We got 100X value back with our investments in Ramayan & Mahabharat: R S Sodhi, Amul
As part of e4m’s e-Content Jam, R S Sodhi, MD, Amul, spoke about how Amul continues to maintain brand salience in these difficult times and much more
At a time when most advertisers are axing their media spends, dairy brand Amul has decided to in fact invest more in advertising. It’s no secret that the brand is known for its topical advertising and constant communication.
Sharing his insights on ‘Marketing in the times of Covid-19’ at e4m’s e-Content Jam, R S Sodhi, MD, Amul, spoke of how Amul continues to maintain brand salience in these difficult times, during a conversation with Dr Annurag Batra, Chairman and Editor-in-Chief, exchange4media Group & Businessworld.
Asked why in the last two months Amul has still chosen to be the most visible brand on television, Sodhi spoke of the importance of advertising and communicating with the consumer through times of distress. “Advertising is a way of communication. Amul has got consumers who are with us for decades and we have been communicating with them. With the lockdown, consumers more than ever are in distress because they don’t know whether food will be available to them. If we stop communicating with them in these tough times, we won’t be considered family members. So in this lockdown, instead of using a marketing logic, we uncommonly used common sense,” he remarked.
"Marketing does not change with the time. It's a long-term exercise. Marketing does not stop. It's a continuous process. Some methods might change but we don't stop,” Sodhi added.
It was in the second or third week of March that the brand decided to come up with the idea of advertising during ‘Ramayan’ and ‘Mahabharat’, given that people were spending more time with families watching family-oriented programmes. "In my family too, my daughter, granddaughter, son and everyone else was watching TV together which doesn't normally happen. So we thought why not put in more money here and double the budget,” Sodhi shared.
And betting on the strategic value of the programmes worked wonders for the brand. "The investment in Ramayan and Mahabharat was like a lottery. We got 100X back. So we managed brand building and also ensured the product was available,” he revealed.
Brands, whether or not their product is available at the moment, shouldn’t stop communicating with consumers, Sodhi advised. “We need to realise that advertising isn't a sales pitch. We need to be visible at all times. The consumer will sympathise with a brand even if it isn't available at the moment. If not purchasing, at least the consumer will think and decide to buy it later,” Sodhi asserted.
As conversations around health and immunity become big, the brand recently took a cue from the market sentiments and launched Haldi (turmeric) milk. “This is the best time if you're in the market because there is clearly a gap and the demand is going to be generated further. As concerns for safety are becoming big, people will shift from unbranded to branded products. So in the coming time, demand for branding should be real, affordable, more towards natural and trustworthy,” Sodhi remarked. Building on the same, the brand will now be coming out with tulsi and adrak milk.
At a time when media consumption has grown but the pattern has changed, he shared that the company came up with six new TV commercials during the ongoing lockdown to keep weaving conversations around the brand. “For any brand, this was the best time because of the great viewership,” he said.
Moreover, the brand has also capitalized on the captive digital audience and interacted with them through the company’s digital channels with fun collaborations, innovation and recipe showcases, among other things. "We have done over 400 live recipes. Every week, we were getting around 5 crore viewers. The total viewership via FB live has given us 2.5 times more viewership. Sitting at home doesn't mean the consumer has closed their eyes and ears. They're actually more alert and active, and watching everything,” Sodhi stated.
Speaking about the role of newspapers in the new mix, he noted, "During Covid, the habit of news has shifted from physical to digital. But physical newspapers will exist. We can't let go. There may be some shift but it won't go away,” he said.
Furthermore, Amul also bets big on its sports partnerships, and has been gradually increasing it over the last few years. The company had also planned for the Indian Premier League (IPL), but later diverted spends to TV news channels, and went for the retro ‘Ramayan’ and ‘Mahabharat’ sponsorships. When asked about redeployment of this money on IPL, Sodhi shared, "As far as media changes are observed, in the last 3-4 years our spends on sports have increased. Now people are either watching news or sports, or even OTT. Gradually, sports will be the best bet for big spending. In the next 60 to 90 days, sports won't pick up with full swing but it'll slowly catch up with the momentum.”
He shared that the online sale of Amul has been growing tremendously during the lockdown. “There has been a 100% jump. Whatever we lost in physical form, we earned it back in the online form,” Sodhi remarked. He also shared insights on some consumer buying trends, preferences and shifts during the lockdown. "This month we have got a record demand for dark chocolate. It's surprising as we didn't think this is the product that would sell during Covid. Also shrikhand, which was mainly sold in Gujarat and Maharashtra, is now being sold all across the country, so it's a shocking yet happy situation,” he revealed.
Furthermore, he spoke about the role of the supply chain vendors and how the company sailed smoothly through the lockdown owing to their communication with them. "In any business, the supply chain is at stake. In our business, it spreads across 17,000 villages. On Day 1 of the lockdown, we communicated with all supply chain vendors. We told the supply chain vendors that milk is essential and it's a big demand during lockdown. Food is very important and the vendor needs to come out and ensure that milk is distributed,” Sodhi added.
He advised that brands shouldn’t ignore regional and international channels in their mix as well. "I feel that we should always try everything. Doing is the only way of knowing if it works. Doing lots of research is important. One has to be very near to the reality and observe people around, and use common sense while doing it honestly,” he suggested.
His message to brands, marketers and agencies was clear: “See how the consumer is behaving, take an advantage of the increasing media consumption, don’t be transactional in the way you are approaching the outreach and keep communicating with consumers even through the storms, tug at their heartstrings with ingenuity and trust.”
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