Amul brings nostalgia back in ads to stay relevant amid Covid-19 lockdown

Topics Coronavirus | Social Media | Amul

Amul began running its old ads alongside the reruns of Ramayana and Mahabharata on Doordarshan when it spotted a lot of viewers getting nostalgic about them, on their social media timelines
When it was announced that Doordarshan would be running reruns of old popular shows, social media was abuzz with memes and wisecracks. Some welcomed it, some pointed it out as yet another case of the state dictating its tastes upon the people, while others used the opportunity to remark that old was truly gold when it came to television programming.

No matter what was said and posted, the point was that the move had social media abuzz. And for Gujarat Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation (GCMMF) that owns Brand Amul, this was the best time to step in and claim its spot in the social media chatter.

In the midst of a lockdown, with screen time at its highest point, advertisers have been looking for the best way to jump into the conversation without coming off as insensitive to the times. An opportunity such as this one was a perfect way to do that.GCMMF announced it would sponsor the shows. It started out airing its current ads but as people switched on their television sets, soaked in the nostalgia and reported back on their social media timelines that they would have liked to see the old Amul ads, the brand’s marketing team tuned in. And soon, Amul began running its old ads, in keeping with the original date of broadcast of the shows (Ramayana and Mahabharata).

This was a masterstroke, say experts, executed at minimal incremental marketing cost that managed to grab the spotlight even as other brands were struggling to shake off the shadow of the virus. It does not matter that many of the ads promote products that are no longer part of GCMMF’s portfolio or that the messages in the ads may appear way out of date, all that matters is that brand has managed to keep itself visible and talked about.

“While consumers liked the old ads, many on social media sought for our retro-ads from the ‘90s. So we began doing that. This is how Amul has stayed modern and contemporary,” said GCMMF managing director, R S Sodhi, “A brand has to be with its customers even during difficult times. And this is being done in multiple ways. We are not taking undue advantage of our customers by raising prices. And we are spending maximum efforts on visibility at a time when our customers are mostly indoors and consuming media across formats,” said Sodhi. GCMMF has increased its spending on advertisement and branding activities for Amul by over 50 per cent during the lockdown according to several sources. Sodhi, however, is reluctant to put a number down.

Brand expert and CEO of TRA Research N Chandramouli believes that Amul’s move in the midst of a lockdown holds out valuable lessons. “If a brand can alter its product (and proposition) to meet current needs like Amul does, it should do it. Secondly, it needs to connect with all its stakeholders and ensure their needs are met including employees. Thirdly, it needs to be consistent with its branding like Amul. Brands should not stop communicating during bad times,” Chandramouli adds.

Sodhi explains that as a brand Amul wants to be seen as an understanding partner to the customers. “Through uncluttered, uninterrupted advertisement during news or re-run shows, we are communicating to all our stakeholders that we care for them,” he adds.

What is surprising say many marketers is that other brands did not step in with a similar strategy. Just as Amul is working with the nostalgia around the reruns of old shows, other brands could have done that too. In fact there were several multinational and Indian brands that were running their ads on TV at the time. But Amul is the only one to have jumped in and seized the moment.

In his blog (beastoftraal), communications consultant Karthik Srinivasan said, “Any brand that used to advertise during the first airing of Ramayana or Mahabharata on Doordarshan in the 90s could have gone on this nostalgic trip using nothing but their own advertising archives. This includes many other brands like Bajaj, Vicco, Dabur, Chyawan-prash, etc. But it took an Amul to pull it off first, and in style!”


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