afaqs!

Vicks Coughdrops: Pitch Perfect

By Rashmi Menon , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Advertising | December 24, 2013
After a span of two years, Vicks Coughdrops has released a new campaign that encourages people to speak without hesitation.

Vicks Coughdrops, flavoured, triangular, OTC confectionery brand, has been synonymous with the phrase 'Gale me khich khich' for long. In its latest burst of communication, one that comes after a two year hiatus, the brand makes a leap from the literal (read: functional) to the metaphorical. The heritage brand now tells its consumers to speak their mind without hesitation. 'Kehne mein hich kich' (Hindi for hesitation in speaking) is the catchphrase of the current campaign.

Vicks Coughdrops TVC

Vicks Coughdrops TVC

Vicks Coughdrops TVCs

Bobby Pawar

Salil Murthy

Conceputalised by Publicis Groupe, the campaign comprises three films titled 'Vote', 'Pakoda' and 'Tattoo'. All depict scenarios in which people are encouraged to speak up and assert their opinion. In 'Vote', a girl is stopped on the roadside by a politician's henchman who asks her whom she voted for. She tries to answer, but is unable to do so due to some irritation in her throat (a metaphor for her hesitation). However, after taking Vicks Coughdrops, she boldly tells him that he will know the answer when the results are announced. The super at the end states 'Jaise bhi khich khich, bolo bina hich kich'.

The other two films are modelled along similar lines. In 'Pakoda' a newly married wife politely conveys to her husband that they are equals in the marriage. In 'Tattoo', a conservative looking boy assures his equally spunky girlfriend that his mother will like her despite her ample tattoos.

Besides television, the campaign is supported by radio. Digital and activation efforts are in the pipeline.

According to Bobby Pawar, chief creative officer, Publicis Groupe South Asia, the current campaign serves to elevate the overall brand conversation and resonate with prevailing societal realities in India. "People, today, don't mind sharing their honest opinion. All we need to do is give them a bit of a push in order for them to speak their mind," Pawar says.

In its communication, Vicks Coughdrops began evolving beyond the functional with its 'Cheer For Champions' campaign, released during the cricket World Cup, a couple of years ago. At the time, the campaign encouraged people to cheer for their favourite team with the help of Vicks. The brand also launched an anthem online to encourage people to share their stories and interact with other consumers on social media. The campaign was primarily an online effort. Salil Murthy, associate marketing director, Personal Healthcare Asia, Proctor and Gamble, explains why.

Eighty to ninety per cent of young, upwardly mobile consumers were found to be online, and less attentive to traditional media. The fact that social media is more conducive a platform to engage with the target consumers, was another reason.

Murthy adds about the current campaign, "When we thought about how we could take it (the communication strategy) to the next level, we hit upon this big insight -- the idea of being confident. For instance, when a person is in a meeting with the boss and is asked a question, he instinctively starts clearing his throat. This is a sign of nervousness. We wanted to provide a boost of confidence with the help of which people will be able to talk without fear or anxiety." In other words, Vicks can help people recover from 'gale me khich khich' (irritation in the throat) to speak without 'hich kich' (hesitation), he spells out.

The insight was uncovered by the market research carried out by the brand's regional team and creative agency. The research was done across four places (both, metro and non-metro). The objective was to understand the consumers' needs, desires, what they hated and what the key drivers were. "We wanted to understand how the brand fit into this context in the consumer's life," Murthy says.

Why come out with a campaign now? Murthy responds, "We got this idea and saw the potential in it. Being one of the oldest brands around, it is a challenge to refresh our communication at the right intervals." The 'Vote' film, incidentally, has a certain degree of timeliness to it, given the upcoming elections.

Murthy attributes the long gaps between his brand's ad campaigns to a phenomenon in which the brand custodians themselves fall out of love with the brand's campaigns.

The brand's focus, shares Murthy, is to maintain its current user base as well as generate a new user base. The brand has been recording new users not only for its popular coughdrops but also for Vaporub, its medicated ointment. Previously, Vaporub was used mainly for kids but now, the brand has noted a marked increase in the number of adults using it. Even Vicks Action 500, the brand's cold tablet, has witnessed a significant number of new users. Interestingly, Coughdrop and Vaporub contribute close to 70-75 per cent of Vicks' overall revenue.

"The perception of an 'old, trusted brand' is always helpful. However, the challenges are two-fold -- how to continue to drive the mega brand Vicks and how to maintain brand equity," Murthy says, about the 100 year old mother brand.

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