Circa 2013: It was supposedly the most awaited FMCG launch to happen… a challenger that would shake the No 1 brand and run tremors of fear through it… a market shaker who prompted competitors to pre-empt with their challenger launches.
As I watched the ads, my jaw dropped, and it even touched the floor. I was amazed, zapped, stupefied all at once. The first ad I saw was of an inane set of people chewing and eating, with Madhuri Dixit Nene appearing at the end, stating some lines about toothpaste that does everything. Someone who wrote the positioning will undoubtedly get an honourable mention when I teach my students about the ‘E2=0’ principle… which means ‘when you emphasise everything, you emphasise nothing’.
As a proponent of correct language, it also appalled me to hear the repeated use of the word ‘batteesi’.
In Hindi, the word is common in the context of dentures. A modified phrase ‘batteeson barkaraar’ was used for years to advertise a popular brand while rendering its ’32 intact’ promise in Hindi. For a Hindi speaking person, batteesi is a negative word, most often used for reprimanding, such as ‘batteesi mat dikhao’ (most often used to condemn those who laugh or grin irreverently). In worst cases, ‘batteesi tod denge… or batteesi bahar nikal denge’ is used to threaten someone with dire consequences.
I wondered why did the brand say, ‘India ki batteesi’.
Then I saw another ad for Oral-B toothbrush, with a jaded Madhuri Dixit Nene mouthing out her ‘Smile Officer’ role with a plasticky smile in tow… at the end, I saw a ‘buy an Oral-B brush and get a toothpaste free offer’.
Wonder what the client and its agencies were thinking as they set out to launch a superior, anticipated brand in a cut-throat and high loyalty toothpaste market through an offer. If I try hard and give P&G its due, this may be the company’s way of promoting trials. But again, does this reflect how the company has positioned itself in India. Ask anyone who knows the company beyond being just a consumer, and the individual will talk about the company’s products being premium and high market. If that is how they have built their perception across their several brands, why would they want to explore trials through a bundled offer?
All I can say with my professional experience is that this entry strategy of P&G had for sure shaken their competitors. In this case, the competitors must be shaking with uncontrolled laughter, as they need not do anything to protect their interests. P&G had done them a great favour with their launch communication, which passes by like a ship in the dark and tops it with a ‘take it home free’ offer. I hoped once again that marketers and advertisers were more innovative. Anyway, years later, I continue to wonder as Ghalib said, ‘Ya ilaahi ye majra kya hai’.