrahladKakkar said, “Negative publicity is a very strange phenomenon today. You have what is called in our society today - ‘Fringe Loonies’. Now, Fringe Loonies in my terms are ultra-right, ultra-left or ultra communal. They form 5-10% of population mix but they actually share of mind and share of voice is 90% because they are the noisiest people you can ever imagine on earth, they are trolling and nobody particularly likes what they are saying. So the easiest way to start a controversy if you want one without putting everybody off and still have your brand doing well is through provoking these Fringe Loonies. So when you provoke these Fringe Loonies with something rational, what they didn’t believe in then they’ll come out in force and they’ll come out for your product or advertising and try to get it banned. But if you provoke the communal or left-wing loonies or whoever the loonies are and make 3-5% of the population, they make so much of noise about something, even if they have not seen the ad. Now the point here is that 95% of the population when they see the ad and see who the buttoned of it is are with you that you did right and the 5% loonies are screaming their heads off and share a voice about 95%. There are people who don’t have an opinion on it are not saying a word and at the most, they’ll say, ‘like’. The fringe loonies make only 3% of the population but they make so much noise that it’s a really interesting game to provoke them. They then make the noise for you and then the media picks it up and becomes a multiplier.”
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