Brand taglines and pop culture

I was putting my swimming kit into the locker in my swimming club when I heard an old man sing “Oonche log. Oonchi pasand”. I chimed in “Manikchand” (a brand of pan masala that used the line) and asked him why now. He replied that I was tucking my bag into a locker that was almost my height (6 feet), while he was stuffing his bag into a locker that was aimed at "less oonche people" — he was just under 5 feet 6 inches.

Then there was someone who tagged me to his tweet that went something like this: An old friend visited us last week and when I mentioned our kids were 12 years and 15 years of age, he commented “Your wife is a Santoor Mummy”. A Santoor Mummy is supposed to be one who doesn’t look her age. If I am not mistaken, this line was used in the movie Dream Girl by the hero and his friend to curry favour with their landlord’s wife.

You may have also heard this comment being made in campuses or offices when a boy and a girl are inseparable: “Yeh to Fevicol wala jod hai, aasani se tootega nahin (this is a Fevicol bond, it will not break easily).”

In the film Chhichhore, the young hero while starting out at an engineering college asks a pan-bidiwala where he could find the room allocated to him. The shopkeeper replies: “Melody khao khud jaan jao (have a Melody toffee, and you will find out yourself)”. Telecom brand Idea used the tagline “What an Idea, sirji” and it became part of public discourse, though in this case the line was first used by Johnny Walker in an old Hindi movie.

On February 10, an editorial piece in The Times of India said our politicians should chant  “Vicks ki goli lo...” These were examples of lines used by brands that became part of popular culture. There is yet another way brands and taglines join popular culture.

Take the statement “Kuch meetha ho jaaye” (let us have something sweet), which was effectively used by Cadbury’s Dairy Milk chocolate to make it an ideal replacement for traditional Indian sweets. They continued this with the line “Muh meetha kariye” (have something sweet).

Indian consumers have used “Kitna deti hai” for a long long time. It was used with respect to a cow and the amount of milk that the animal delivered every day. Later, it got absorbed as a way of checking the fuel efficiency of a car. Maruti in a series of ads a decade ago absorbed this popular saying into the brand narrative to drive home the fact that even the most rich looked for economy.

Chlormint, in an iconic advertisement, used the line “Dobara mat poochh na” (don’t ask a second time); the person who asked the question got dunked into a bucket of water in its ads. HDFC Life Insurance appropriated the line “Sar uthake jiyo” (hold your head high).

We can add more brands to this list. Sometimes a brand borrows something from popular phraseology and puts a new spin on it.

Airtel used the idea that friends come in all shades with the line “har ek friend zaroori hota hai” in a manner that it became a brand property. Similarly, Surf used the term “daag achchey hai” (stains are okay) to communicate the need for kids to play and get dirty.

Finally, there are purely ad copywriter created taglines that live on. They may not join popular culture, you may not hear the line when you are in your swimming club, but if someone says the line, you will remember the brand instantly.

Here are a few: “Fill it. Shut it. Forget it.; Har ghar kuch kehta hai; Uski kameez meri kameez se safed kaise."

All these lines were drawn from the era of print, television and cinema advertising. But in today’s digital advertising-driven marketing campaigns, I am not sure if niceties like headlines and taglines are carried from campaign to campaign, month to month, year to year. That's a shame. Marketers are missing out on what a long-running theme and tagline can deliver for their brand — it can join popular culture to become part of the language a consumer speaks at home and in his club.  

The author is an independent brand strategist, brand coach and founder of Brand-Building.com ambimgp@brand-building.com


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