Hero Honda: The 25 year old mileage bond

By Neha Kalra , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Advertising | July 01, 2009
With mileage almost as its property, Hero Honda ventures out on the same road in its 25th year. afaqs! finds out what the path looks like for the new commercial of the brand

Reciting the mileage story for a bike or car brand isn't new, and for Hero Honda, the brand knows the story to a T. This sphere of advertising has been the brand's primary area of interest since it stepped into the Indian market.

During the 1980s, with its legendary 'Fill it - Shut it - Forget it' tagline, the brand went on to become a rage amongst the storytellers on mileage. Carrying it forward this time, a corporate commercial has been put in place for Hero Honda, woven around the subject it has mastered - mileage.

Running the advertising mile

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The film opens on a man receiving a 'Goodnight' SMS. Next, he grabs his bike keys and rides to his girlfriend's house. On seeing her surprised look, he tells her that he travelled so far to reply to her SMS in person. He wishes her good night and is on his way back. When he reaches home, he receives another SMS from her that says 'Sweet Dreams', and lunges for his bike keys again. The ad ends on the logo of Hero Honda and a voice over, Fill it - Shut it - Forget it.

The creative has been put in place by JWT Delhi. Elvis Sequeira, vice-president and executive creative director, JWT, explains that with Hero Honda completing 25 years, thought was given to re-visit its DNA - trust in mileage.

The brief to JWT, reveals Sanjay Bhan, senior general manager, marketing, Hero Honda, was to create a contemporary, compelling, endearing and engaging communication to bring to life the brand's technological expertise and the promise of mileage.

"This has been conveyed with an emotional intensity, with the insight that in today's world - let relationships not be constrained by distances, and Hero Honda is the rightful enabler," brings out Bhan.

About Fill it, Shut it, Forget it - Sequeira feels it was time to make it salient to the generation which has seen the brand for 25 years.

The opinion path

On close inspection, the riding to and fro factor in the commercial (without a care in the world for the pesky task of filling petrol) is reminiscent of an ad for the Bajaj Chetak scooter some years ago, which had a man riding back and forth for a loved one's favourite flavour of ice-cream.

When quizzed about this, Sequeira responds tersely, "I wouldn't want to clarify on that."

Rahul Sengupta, national creative director, TBWA India, and the mind behind the Ice-Cream commercial for Bajaj Chetak, feels that while the context for the two ads is different, "in terms of proposition, mileage is worn out. The story telling needs to be different."

Furthermore, he is of the opinion that the execution of the Hero Honda film could have been far more charming. "It won't do magic, because it's not magical. When you're reaching out to the youth, you don't show them their life - they already know it better than anyone else. You need to show them something different from what they lead in their lives," he suggests.

Saji Abraham, vice-president, planning, Lowe Mumbai, feels that the Bajaj Chetak commercial and this one happen to share a rather similar creative thought. "I'm surprised that Hero Honda needs to do mileage advertising because if anything, mileage is what it is inextricably associated with," he adds. Even if the ad just has a super for mileage, that should do the job, he feels, unless it was a revolutionary mileage claim being talked of.

Further, the ad seems like a theme one for mileage, which is perhaps the last thing the brand needs. "This will give almost no new hook to the consumer and very marginal reinforcement on the mileage claim," he muses.

Rajeev Ravindranathan, creative director, Saatchi & Saatchi Bengaluru, is of the opinion that the Bajaj Chetak commercial and the Hero Honda TVC are different executions of the same idea. In fact, he says that the Bajaj TVC was more interesting.

He is astonished to see a campaign such as this from Hero Honda. "Hero Honda has essentially been the mileage brand amongst bikes. Considering that, truly speaking, it didn't have to talk about mileage like this," he says.

Moreover, he feels that today, all bikes in the market are good machines. Most are all-in-one, giving mileage, technology and style. "Therefore, design is increasingly a differentiator," he states. Yamaha's new bikes, and TVS's Apache and Flame, as well as the Bajaj Pulsar, are design-driven brands.

On the execution, Abraham of Lowe doesn't seem to find it very imaginative, especially coming from Hero Honda - the Fill it, Shut it, Forget it people. "When you have heritage like 25 years of mileage from Hero Honda, you definitely do not want to do another 'drive here drive there' kind of ad. This ad could have been done by any fuel efficient motorcycle," he adds.

Gaining mileage?

Is depicting distance covered/riding back and forth the only two ways of bringing forth mileage in advertising? For brands which have done similar stories around mileage, there are plenty of examples - Ravindranathan cites the examples of Alto's 'Let's Go' series, which also hint at mileage. "These aren't copies, but since they are talking about age-old mileage, they will seem similar."

However, the question is that why such a deal about racing here and there - is that all that is left to mileage in the creative sense? One drop of petrol, or petrol pump attendants getting bored with no one to attend to, are some of the international ideas that a premise like mileage has witnessed, beyond showing a non-stop bike ride.

Abraham of Lowe thinks that instead, a strategy with amazing facts could perhaps work for Hero Honda: "Imagine the amount of fuel that Hero Honda owners have saved so far! Imagine the effect on India's oil import bill! Imagine putting up an explorers club funded by mileage savings - and so on!" he proposes.

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