Fevicol is one of the most iconic brands in the Indian market. The uniqueness of its success story promises an interesting case study of not only brand positioning but also of advertising communications, be it in the print or electronic media. Fevicol is owned by Pidilite which has been manufacturing it since 1959. The adhesive brand, which is immediately identifiable to most Indians, has been so popular that it has become a part of the popular culture. So much so that it is now synonymous for any kind of adhesives and people use the word “fevicol” to indicate adhesive irrespective of the real brand. It has to be agreed that Fevicol has reached this stage by offering quality products continuously over five decades. But the credit for its success also goes to the innovative, award winning commercials of fevicol which have been immensely popular among the masses. In this brief study, an effort is being made to explore the branding process of fevicol in the Indian market through an analysis of the advertisements created by it.
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The Indian advertising industry has had a unique history owing to its unique socio economic and political set up. However, after the globalization process was started in the early 90’s, it has become more in sync with its global counterparts. The advertising industry in India grew at 17% in the year 2008 despite recessionary affects in other parts of the world (Nair, 2008). The Rs20,717 Crore or approximately $4.5 billion industry has been growing at a rapid rate over the past decade and it features local ad agencies as well as Indian subsidiaries of global advertising giants like Hindustan Thompson Associates (HTA), the Indian arm of J Walter Thomson, also Ogilvy & Mather (O&M), Leo Burnett and Lowe Lintas (Austin, 2001).
While advertising used to be very simplistic in India till a decade ago, the global trends are now fast catching up. The audience is more sophisticated and demanding now that they were ever before. They not only expect to get useful information, but also want to get entertained through the ads since they are spending their precious time watching them (Douglas & Craig, 2001). But at the same time there are linguistic, cultural and traditional values and expectations that drive the buying decisions in India (Pandya, 1977). So, “Honesty” can be considered a prerequisite for selling a product in India. The there has to be a constant and credible advertising effort all the time (Wells, 1996). Recall value as well as persuasion are important differentiators in the Indian market (Kotler et al., 2008).
International advertising basically involves dissemination of commercial information to the target audiences in multiple markets. But these target audiences differ from country to country based on the cultural impacts that dictate how they perceive certain symbols, interpret certain stimuli and respond to humorous or emotional appeals (Chandra, Griffith & Ryans, 2002). India is also a unique culture that has a very different taste from the western audience and despite a larger exposure to foreign media in recent decades these deep rooted cultural differences will not vanish in the near future.
Asian cultures are often considered “high context” cultures where the information presented is as important as the information embedded (Hofstede, 2001). People here are more appealed by striking images and information gathering often involves personal contacts including friends, neighbors and family. In such cultures, selective reinforcement of various social roles or values might help in molding the cognitions as well as attitudes that dictate the decision make process in the marketplace. Very often the symbols and ideals of multi national corporations are made according to the social norms of western civilization and hence they fail to accommodate more traditional societies (Sehgal, 2000).
The international brands tend to standardize the communications all over the world for their convenience. It means that they can use the same communications all over the world thus saving their expenses. But it is not a very simple process and local adaptation is required many a times to attract the native population in various geographically and ethnically diverse markets. Studies have shown that the different creative aspects of advertisements get standardized or adapted at a different rate. For example, text and voiceovers are quickly adapted, while visual elements are standardized (Mazzarella, 2003). But as far as the Indian market is concerned, it has been suggested that more adaptation would be helpful in this market. In fact, new entrants can take and standardized approaches by targeting the upper socio economic brackets which are more familiar with western ideas and are comfortable with that too (Chandra, Griffith & Ryans, 2002). But for the lower income segments and remote geographies in rural areas, more localized approaches are required.
India is one of the markets that demand extreme localization and yet can not be ignored due to the sheer size and opportunity it offers. In a survey conducted during the 90’s, Business Today arrived at certain characteristics that are expected from advertisements in India. Basically they are expected to provoke either humor or surprise by creativity and by drawing unexpected associations. But one should be careful that while people like to be astonished, that should come through the story in ad and not through the product itself. Moreover, they should give birth to aspirations within consumers (Granstrom & Henriksson, 2000). In fact, local brands like Fevicol have picked these trends earlier and shown the right way by their innovative advertisements. Some of these advertisements will be analyzed in detail in the following section.
