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Tanishq ad row: Lack of courage to take a social and moral stand

Alpana Parida     October 14, 2020

Tanishq as a brand has always appealed to the progressive Indian. The Tanishq woman has been the perfect blend of the traditional yet modern Indian woman, who harmoniously navigates her life and relationships while pushing her traditional boundaries.

The second marriage ad has a woman with a young daughter, marrying a man who picks up the step-daughter in an act of acceptance of his new family.  

I am sure the boldness of this was debated extensively in the Tanishq management offices as this was a risky step. The core consumer for Tanishq, after all, is the salaried middle class of India.  Second marriages - with a child in tow, are still not the norm. And that too the woman's child!

But the bold move paid off, and the ad was feted across the country and demographics. It was not that such marriages were taking place in droves, it was simply that regressive notions of women's place in society were changing and the Tanishq consumers saw the acceptance of the brand as a signifier of their own embracing of new codes of traditions.

Also Read: Tanishq store attack in Gujarat: Police deny mob assault; security beefed up in area

The Tanishq audience has been the middle-class India - wishing more for their daughters, becoming more understanding of their daughters-in-law, and more tolerant of changing traditions, particularly for women.

Thus - working women, women who sought an identity, women who pushed for gender equality, women who sought happiness and fulfillment for themselves - all saw the brand as a friend who understood their dilemmas and stood by them.

These were not women with an activist agenda, looking to disrupt the world order - rather they harmoniously operated within the boundaries of societal norms to nudge change for themselves.

To that end, the religion-based ad went away from the brand's core of the Tanishq woman's aspiration of pushing her own boundaries. The ad instead, stood for a more societal narrative of progression. The ad was not on the brand.

That said, the Tanishq values of boldness with harmony were embedded in the ad. The narrative was a heartwarming one of acceptance and love from the Muslim mother-in-law for her Hindu daughter-in-law.

A sentiment that arguably would resonate with all married women. It was a narrative of respect for her individuality - even while belonging to a different familial world.  It has been said that her acceptance was only conditional to her pregnancy - and thus was misogynistic - but it is my personal view that grace is rarely conditional or transactional and it is not unbelievable that this daughter-in-law was truly cherished and respected.

Also Read: 'Warning for other brands': Tanishq's removal of Hindu-Muslim ad sets a bad precedent

The real problem, then, seems to be a portrayal of a Hindu-Muslim marriage and a resultant child conceived out of that wedlock.

Our country - and indeed the world - is increasingly polarised. And to many at polarised extremes, such a scenario appears to be unpalatable. These polarised fringes are not necessarily the view of middle-class India, the silent majority which is the core consumer of Tanishq.  

It is indeed a sad day when a company such as TATA feels the need to back track on a socially positive issue - a company known to be non-sectarian and deeply humanitarian. It is deeply worrying when a corporate entity such as this steps back from taking a social stand and bowing to commercial considerations.

It can be argued that one response from Tanishq would have been to down shutters for a week or so to prevent any violence or vandalism - but use the platform to stick to their guns.

Also Read: Shashi Tharoor calls Tanishq ad 'beautiful', slams trolls for trending hashtag BoycottTanishq

Amplify it even further, by starting dialogues between inter-faith women. I believe they would have emerged stronger for it and would have appealed to their core cohort of the silent majority in the middle as a brand with conviction.

When the same company withdrew risque imagery associated with the Fastrack brand - it was more to do with public sensibilities. Withdrawing the Tanishq ad seems to convey a lack of courage to take a social and moral stand - both of which are not great associations for the brand.

In today's world, brands that take on social issues head on will be rewarded by their consumers through loyalty and evangelism.

They would stand for something far greater than their portfolio of products and services and would create true believers. A brand that sticks to its principles is more believable, truer than one that does not. It is that simple.

(The author is founder, Tiivra Ventures)

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