The premium biscuits category in India seems to have found its positioning plank in one word: indulgence. Whether one talks of "pure" indulgence (more of a product story), "sensual" indulgence or even the kind that allows people to "escape from reality", premium biscuit brands have each found their sweet positioning spots in the category. In a campaign to re-launch Sunfeast's premium biscuits range, Dark Fantasy, one sees the "escape from reality" kind of indulgence, albeit with a twist.
ITC Foods forayed into the biscuits business in 2003 and launched Dark Fantasy in 2005, with a campaign that played around the idea of the seven cardinal sins. This was a product window type of ad, which had no actors or voiceovers, just communication that showcased the sinfully delicious nature of the product. The brand took a sabbatical from advertising for five years after that, as it concentrated on its retail presence. The latest campaign re-launches the brand, with new packaging to boot.
According to ITC Foods executives, the new packaging is fresher and richer, in an attempt to give a more luxurious aura to the brand.
Indulgence with a twist
Two commercials created by Draftfcb Ulka for two flavours, Chocolate and Vanilla, have been unleashed on television this winter. Both attempt to showcase the "extraordinary" quality of the ingredients and bring alive the idea of taking a bite and "escaping into an extraordinary experience".
VL Rajesh, general manager, marketing and exports, ITC Foods, says, "The central idea is to showcase the sheer quality of the product on offer. The idea is to portray that you can lose yourself in the delightful taste of it."
"Whether one talks of sight, taste, touch or smell, the product evokes reactions of a certain kind from its consumer, which is what we have attempted to capture," elaborates Indira Das, creative director, Draftfcb Ulka, Bengaluru. The commercials attempt to capture the "mmm" moment -- when one enjoys the taste of something delicious -- by portraying a complete engagement of the senses.
The brief was clearly to communicate the richness of the unmatched biscuit ingredients (for instance, the chocolate in the biscuits being originally from Ghana), and communicate its premium positioning.
The films lend an international imagery of sorts to the brand and have been directed by Zap of Ginger Water Films. An attempt at aping the West? "This is a pure indulgence product, and the execution is more about exoticness than Western-ness," explains Das.
Whether one talks of soft drinks, beverages, chocolates, or biscuits; indulgence -- more often than not with an element of sensuality -- seems to have become a norm in communication. In the premium biscuits category itself, we have seen Britannia's Pure Magic and Parle's Hide & Seek Milano tread similar paths. "But rather than take the sensual route like some others, we are focusing on pure escapism into exotic fantasies," shrugs Das.
The ads are currently playing on popular niche channels; print and online advertising in English will follow in January.
The campaign generates mixed reactions from the ad fraternity. Michael Follett, senior vice-president, strategy and planning, DDB Mudra Group, opines, "These are funny ads -- funny not as in 'ha ha', but as in 'peculiar'. They do seem to fall into the 'sex = chocolate = sex' stereotype, though they don't seem to have the guts to do a full Haagen Dazs job; because for one, this is India and secondly, it's a biscuit. Biscuits just aren't that sexy."
He adds that while pure chocolate can go all the way, it seems that biscuits can only do so much to tantalise and titillate. "Perhaps this is why the erotic charge of the vanilla ad is earthed by a talking parrot," he muses.
He adds that if there is something new in the ads, then it is in taking the concept of fantasy at face value. There's a very Alice in Wonderland feel to the ads (right down to the motif of a pocket watch), which is very different from the likes of Parle Milano. Follett feels this is entirely consistent with the brand name, and could be something that the brand could own and develop over time.
However, he can't help but add that it would be interesting to see whose fantasy the brand would bring to life in future executions. "The ideas in this ad seem to come firmly from the head of Lewis Carroll. Who says that the fantastical creations of a closeted nineteenth-century English maths professor are the ones that really resonate with the women of India today? Perhaps it is time for India to return to its own fantasies - or create new ones. And perhaps Dark Fantasy will help them do that in the future," he concludes.
Amer Jaleel, co-NCD, Lowe Lintas India, isn't too impressed and finds the ads "extremely product-y".
"They remind you of a million chocolate/biscuit/ice-cream ads and are indistinguishable in execution, while also lacking a strong idea," he says. "Escape into fantasy has been promiscuously used across categories, from dessert teas to biscuits, and could with equal abandonment be used for beverages, food, jewellery and condoms."