28 February, 2022

Brands are timeless, Khans are not

If you have been following all the chatter on social media and top brand / advertising journals and magazines, the buzz is about the recent TVC feat. Shah Rukh Khan for Thums Up and the upcoming new TVC feat. Salman Khan for Pepsi. That the two have swapped their roles for their previously endorsed brands is one thing. But are they even relevant in today’s times is another. The last hit film of SRK was over 12 years back. I mean, a Box Office hit, that is. Salman, on the other hand is up with a new movie every 2 years for ID festival and gets attention across the world, though mostly from the hinterlands of India. While the collections in the first week of the film’s release have been ranging upwards of 100 Cr, 200 Cr & 300 Cr for Salman, that’s not the case for SRK, unfortunately. His core audience, the 90s kids are now having kids who are in their teens or twenties. The moustache-less handsome young man that SRK was faded away many moons back. His demeanour and confidence of Chak De! hasn’t been revisited by the ace actor ever after, for reasons best known to him.

So why would multi-nationals Pepsi & Coke risk their brand image with the Khans? 



After all, Brands are timeless but the Khans are not…



Ask any kid in their high school age group of today and there is a lean chance they would have watched DDLJ, HAHK or DTPH. If you are even wondering what these acronyms mean, you belong to a different era altogether. In the early to mid-90s, SRK endorsed Pepsi and took it across the country – from Board rooms to class rooms, office canteens to Tech Parks and beyond with his “Dil Maange more” campaigns alongside Sachin Tendulkar. On the other side, macho man Salman pounced with “Taste the Thunder” alongside ThumsUp, an Indianized cola drink which is supposedly more popular outside the metro cities. Over time, the two heroes and the other Khan, Mr. Perfect Aamir, endorsed the three cola brands including Coke among themselves. And then came the young crop of actors & sportsmen, mostly cricketers who took over and lead the campaigns.


In 2022, after many years of association with their preferred soft beverages, Salman and SRK have reversed their roles, moving in to the opposite camps, much to the surprise of their fans. The Ad-Industry and Brand veterans are divided in their views too. Salesmen of both companies are a confused lot, for having seen their current Brand Ambassadors in competitive camps earlier. The shopkeepers, mostly kirana owners are clueless how these things work. For the common people on the road, it’s yet another marketing gimmick by multinational companies spending crores of rupees to drive sales. 



The verdict is clearly divided.


Why would SRK, who has always been known for his soft image, even in his recent outings like “Love you Zindagi” portray a more mean image with his latest campaign? See the Ad here.

And with Antim, Salman proved to be the most macho among Bollywood heroes (perhaps after Dharam garam) and remains a bachelor at 57 years of age alongside SRK – yes, that’s correct. In 2025, they both would turn Senior Citizens! 


Why have the best of Marketing minds in Pepsi and Coke chosen this path? Have they run out of options in today’s sporting and entertainment fields? Absolutely not. Do they still believe SRK & Salman draw their own crowds and fan following? Perhaps yes. A big yes, at that. 



Salman’s fanbase is far wider than that of SRK’s. That could be a reason why Pepsi has now onboarded Salman, so they get to target the more mature audience, supposedly. On the other hand, SRK’s core fanbase has now entered their 40s and 50s, some in their 60s too. Perhaps, ThumsUp with Rum is a great combination. Also, ThumsUp could now be vying more familial attention. Maybe not. 


All said and done, Khans age, brands don’t. They will outlive this campaign anyway. 

15 February, 2022

Valentines’ - a lost Retail opportunity?

A decade and a half ago, Valentine’s day sales was something that retailers across India were looking forward to. Slowly, the sales opportunity spread over to Valentines weekend – including the one before or after 14 Feb. What started off with red roses as gifts to woo across genders (yeah, including the Queer community) slowly moved up the value chain. Stores of yore back then like Odyssey, Crossword, Landmark and the good old Archies were customer’s favourites to flock to. From little table clocks in heart shape to greeting cards, posters, charts, perfumes – the list was unending. I recall how even apparel retailers and fashion brands started planning well in advance for the V-Day (sic) and had special collections with red and white patterns spread across tops, skirts, t-shirts and so on. So much so, that the EOSS – End of Season Sale at Department Stores and branded outlets would begin only during late-Feb. The idea was to cash in on the eagerness of customers to wear something new for the occasion. 



Restaurants, Pubs and Bars across India took the opportunity to have specials. Star hotels had a special table set-up including candle-night dinners. Some even had set packages – for the first proposal, to celebrate an anniversary and for families included. The costs were prohibitive in many cases but discerning consumers saved up for their big day. This is when Credit Card issuing Banks wooed customers with special offers for shopping & dining. Many even got in to expensive buys which spiked their interest payouts subsequently. 



With the evolution of the digital media around the end of the first decade of the new millennium, sales of these coveted products & services started declining. The focus moved away from roses and gifts to more elite and expensive ones. Mobile phones were among the most preferred one for the day! After all, the key purpose of a mobile phone is communication and what better than a mobile phone. The haves gifted iPhones. The less privileged took great efforts to gift expensive iPhones and other models to their loved ones. Retailers & Banks collided together by offering EMIs with or without interest. Greeting Cards were now being replaced with digital messages. Movie dates in premium multiplexes were a big draw. 


However, the millennials (Zen Z) were somehow not buying in to this larger story of gifting for a purpose. No matter how many movies in Indian languages and in western contexts have come and gone, the current gen doesn’t feel the necessity for this show-off.Many kids (and grown-ups) from the millennial background prefer to “go dutch” on their first and even the following dates until they are damn sure if the two want to go any further. Many new-gen today prefer to split the cost of marriage and are fast enough to decide on a break-up, before or after marriage. Therefore, gifting and the purported retail uptick in sales is glaringly missing these days. Numbers speak louder than opinions, after all. 



From being condoned for displaying public affection to their partners by right wing extremists, to avoiding public glare of the extended family and their surrounding society in the 2000s, today’s millennials have a very different take on dating and beyond. They are not too shy to not take a gift when they meet someone, prefer to pay for their coffee (or beer) and certainly not taking the date on an expensive dinner. This  consumer attitude is certainly impacting shopping behaviour at stores and online as well. Numbers speak for themselves, after all!


Retailers who had expected a surge in sales of various products were staring at empty store fronts during the last weekend, which also happened to be Valentine’s eve. Restaurants were not even running full capacity, forget having the ability to sell tables at a premium. Is it because of food ordering apps like Swiggy & Zomato? Perhaps not. For one, the cost is more or less the same (or more) as going out. Second, the occasion is best spent with an experience than watching Netflix and dining a pizza! So what’s the message for retailers at large? That V-Day sales opportunity in India is not as big a shopping festival as in other parts of the world?

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