Is the 'bratty' Pepsi a thing of the past?

By , agencyfaqs! | In
Last updated : April 08, 2002
Although the 'thirst for more' is still intrinsic to the communication, Pepsi's earlier brashness is toned down in its latest Bachchan-Tendulkar commercial

It would amount to pure blasphemy in some quarters.

Nonetheless, let it be said that the latest Amitabh Bachchan-Sachin Tendulkar Pepsi commercial is distinctively Coke-like.

It's easy to get us wrong. Without setting off a debate on whose advertising has been better or more effective, it is an acknowledged fact that, at least in the Indian context, the advertising leitmotif of the two cola giants has been diametrically opposite. And both Pepsi and Coke have made it abundantly clear that they have scant regard for one another's advertising. Which is why the slightest insinuation that a Pepsi ad looks like a Coke ad - especially an Indian Coke ad - can quickly raise hackles.

However, the distinction that we have made is that we have not said the Pepsi ad looks like a Coke ad. It doesn't look like any Coke ad. The similarity is not in the form or the content. Not even in terms of the execution, and certainly not in the message. The similarity is in the manner in which Pepsi's message is delivered this time round… an impalpable similarity to Coca-Cola's global platform of optimism, joy and the good life. It can be argued that Pepsi has always embodied optimism - 'Yeh dil maange more' is, after all, about optimism in life. But it's the way Pepsi says 'Yeh dil maange more' that makes this ad different.

Different from past Pepsi ads, where tonality is concerned.

In the past, whenever the thought 'Yeh dil maange more' (or even 'Aazaadi dil ki', for that matter) was verbalized, there was a brashness about the way it was said. Very demanding, very uncompromising… Youth, irreverence, perhaps even shades of rebellion.

With the latest ad, the demand for 'more' is very much intact, as borne out by the lyrics (penned by Anuja Chauhan, associate vice-president and senior creative director, and Soumitra Karnik, senior creative director, HTA). Sample this: 'Dil ki patang hai/Sapnon ki dor hai/Aasman bhi kam hai/Yeh dil maange more hai…' Pat comes the retort: 'Bade dilwaala bhi apna ballebaj hai/Dhoondo dooja aasman/Yahaan to apna raaj hai…' And then the final challenge: 'Sabse oopar hum hain/Humse oopar kaun hai?'

While previous Pepsi ads tended to end on this note, in the case of this one, the skies open up at this juncture, putting an abrupt end to the kite flying. A symbolic leveling dealt out by Life. The rain, however, is a minor disappointment as the revelers quickly make paper boats out of their kites and get on with life: 'Dil ki kashti hai/Sapno ka shor hai/Yeh dil maange more hai!'

The thirst for more is intact. The only difference being, unlike in the past, 'more' doesn't necessarily come on your terms. Life is what you make of it. Optimism in a down-to-earth, mature sort of way. And at the end of the exercise, one comes out with that 'feel good' experience. No major competition, no losers. Everybody is a winner here, the mood very upbeat. A very Coke sentiment… in Pepsi's typically involving figure of speech.

Thirst, optimism and indomitable human spirit, minus the characteristic brashness.

The big question is, is the absence of brashness a conscious move by Pepsi to chalk out new battle lines? For one, there seems to be a strategic deviation from the bratty Pepsi stereotype - one driven by a very clear marketing necessity: that of growing the market base.

The per capita consumption of colas in India is so insignificantly small, the issue of grabbing shares from a rival is basically irrelevant. Now, Pepsi's anti-establishment challenger image works in evolved markets, but as there is nothing called the 'establishment' in the cola category in India, a lot of its 'anti-establishment' posturing fails to find its mark with the bulk of Indian consumers. There just aren't enough Coke consumers to convert.

The answer is in increasing the width of consumption. Basically, getting consumers across the SEC scale. And there are enough cues in this ad to suggest that this is part of what Pepsi is planning. Small town, semi-urban setting; no kids in shorts or suspenders; a bunch of kurta-pyjama boys flying kites and making paper boats, which, again, is very non-SEC A…

And if that's the way to go, there really is no need for the famed brattishness. In fact, a wider variety of consumers may not necessarily identify with the irreverence thing. Clearly, mass appeal is top priority. Which explains the Bachchan-Tendulkar pairing too. And talking about the pairing, the idea of having two immensely popular personalities in a traditional mass sport like kite flying was an unexpected - and brilliant - idea.

"Icons like Amitabh and Sachin inspire the youth of India," says Rohit Ohri, vice-president and client services director, HTA. "This ad shares the secret of their greatness with consumers. The fact that they have an indomitable spirit that refuses to give up, that refuses to call it a day. Their spirit strives for more. They stand for 'Yeh dil maange more'."

So does this ad signal a change in the Pepsi stance rendering the bratty Pepsi a thing of the past? And will it follow that we will see Pepsi taking fewer potshots at Coke?

Only time will tell. However, there's one more reason why Pepsi might actually shed its challenger image in India and start talking the walk of a market leader. When approaching 'virgin' consumers in 'unevolved' markets, it's not in any marketer's interest to be seen wearing the No. 2's badge - it sends all the wrong signals. © 2002 agencyfaqs!

First Published : April 08, 2002
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© 2002 agencyfaqs!