While our men in blue were firing up the cricket World Cup, match-after-match the marketers’ world cup was as damp as an English summer. Though commercial breaks are running full with spots for e-wallets, deodorants, bulbs and whatnot. But big spenders and traditional rivals in the cola category played it too cool for some. That was until an 87-year-old superfan, Charulata Patel took the spotlight last week during the India-Bangladesh match. Patel not only got screen time on-ground because of her enthusiastic cheering but her pictures took the internet by storm. Captain Virat Kohli and Mahindra Group chairman Anand Mahindra offered her ‘free tickets’ for the rest of the matches. The nation has been talking about her via Instagram posts, Facebook shares, and retweets. Two-days after Patel’s zest boosted the spirit of netizens and the players, Pepsi announced that it has roped in the superfan for its ongoing #HarGhoontMeinSwagHai campaign. Pepsi, which gave us the most memorable example of ambush marketing with its ‘Nothing Official About It’ campaign during the 1996 World Cup, piqued experts’ interest again last week. Could this be another ambush? The jury isn’t convinced.
Pepsi puts its latest move down to a “fixed and fluid” marketing approach, another term for brands’ hijacking topical moments. However, Pepsi’s distinctive positioning hinges on its youth brand status. In such a scenario, does bringing an 87-year-old on board make sense for the brand? A PepsiCo India spokesperson says, “Charulata Patel’s passion for the game shows the world that age is no bar when it comes to living life in the moment; it is uninhibited, confident and full of swag.”
Priti Murthy, CEO, OMD India, calls Pepsi’s use of Patel’s passion to launch a marketing coup an “opportunistic association”. She adds, “I don’t know if there is any visible RoI. And it is more moment capturing than moment marketing. It’s a good move, especially when we haven’t seen Pepsi making a big noise at cricket events these days.”
Coca-Cola, an official sponsor of International Cricket Council (ICC), has been advertising heavily on the telly with its #SayItWithCoke featuring actors Ranbir Kapoor and Paresh Rawal. But industry observers say the brand hasn’t created surprising moments for audiences yet. Karthik Srinivasan, an independent marketing consultant, thinks that initially Coca-Cola commercials had a fun plot, but slowly it “fizzed out”. Having said that, Pepsi’s moment marketing strategy, too, has left Srinivasan puzzled; “I don’t know how Pepsi will make an 87-year-old its endorser. I am not even sure how much they might spend on media to promote this. It is an interesting angle though, and will hit the mark only if Pepsi manages to be quirky.”
Santosh Padhi, chief creative officer and founder, Taproot Dentsu, who worked on Pepsi’s ‘Change the Game’ campaign during 2011 ICC Cricket World Cup, agrees with Srinivasan. “Brands are not just competing with each other but also with content. You can win the content battle only if you are creative.”
Murthy adds, “Today, a lot of brands don’t stop campaigning with one moment-post. They scale up a moment marketing idea if they want to create long term conversations. That was not the case a few years ago when brands spent all their money on one mega sports event, which was mainly cricket. Today, cricket World Cup is a marketing event and not just another advertising opportunity.” But, she adds, one can’t ignore the durability factor. It’s easy, after all, to lose the plot to Likes.
Padhi echoes her sentiments when he says brands shouldn’t be just betting on trending topics and short term plans. “Though serving the needs of the digital user should be on a brand’s priority list, brand managers also need to spend more time nourishing ideas that have worked for them.”
As the shelf life of content gets increasingly shorter, the question is does the big idea have enough ‘swag’ to live for more than a moment?