It is also noteworthy that the environment is rapidly changing in India. Till the 80’s Television was not very prevalent in India. Also, it only had one state controlled TV channel. So all the advertisers had to do was to make the product visible. But now, with the explosion of satellite channels, there has to be something extra in these ads to keep people glued (Bullis & Douglas, 1997). So, advertising has become a very intense and expensive activity that requires a great deal of customization also to have any semblance of success in a complex and demanding market.
The basic purpose of this study is to understand the branding process of fevicol by studying its advertising communications, basically print and television commercials. Basic principles of content analysis have been used in this study. Content analysis can be defined as a research technique that helps in making valid logical inferences from any meaningful matter like images or texts, to the contexts of its use (Krippendorff, 2004). A few popular fevicol advertisements have been handpicked for this study that generally cover the overall image of Fevicol in the Indian market and they have been analyzed using standard variables like audio and visual devices, commercial tone, music and dancing, commercial content, information content, appeals, promises and selling propositions. Let us first describe these variables before moving ahead,
These are basically the rhymes, slogans, or taglines that are catchy and easy to remember so that they can capture public attention. A good background score also enhances the impact. Type of music depends on the type of products being advertised and also on the market where it is operating (Krippendorff, 2004). When such punch lines get popular, people start using them in day to day conversation and they become the part of popular culture and the product also benefits from it.
Visuals can be of many types. Depending on the product being sold, theme of the ad and cultural aspects, they can depict beauty or ugliness. Striking scenic visuals can also have a deep impact on the audiences. Nowadays, computer graphics and animations are widely used to create visuals which would have been otherwise impossible to create (Krippendorff, 2004). It especially works for hi-tech products to show the technical perfection. Also, at times taglines appear visually in the commercials to help people remember it more easily.
Selling propositions are the promises made through the product. It depends on the actual purpose of that product (Holsti, 1969). It can be product performance (e.g. mileage of a car), subjective benefits of owning the product (e.g. become more successful by wearing a certain branded suite), comfort (e.g. air conditioner), safety (e.g. electric switches) or ethical appeals (e.g. green products like energy saving bulbs).
Tone or Atmosphere of the Commercial
It basically depicts what certain characteristic of human psyche is being targeted to elicit certain reactions. For example, using adorable kids to appeal the softer side of the consumer works very well at times especially for household items. On the other hand, hard selling with a lot of relevant information can also work for certain products like technical equipments. Humor inducing ads also work very well for almost all type of products (Burning & Kintz, 1968). In similar ways, the tone can be religious, traditional, fashionable, glamorous, health conscious, somber, laid back, mysterious, rugged etc depending on product type and target audience. No matter what the tone is, good information content with value or price information is always appreciated.
Format of the Commercial
TV commercials come in certain formats depending on the vision of the creator. Comic or satirical storylines are often lapped up by viewers very quickly. It might contain a single coherent story or multiple vignettes conveying the same message. Ads showing a slice of day to day life through the story are immensely popular (Ogilvy, 1985). Some other formats might include testimonials bys some satisfied users, celebrity endorsement, product performance demonstration (e.g. before/after using a product), fantasy elements with exaggerated visuals to ignite the imagination of viewers etc.
Music and Dancing
Music is definitely a part of the auditory devices, but they can also be considered separately along with dance in the Indian context. A lot of Indian advertisements borrow from popular film music and dance and also use popular celebrities to push the products by showing off their dancing skills (Bhatia, 2000). Since Indian commercial cinema often contain lavish song and dance sequences which have had profound impact on the culture and hence can be used in commercials as well.
Fevicol has come up with many award winning advertisements over last few decades. This study is considering a few of such popular advertisements to take this analysis ahead.
The ad that achieved instant popularity as well as critical acclaim was the one involving an overcrowded bus, somewhere in rustic India.
