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Dhara: From 'Shudhata' to 'Tadka'

Dhara, which does well in specific regional markets lays a claim over India as it rolls out a new ad campaign with a new positioning statement, 'India ka Tadka'.

After a gap of almost six years, Dhara returns to the advertising circuit - this time with a new brand positioning, India ka Tadka. The communication is centred on a TVC, the creative execution for which draws on a warm, montage-like feel. The message is reinforced on Dhara's packaging as well.

The new Dhara TVC

Best recalled for its signature 'Dhara Dhara Shudh Dhara' campaign, the brand has been synonymous with 'Shudhata' or purity for a long time. Along the way, through its advertising campaigns, Dhara has adopted taglines such as 'Anokhi Shudhata, Anokha Assar' (Jalebi film) and has also stressed on health-related propositions with campaigns like 'Happy Hearts are Healthy Hearts' and 'My Daddy Strongest'. Further, in a move to increase its appeal to a larger set of consumers across the country, the brand also underwent a packaging change with a new logo and identity in early 2009.

The latest campaign marks a flight from the 'Shudhata' space, one that Dhara has owned for many years. Isn't it risky to do away with a space that had grown to become synonymous with the brand over time and opt for an entirely new positioning? Radhika Das, vice-president, DDB Mudra Delhi (the brand's creative AoR), tells afaqs!, "As a brand, Dhara has always tried to stay relevant to the consumers. Purity was relevant till a few years back. Today, health is more relevant to the consumers and as a responsible marketer of quality edible oils, it was inevitable to address the need gap."

Radhika Das
Amit Taneja

The campaign is thus based on the basic insight that food is engrained in our daily lives and is a significant part of every celebration, small or big. The creative team was provided a brief to develop communication keeping in mind the heritage and core ethos of the brand as well as the virtues of trust, purity and taste.

"Therefore, the strategy for the brand came from two strong insights. Firstly, 'Tadka' is a word all of us have grown up hearing. We are so familiar with the crackling sound that whenever we hear it, we subconsciously know that food is about to be served. Secondly, though Indians love fried items, there is a growing awareness on health and fitness due to which people shy away from indulgence," explains Das.

When asked why the brand has remained silent on the communication front for so long, Amit Taneja, senior brand manager, Dhara, Mother Dairy, tells afaqs!, "There is a lot of work that has happened on the brand during the last four to five years. The time has been spent launching new variants, upgrading existing variants and distribution enhancement. The brand has been strategically active in BTL (below the line) and regional media for some time now."

Taneja adds that the new positioning is the result of consumer research involving both, Dhara users and non-users, conducted in various centres across the country. "'India ka Tadka' helps summarise our love for food along with growing health awareness," he adds.

Besides TV, the media mix includes outdoor and BTL (below the line) communication.

Does the repositioning work?

According to industry experts, consumers will receive the brand's freshly deep-fried message without much effort.

Priti Nair
Ferzad Variyava

Priti Nair, co-founder, Curry-Nation, feels that while the brand continues to stay on the health platform, it has 'scaled it up' as an idea. "Now it includes the insight of India as a country rather than just the individual," she says, adding that she finds the insight powerful, given that we're a food-loving nation. "The argument is pretty simplistic; it is not intended to be tenuous but I feel it could have been stronger," she elaborates.

"There is nothing in this TVC that one can latch on to, though," she goes on to critique, "I don't know whether this is because the brand has gone from telling cozy, warm stories to a more montage-like format or because the emotional angle of the insight, connected to the product, seems weak." Nonetheless, according to Nair, the brand's push in the health direction makes sense as that is the direction in which the country seems to be moving in.

From an execution perspective, she says that the ad could have definitely done better. "I am sure there are good reasons why the TVC looks the way it does, but viewers' mouths need to water just seeing the images. One ought to feel hungry while watching the ad and the people in the film should look like they're completely engrossed while eating. I didn't get that feeling," she says.

Ferzad Variyava, executive creative director, Publicis Ambience , speaking on the brand's shift in positioning, says, "The brand is trying to move from a product benefit platform to a larger India-centric level of projection. This opens up a new platform for creative thought. As a story, 'purity of oil' in this day and age tends to sound outdated so any movement away from the product benefit angle of purity and health is a step up. The ad delivers warm imagery of family with a pan-India feel and a cautious step towards a bigger, though often explored, thought."

As a line 'India Ka Tadka' is quite sweet and simple, in Variyava's opinion. Does it differentiate the brand from others that want to appropriate the 'India's most loved' status? "I'm honestly quite doubtful," he answers.

Regarding the creative execution of the new positioning, Variyava says, "Frankly I was less than charmed. Everything seemed to be correct and all the boxes seemed ticked. Nothing seemed wrong, but still nothing seemed real. Even the food shots seemed a little 'cardboard-ish'."

Dual messaging?

While highlighting the brand's new positioning 'India ka Tadka' the current ad also addresses consumers' health concerns. The VO (voice over) towards the end says, "Arre khaiye, khaiye, health ki tension Dhara pe chhodiye, jo de tailon ki itni healthy range ki aap vibhinnn tailon mein pakaye behtar swast paye."

Some creative folk feel that the ad has a dual objective -- all through it's like a happy montage of India with focus on positioning it as a 'truly pan-Indian brand' and towards the end, the sudden health spin appears abrupt. Could this dual messaging confuse consumers?

"I do agree the messaging in the end is trying to hedge a lot of concerns which could have arisen from the lack of a product benefit focus. And from a craft perspective it is certainly precariously balanced on multiple messaging," Variyava answers.

Nair opines, "While the messaging is intended to be singular, the link between the message and the TVC is not strong enough and perhaps that's why it seems dual and split."

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