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August 16, 2011, 5:27 am UTC
The prompt response by HUL to come out with the Vaseline ad after the cricketing controversy, shows the new face of a quick, nimble Indian advertising and branding industry
Till a few years back, there used to be at least a few months gap between the time an idea was first brought on the table and the advertisement that finally came on TV or print. In this fast paced world that we live in, it seems like a few months is a long time to wait. What we have today instead is advertisement that is served up in barely a couple of weeks. Proof: the Vaseline ad brought out by Hindustan UniLever (HUL) after a comment made by an English cricketer against an Indian batsman.
During the second test match between India and England at Trent Bridge, the English cricketers appealed after a ball by James Anderson which seemed to have been nicked by Indian batsman V V S Laxman straight into the hands of the wicketkeeper. However, the Hot Spot Technology that was supposed to spot edges on bat or player body, did not record it.
This prompted former English captain Michael Vaughn to comment on his Twitter account, “Has Vaseline on the outside edge saved the day for Laxman?” This simple comment snowballed into a major cricketing controversy with the media expanding the issue beyond proportion. However, one thing that stood out, whether the allegation was true or false, was Vaseline.
The comment was more like a rant from Vaughn. Considering that cricket is like a religion in India, the national media took it seriously that followed with expert commentaries, accusations and counter accusations flying thick and fast. If one read or heard any one of those comments, one would notice that the word Vaseline, was repeated constantly.
Vaseline is a petroleum Jelly brand that is owned by Hindustan UniLever (HUL). It was free publicity and like any smart-brand owner would do, or should do, they decided to leverage this further.
The need, however, was to be quick. HUL understood that there’s a small window of opportunity between a topic that is being spoken of in the media. This was a challenge considering that the bigger the brand, the longer it takes them to execute any campaign. Call it the elephant-syndrome where a company like a small animal is agile and quick on its foot while a big company like an elephant is often stuck by the weight of its own systems and bureaucracy.
HUL, to its credit, proved that even elephants can be quick, when it came out with a massive brand campaign that leveraged upon the controversy, in less than 10 days.
It not only advertised in the traditional media, but also rolled out a Facebook campaign on the controversy. The message of the campaign was clear - Vaseline is used for a lot of thing in India, but never on cricket bats.
The campaign was a winner even before it came on air. The reasons are not hard to fathom. Firstly, cricket is more than a game in India and borders on religion. Secondly, a foreigner accusing an Indian of tampering with that religion is like blasphemy and thus rakes up patriotic sentiments. The HUL campaign tacitly plays upon the patriotic sentiments of Indians by suggesting that VVS Laxman, who Vaughn accused of using Vaseline, is innocent.
Incidentally, on the other side, Vaughan has taken the campaign very sportingly tweeting “Love it...Can you send me a picture of the Advert please? Very amusing."
Incidentally, the instances of brands leveraging upon something that is popular with the masses, is increasing. In 2010, Emami the owners of the brand Zandu Balm, leveraged upon the popularity of the song ‘Munni Badnam Hui’ from the film Daabang in its media campaign.
A few years back, it would have been impossible for a big brand like HUL to generate such a quick response - right from conceptualization to execution of a campaign. Yet, in a world of excessive consumer exposure to different types of media, brands understand that to miss an opportunity that is presenting itself just because it could not speed itself up, is stupid. The recent Vaseline campaign gives ample proof of the new, bold, quick-to-respond brands and their advertising agencies that not only epitomize the best branding practices, but are blazing a new path at every opportunity.
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