Image Courtesy: Pidilite
As it can be seen in the above picture, it involved an old bus struggling to pull itself towards its destination. It is full with people inside and hence people are sitting at the top and also dangling from the doors and windows. But the fevicol logo is visible clearly thus giving an impression that it is the adhesive that is saving everything from falling apart. It is symbolic, but the symbolism comes across very strongly.
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A very intelligent print ad shown above, made for more up market consumers, contains mike Tyson on one page and picture of a fevicol jar on the other side. It seems as if part of the Tyson’s picture has been torn apart as it got stuck to the fevicol image and in the torn potion, a human ear from the page below it can be seen. It’s an wonderful example of giving away symbolic message and at the same time using pop culture references to draw the humor.
Another TVC contained a dancing man moving past a series of closed shops at night. But as he passes a shutter that has a Fevicol logo, his shadow gets stuck there and keep dancing al by itself even as the person moves ahead. It was again a practically impossible but symbolically strong yet entertaining presentation.
There are many other popular advertisements by Fevicol. One of the early advertisements contained a group of muscular men and elephants trying to tear apart a wooden plank which was joined by Fevicol. Of course they fail despite shouting the slogan “jor lagake haisha”, which a rustic catchphrase used by people while playing tug of war and other similar activities. This became a very popular phrase with tremendous recall value as the commercial gained popularity. Another one contained a person trying to break an egg and failing repeatedly, only to realize that the hen laid the eggs on a fevicol jar. One more ad contains a mother in rustic India, trying hard to keep her child from roaming around and failing repeatedly. She finally succeeds when she places the kid on a drum with a fevicol logo. The print ad shown below contains Yama (the Hindu god of death), trying to pull out the soul of a dead man but failing as the man is wearing a Fevicol logo on his T Shirt.
So, there is a common thread between all these advertisements.
Firstly, they take a slice of life situation, ad some impossible yet humorous twist and get across the adhesive strength of fevicol.
Except for the Tyson ad, it uses rustic or suburban Indian setting, which is a very intelligent decision, considering that most of the users come from lower economic backgrounds. Upper class consumers in India often don’t do such activities themselves and pass them onto household helps and thus they are hardly targeted.
The rustic feel is enhanced with suitable background score, make ups, costumes and set designs.
Humor is very important in all these ads but they are not allowed to go over the top or distract attention form the original message. It only strengthens the messages.
They consciously avoid songs, dances or celebrity endorsements which are prevalent in Indian advertisements.
Overall, it gives an impression that fevicol is the universal adhesive that can join just anything in the world.
Humor is considered one of the most universal of emotions and can work for any setup and any market. Although these tailor made for India, a lot of them can still work in any other market as well. This is how Fevicol has built a brand that is immensely recognizable and successful. Coming to the consumer segmentation of Fevicol, as discussed above, it has mainly targeted the working class population in the small towns and villages. The overcrowded bus seen the advertisement is a very common sight in Indian hinterlands and people living there could connect with them immediately. At the same time the commercials are so intelligently constructed that they can appeal to any other sections of the audience too.
So, Fevicol evidently targets the working class population but at the same time don’t make it appear too alien or targeted to others. The undercurrent of humor makes it strike a cord with other consumers too. That is why Fevicol becomes an excellent example in brand positioning. It knows very well who its targets are, but still makes an effort to drive a message that is universally appealing and recognizable.
Religious, social and moral values are far stronger and decisive in the societies like India and that is where brands like Fevicol score by appreciating that difference and playing according to those rules. It knows who its target consumers are and hence sets up the commercials with elements that can be easily relatable for the target audience. The humor is a constant feature that entertains even after repeated viewing and discourages people from switching channels. It is an adhesive brand and its qualities are communicated very effectively through symbolic instances. It should also be noted that irrespective of its positioning, it has been able to build a brand that is recognizable by everyone in the market. So, someone might never use it, but still knows what it is and enjoys the entertaining commercials. This ultimately leads to a healthy word of mouth publicity and might be helpful if it diversifies into some other sector in the near future, as the brand Fevicol is known to all.
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