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Parle Agro Hippo: Redefining the role of snacking

In a bid to be different, here's a snack brand that doesn't go the 'time pass' way. afaqs! explores Parle Hippo's do-gooder image

For the longest time, the snacking category has munched on creative ideas that are centred around the 'time pass' way in which these products are consumed. In a bid to step away from the fun (and often frivolous) positioning adopted by some snack brands, Hippo - the new baked munchies from the Parle Agro stable - has attempted, in its very first campaign, to veer away from category norms.

Not that it is getting all sombre: the brand has simply tapped upon the insight that at the root of every problem is a common enemy: hunger.

The commercial, a satire made by Creativeland Asia, has the Bollywood song, Pyaar baante chalo, for a music track and revolves around a mascot, Hippo, who solves the world's problems by simply helping people fight hunger. Whether it is a war situation, riots, politicians resorting to violence during assembly meets, terrorism, corrupt 'doodhwalas' mixing water with milk, or children robbed of their childhood as they make firecrackers, Hippo's take is that an empty stomach is the devil's workshop.

He offers the snack to people in a bid to solve their problems and cheer them up. It works, as everyone celebrates winning the 'fight' over hunger (and hence, the victory of good over evil), with packs of Hippo.

Munch on this

Nadia Chauhan, joint managing director, Parle Agro tells afaqs!, "Hippo doesn't want to be a me-too in a category cluttered with frivolousness in its communication. Hippo has taken snacking responsibly by positioning itself as a solution for hunger. The brand, in its sweet, light-hearted manner, takes a social stand."

Raj Kurup, founder and creative chairperson, Creativeland Asia, says, "Hungry people are often grumpy. In India, we respect food and it is a fantastic way of calming people down. If two people are fighting at home, often an elderly figure will calm them down by asking them to eat." This insight led to the final creative idea. To make the commercial identifiable, macro situations were chosen instead of household problems or micro ones. Some 90 situations involving societal/world problems were first penned down, of which six odd were shortlisted for the final film.

The creation of a mascot - Hippo - as the brand's messenger was decided upon then. According to the agency, Hippo is this earnest, easygoing guy who understands that often, we don't take care of our health by neglecting to eat. As a character profile, Hippo resembles the affable waiter who loiters in the background at a party, serving food tactfully to ensure no one goes hungry and then quietly slips away. The creation of Hippo as a mascot (and one that stays behind the scenes, as his face isn't shown throughout the film) is, in a way, the brand's way of saying that the true heroes are its consumers, and that Hippo cares for them. "As a society, we share food in India and by way of doing that, we share love and joy. Hence, the 'Pyaar baante chalo' track fit in well with our idea," Kurup shrugs.

The commercial, shot in Mumbai, has been released in seven languages and is directed by Ram Madhvani of Equinox Films, who was also behind the LMN work for Creativeland Asia. The 90 second ad has 50 and 20 second edited versions airing on TV as well.

A digital site, www.hippofighthunger.com, has also been created to generate buzz around the brand, and shall involve contests and other engagement properties to get people to submit their own Hippo stories, videos and ideas. Some corporate social responsibility initiatives are also being planned, apart from outdoor and radio advertising.

A budget of Rs 7-10 crore has been chalked out by Parle Agro on Hippo for the coming year.

Hippo has been in the market for about six months. Its branding process started with the packaging itself: about six eye-grabbing, bright colours (with the character Hippo on them) have been released to represent the different flavours. In fact, the brand has walked a different path by not showing the product in action, either in its communication or on its packaging. "The whole point is to break category norms and tell a brand story that generates interest," Kurup says.

Hippo-notic?

For its feel-good factor and taking on a social stand, the commercial scores in the eyes of the ad fraternity. Thomas Xavier, chairperson and national creative director, Orchard Advertising, says, "It is a breakthrough idea for a snack brand as the category usually shows humorous/family situations as points of consumption. However, Hippo gives itself a larger sense of purpose/mission by trying to change the world in its own way. That's a great way of talking for a brand."

Xavier adds that it is an idea that has a long shelf life and has a'70mm' feel. "Hippo is not playing safe and that's good," he adds.

Prathap Suthan, national creative director, Cheil Worldwide, feels Creativeland Asia has done it again - first with LMN and now with Hippo - when it comes to a brand name that is sticky, memorable and 'snacky'. Further, he gives points to the bright packaging and branding and the healthy ingredients for a new snack brand.

"However, at the end of the commercial, I still don't know what kind of a snack this is," he says. As a customer in a competitive environment, Suthan aka Pat feels that he would like to know whether these are crispy chocolates, wafers, biscuits or potato chips. "By not showing them, there's mystery," he says, "But mystery may not make one want to put his hand inside the packet."

Pat feels that the film is definitely entertaining, with a big thought. "I empathise with the truth of hunger being the root of all evil, and therefore kill hunger - and kill evil," he says. "But it's just that I'd rather snack, refresh, get my breath and get back into more evil ways. But that's just me!" He adds that the social arena is a bit of an overkill, with too many people getting into the same box. However, this one is a "likeably mad film".

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