Brands taking a stand on social issues in the country are more likely to strike a chord with its consumers. With more and more brands being driven by marketers who are ready to take the risk and stand for what they believe in, India is seeing a rise in marketing campaigns with a social stand.
While the topic of homosexuality is a highly polarised one, often raking in sharp criticism for those who support it, quite a few Indian brands did show their support for the LGBT community when the Supreme Court passed its verdict on Section 377, criminalizing homosexual sex between two consenting adults, in December 2013.
Whisper, the sanitary napkin brand from P&G created quite a furore on social media with the launch of its ‘Touch the pickle’ campaign designed to bust period taboos, last year. India is home to many period taboos, of which one is as weird as this - girls on periods should not touch pickle jars as that will contaminate the pickle. The campaign won the agency BBDO India a Grand Prix in the Glass Lions at the Cannes Lions 2015, for having the “power to effect true cultural change.”
The trend that kicked off in 2014 is picking up momentum in 2015, and this year we’ve seen a variety of Indian brands making a bold foray into the world of social issues. Be it touchy issues like live-in relationships, homosexuality, gender equality, single parenting or choosing to stay single, brands are choosing to voice their stand in their marketing campaigns.
1. Ariel #ShareTheLoad
P&G scored again in 2015 with its #ShareTheLoad campaign for its washing detergent brand, Ariel. The campaign sought to highlight gender equality and debunk mindsets where ‘laundry is only a woman’s job’. Leveraging household statistics by A C Neilson, the brand set off social media conversations asking ‘Is Laundry only a woman’s job?’
The ad film is set in a home where two aged women are having tea, they begin discussing about the changed times where women have started joining the workforce and earning much more than what they did in the earlier times. Highlighting the state of working women, one of the women makes a remark about her daughter in law earning more than her son, while we see the said daughter in law getting ready for office.
Just then, her son calls out to his wife asking her why she hasn’t washed his green shirt yet. The question pops followed by the campaign hashtag #ShareTheLoad hoping viewers would carry on the conversations on social media using the hashtag.
The buzz was further amplified by celebrity couples and bloggers and a horde of social media contests, while raking in mixed reactions. While most women loved the stand taken by Ariel, it highly offended men who are already taking care of the laundry in their homes. Ariel #ShareTheLoad also won BBDO a Glass Lion at the Cannes Lions 2015.
2. Red Label “Live-in”
Brooke Bond Red Label, one of the major tea brands by Hindustan Unilever has always been brewing togetherness among families and diverse communities in its brand communication, where the idea is that tea melts away differences. After having created quite a stir in 2014, when it portrayed a reluctant Hindu family turning into good friends with their Muslim neighbour, over a few cups of Red Label tea, the brand touched upon a taboo subject like ‘live-in relationships’ this year.
The minute-long film titled ‘Surprise Visit’ begins with a guy being paid a surprise visit by his parents, when they realise he is in a live-in relationship with his girlfriend. Of course, the girlfriend makes them some Red Label tea to win them over.
The ad was labelled progressive for supporting ‘live-in relationships’ as well as regressive for having portrayed the girl as someone who needs to please the parents of the boy.
3. Myntra Anouk ‘Bold is Beautiful’
When fashion wear etailer, Myntra wanted to create buzz for Anouk, its contemporary ethnic wear brand, it rolled out 3 3-minute films, each broaching up social acceptance issues around women. The three films in the campaign ‘Bold is Beautiful’ focus on issues like ‘homosexuality’, ‘single-parenting’ and ‘staying single’.
The most viral of all three ‘The Visit’ is the story of a lesbian couple who had been hiding about their relationship with their parents. The parents of one of the girl are set to visit her and she is seen getting ready in ethnic wear while chatting with her female partner. The two plan to reveal their relationship and not hide it anymore, as they were sure about their love for each other.
‘The Whispers’ portrays a segment of Indian society that is forever indulging in gossip around a single mother. The story revolves around a single mother to a little daughter, having to face gossip about her missing husband from other residents in the society. In one such encounter she demonstrates why the father not being around has no negative influence on her or her daughter and that she is perfectly capable of bringing her up on her own
4. Sofy #Iamnotdown
Girls on their periods are often told to stay indoors, take rest or steer clear from physical activities as they must be ‘feeling low’ or ’feeling down’. Sofy, the feminine hygiene product from Unicharm India, wanted to change their mindsets with its campaign #Imnotdown. It roped in influential youngsters to encourage girls to say #Iamnotdown, through the use of real interviews, music and poetry slam.
The #Iamnotdown poetry slam by Rene Sharanya Verma, a student who also raps to raise awareness of misogyny in India (famous for her rap slamming Honey Singh), has some hard-hitting lines on ‘feeling down’ during periods. The 2.15 minute poetry slam has the girl thrashing perceptions and euphemisms surrounding periods.
The inspiring brand message was appreciated by men and women alike.
5. Havells India ‘Winds of Change’
Havells India, one of India’s largest electrical and power distribution equipment manufacturer is a regular at taking up social issues. In fact, all its advertising has always keenly focused on women empowerment, and now issues like gender equality, religious conversion, period taboos, and orphan inclusion.
Part of its ‘Hawa Badlegi’ campaign that seeks to inspire a change in our mindsets, the Havells ‘Winds of change’ campaign rolled out a series of TVCs on each of the taboo subjects. This one on gender equality titled ‘Censor Board’ makes a hard-hitting point, with a touch of humour.
After having finished watching a film, one of the censor board member says the movie should be given a ‘U’ certificate as it qualifies to be a ‘family film’. When others agree, one member named Tripathi asks the movie to be given an ‘A’ certificate as it has adult content. Members are confused as to what content was adult and ask him to explain. He points out the numerous scenes in which the hero was topless. And ends with making a hard-hitting observation about society – “Ladki kare tho nude, ladka kare tho dude.”
Brands are exploring social issues with bolder themes in 2015. Apparently, it’s working for them to connect with the new age consumer. Do share your views on brands taking a stand on social issues.