Business Today

Heady brew

The success of Tata Tea’s Jaago Re campaign may inspire many more companies to elevate their advertising to an intellectual plane.

Rahul Sachitanand & Anusha Subramanian | Print Edition: May 3, 2009

ED, Tata Tea
Sangeeta Talwar
In June 2007, Tata Tea became the world’s largest tea vendor by volume and decided to leverage its new position to point advertising in this market in a new direction. Rather than promote its brand on the physical and mental platforms of taste, energy and strength, the company decided to “elevate” advertising to the next level by targeting the intellectual plane.

Tata Tea wanted to look beyond the functional aspects of tea advertising and focus on the self-actualisation—increased civic consciousness and being politically aware—that a morning cuppa could offer its consumers. The aim of this campaign was to focus on benefits beyond the mere enjoyment a refreshing cup of tea provides. “There are over 450 billion cups of tea consumed in the world annually and this gives us an ideal platform to make this transformation,” says Sangeeta Talwar, Executive Director, Tata Tea. Months after it took over the #1 position in the market, the company latched onto its new status to launch the Jaago Re advertising campaign.

Despite the success of this seemingly altruistic advertising, Talwar denies that charity was the main motivator behind this campaign. “This was not a CSR (corporate social responsibility) initiative for Tata Tea…this was a core marketing and branding initiative,” Talwar contends. This means that in the long-term at least, the company expects to derive a significant improvement in brand recognition, if not sales and profits from this endeavour.

So, how did Tata Tea deliver the message? A TV commercial had a young man questioning the “educational qualifications” of a wannabe politician or a bribetaking bureaucrat suddenly shunning the money when he’s caught red-handed by a camera installed in a government office. “We have a massive platform to influence change,” says Talwar. For the second campaign, called ‘Jaago Re! One Billion Votes’ Tata Tea teamed up with Janaagraha, a non-governmental outfit focussed on urban advocacy.

After focussing on day-to-day issues, Tata Tea is now stepping up its efforts by focussing on the impending general elections. Its plug: Barely a tenth of urban youth cast their votes, either because they’re lazy, unaware or disinclined to turn up at a polling station on voting day. This campaign, too, is spread across multiple media including the web, TV and radio. “We have over 19 lakh unique visitors on the site and 5.66 lakh of them have registered to vote,” says Talwar. 

Campaign challenges

  • Tata Tea wanted to look beyond the physical and mental focus of advertising

  • Tea as a category has but little aspirational value

  • The company sought to look beyond the taste and energy typically advertised

  • It focussed on the perceived benefits to society by being ‘awakened’

  • This involved different storyboards and more realistic visuals

  • The benefits are not immediate; companies need to focus on long-term gains

  • Tata Tea says this campaign was not a CSR initiative, but a core marketing exercise


Says Amer Jaleel, Executive Director, Creative, Lowe: “The objective of the partnership was to create a platform that will motivate Indian youth to participate actively in the electoral process. The initiative is named so and aims at awakening the youth of this country to the importance of exercising their right to vote as a means to bring about the change they seek.” According to Prof. Y.L.R Moorthi, Professor of Marketing at Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore, the rush of people onto the website is a clear indicator of the success of this campaign. “However, from the visuals we see of Jaago Re, it seems to be a mainly urban India programme. The acid test will be Tata Tea’s ability to address the emerging and potentially massive opportunity in rural India,” he says.

For Lowe, the advertising agency behind this campaign, the challenge was dealing with a category that had little aspirational value. “Tea, as a category, has certain clichés associated with it and we wanted to stay away from this,” says Jaleel. Instead, Tata Tea believed its youth-oriented market and operational focus will emotively connect with issues that drive the heart, mind and soul of India’s emerging social consciousness.

Brand experts such as Harish Bijoor of Harish Bijoor Consults, says these intellectual advertising programmes are critical to a company’s long-term brand building plans. “This is going beyond the basic requirements of food, clothing and shelter that advertising used to focus on…. Jaago Re has risen above the functional aspect of advertising,” he explains. While Tata Tea isn’t the first to enter this area—HUL’s Surf and Lifebuoy ads also experimented with this format—the Tata Tea campaign may help move more companies towards this format. Such a transition won’t be easy.

Most advertising today is focussed on the masses and therefore the storyboard is larger than life and exaggerated. However, this emerging field of advertising requires a different approach. “This involves a vox pop-oriented advertising, where you can’t use unreal visuals. The tone, tenor and decibel level of this advertising is completely different,” says Bijoor. In the long term, as companies look beyond existing markets, they will need to have at least a toehold in this emerging form of advertising to build a long-lasting brand, he argues. “Companies have got used to a take-and-take approach to society…they will need to develop a give-and-take approach in future,” Bijoor adds. Help the company, help the country.

Companies, Jaago Re!

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