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BRAND INDIA: Case Studies



Case Studies


Brands combine trust and daring in creative tension


Two examples from different categories


by Navonil Chatterjee

Chief Strategy Officer, Planning

Y&R India



These examples illustrate the interplay of Trust and Daring by two leading India brands—the soft drink Thums Up and Ariel, the detergent. Through their actions and communications, these brands achieve the perfect blend of these two attributes.


Thums Up: resilient and iconic

This is the story of one of India’s most resilient and iconic brand. Launched in 1977 to fill the gap that Coca-Cola left when it exited India, Thums Up introduced a new flavor with some extra fizz and boldness. Indian customers so adored the new drink, it soon became the market leader. However, in 1993, when Coca-Cola re-entered India and acquired Thums Up, it is rumored that Coke initially wanted to kill the indigenously produced market leader (something that the company denies).


 But the Thums Up brand was so loved, and consumers trusted it so completely, that it not only survived, but continues to be India’s favorite cola brand. And one reason for that popularity has been that the brand has stayed consistent both with its product and in its communications. Thums Up, unlike other colas, was not just another sweet drink, but had that strong fizz and punch that made it a symbol of masculinity over the years. For decades, the brand stuck to its promise of “Taste the Thunder,” and the advertising showcased physical acts of daring performed by the different celebrity brand ambassadors over the years.


Common to all the brand ambassadors was this element of virility and daring-do. Former brand ambassadors, Akshay Kumar and Salman Khan, and the current ambassador, Ranveer Singh, are all poster boys of Indian masculinity, ruggedness and bravado. For decades, the acts of physical dare-devilry revolved around the protagonist chasing a bottle of Thums Up. Lately, there has been a slight shift, with more purpose and good citizenship aspects to the character, who now saves the lives of school children, just before their school bus tips off a cliff.  A brand which used to say Aaj kuch toofani kartey hain (“Let’s do something daring today”), is now lacing the action and energy with a do-good spirit, and a protagonist who is not only daring, but also can be trusted now with other people’s lives as well!


Ariel: progressive and provoking

While Thums Up is a lot about the demonstration of the physical aspect of daring, there is another brand that has recently shown a lot of guts in India. This brand is P&G’s Ariel, which is one of India’s most trusted premium detergent brands and one that excels particularly in the washing machine detergents category. In a male-dominated and chauvinistic country like India, where household chores were invariably and solely a woman’s domain and responsibility, the brand dared to ask the question “Is laundry only a woman’s job?”


The brand did not stop at just highlighting the massive gender inequality that existed in Indian society, but also had the guts and gumption to cajole Indian men to “Share the Load” of washing at home. It was clearly progressive thinking at work, something that resonated well with a new India where women were proving themselves to be more than equal to men in every sphere and walk of life.  The “Share the Load” campaign not only questioned old stereotypes, but also held a mirror to what ideal parenting should be in this new age of gender equality.


An memorably captured this message in the emotional impact of a father’s remorse as he watches his adult daughter return home from the office, ask her son about his homework, and prepare dinner while her oblivious husband stares at his computer. Realizing that his daughter’s stressed life is in part his fault because the example he’d set with this own past behavior, the father writes an apology to his daughter, declaring that it’s never too late to change, and promising to help her mother with the laundry.


The ad stoked the collective guilt within our patriarchal society and it showed the way forward. This was not your run-of-the-mill detergent ad talking about whiter and brighter clothes, but a refreshing act of provocation, daring the audience to do the right thing.