Brands playing with catch phrases to turn most popular trends into ads

Dabur has launched #Vocalforlocal series for the majority of its brands
Advertising is often described as the art of making the worse seem better. But given the bleak and grim outlook that has gripped the world; that is a tough ask. And at a time when every moment seems the same as the previous one or the one after, brands are moving from tagline to tagline to ride with the reigning mood of the nation, hoping to lift the collective consumptive spirit and be easily recalled at the point of purchase. 

In the early months of Covid-19 and the lockdown that followed, health and hygiene were the most used phrases in advertisements. As people grew anxious about ways to prevent being infected by the virus, their health concerns reflected in the search trends on Google and the phrases quickly found favour with brands looking to stay relevant in the moment.

The most recent phrases to make it to advertisers’ popularity lists are ‘immunity boosters’ and ‘vocal for local’. So much so that even brands that have traditionally pitched taste, flavour, price or herbal-natural ingredients in their advertising narratives, are all playing the same tune.

Dabur has launched #Vocalforlocal series for the majority of its brands, from Red toothpaste, Amla hair oil, Real fruit juices, Chyawanprash and Hajmola as has Prataap Snacks for its Yellow Diamond brand of snacks. Horlicks has a digital campaign on the drink’s immunity boosting potential against Coronavirus, Wagh Bakhri is promoting immunity boosting tea and there are numerous small brands for bread, snacks and even mattresses that have pitched their advertising booths around immunity boosters and local roots. 


The ads are reflective of the most searched trends in the country today. Google Trends data reveals that in the first fortnight of May, the term ‘immunity booster’ was among the top trending search threads in the country, spiking the most in Delhi, Goa, Chandigarh and Uttarakhand. The thread was largely accompanied with questions such as ‘What is the best immunity booster food/drink?’ and ‘Are (ginger, turmeric and such other herbs and spices) immunity boosters?’

On a similar note, the term ‘vocal for local’ began its climb to the top from May 12, soon after Prime Minister Narendra Modi advocated the same in his speech to the nation. Brands reacted almost instantly with digital banners, posts, tweets and videos about their all-Indian roots. The trend has since plateaued as several ministers and industry leaders have stepped in to clarify that local is not about ‘swadeshi’ that is born in India, but more about being Indian in spirit and manufacturing origin.   

The need to stay relevant has seen brands rushing to keep up with the online chatter and turn the most popular trends into advertising copy. But do brands gain by following the search data in this manner? 

Horlicks and Del Monte have ads that claim their products have immunity-boosting properties,

Brand experts say that the move to incorporate talk points from popular conversations online is not a bad tactic. However brands must be discerning about the trends they pick up; not all most-searched or most-talked about moments can win recall and more importantly the phrase or trend a brand picks up for its ad copy must align with the core values it stands for. 

Harish Bijoor of Harish Bijoor Consults warned that while it is a lucrative opportunity for brands (to toe a popular concern such as finding effective immunity boosters), one needs to be cautious. “If brands can launch new products and create new categories, then that means it is reinstating itself but on the other if they are just repositioning the brand, then it is opportunistic”, Bijoor said.

To gain goodwill and recall in the long term, brands must look at this as a repositioning moment rather than just a way to jump into a conversation, experts said. “It is a great time to introduce health propositions (such as claiming to be able to boost immunity) to boost one’s sales and position products terming health benefits. 

Anything which is contextualised with the virus is now prone to grab attention,” senior advertising and branding professional Ramesh Thomas said. But as the experts point out, brands need more than popular catch phrases to ride the crisis, they need an authentic narrative to connect with the customer.  

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