Rasna and Frooti: Caught in an advertising bind

By , agencyfaqs! | In | April 15, 2002
Both Rasna and Frooti have lost considerable franchise in the critical 'youth constituency'. And their advertising isn't helping either

Anyone who cares to remember Indian advertising from the mono-channel days of the eighties and early nineties remembers the advertising for Rasna and Frooti. The shot of the saccharine-sweet Rasna girl going 'I love you Rasna' and the hip, mango-splashed imagery of Frooti have literally branded themselves into the collective memory of Indian television audiences.

Those were different times, of course. The multinational colas, with their infinitely deep pockets, were still well below the line of sight. The Indian consumer had yet to be simultaneously wooed by half-a-dozen marketers of like products, each with promises of 'more' and 'better'. And to be fair to both Rasna and Frooti, both brands offered something novel to the consumer. Rasna gave consumers a tasty orange drink with a significant price advantage. And Frooti's USP was essentially its delivery mechanism - the tetrapack. Of course, banking purely on 'price' and 'packaging' were precisely the pitfalls that the respective brands should have guarded against. But we'll come to that later.

Fact is, today, both brands have lost considerable franchise. In the critical 'youth constituency' - where image is everything - both Rasna and Frooti have been out-shouted by the Cokes and Pepsis of the world. And competition has multiplied. For Rasna, direct competition exists in the form of Tang, Fruit Kick and now, Sunfill (from Coca-Cola). For Frooti, every tetrapacked drink - from Milkman to Xs to tetrapacked Fruit Kick - means more blood-and-sweat in the marketplace. And the likes of Tropicana and Real make an impact in their own way.

Blame it on the vagaries of time, but both Rasna and Frooti are in the throes of a mid-life crisis. And this is most evident in the advertising of the respective brands. There is some desperation, some confusion.

Take Frooti, to begin with. The hugely suspenseful (and some insist, anti-climactic) run-up to the Digen Verma campaign consumed a lot of interest. And although opinion was divided about the effectiveness of the campaign, there is no denying that it created a buzz for the brand while it lasted.

Unfortunately for Frooti, the buzz didn't last. Around the time the Digen campaign broke, Ram Sehgal (then managing director, Everest Integrated Communications), in an interview with agencyfaqs!, had revealed that the entire Digen Verma campaign had been planned for "the next 18 months". He had spoken about how the agency had anticipated a degree of consumer disappointment once Digen's 'identity' was revealed, and how "the next phase of the campaign, which will soon unfold… will take care of the disappointment."

That next phase never happened. In fact, Frooti's advertising is back to the old 'Mango Frooti, fresh and juicy' message, with mango juice and Frooti packs holding centrestage. Of course, insiders at Everest reveal that the current advertising for the brand is more "stop-gap", but admit that Digen Verma is over, never to be resurrected.

Which was to be expected, going by what Rohit Ohri, vice-president and client services director, HTA, has to say. "Every brand has to have a product idea, integral to the brand and relevant to the consumer. Digen Verma was not a product idea, nor a creative idea. It was a clever execution idea. It was a device to create some excitement because the market was changing rapidly - a change driven by the colas. And because the basic proposition of colas is excitement, Frooti decided to create excitement. They did it cleverly with Digen, but does Digen exist? No. So they can't carry it forward. There is no product idea either. Frooti's USP (the tetrapack) was never intrinsic to the brand. That is the reason it got stuck and had to create Digen - another short-term device. This is the worst-ever example of brand advertising."

Ohri gives the example of the Air India Maharaja, who, he says, embodies a clear product proposition. "The Maharaja tells the consumer that you could expect a royal treatment at this particular airline. The Maharaja stands for traditional Indian hospitality that the airline was promising. And this promise was integral to the brand and relevant to the consumer. So it was a lasting product idea."

Arvind Mohan, strategic planner, McCann-Erickson India, shares this view. "Did Digen have a connect with Frooti?" he asks. "No. It is a property without a proposition. What was the product salience Digen stood for? None. What it did achieve was raking up a lot of curiosity. Now that's fine, but you have to follow that curiosity up to its logical conclusion, which didn't happen. People were waiting, and Frooti did nothing to follow it up. So it fell flat."

Almost everyone agrees that Digen was a beginning. "As a tactic, it was first rate in terms of creating a buzz for Frooti," says Swapan Seth, deputy CEO, Equus Red Cell. "But then it became a strategic albatross around the neck, and all was lost. Digen turned out to be larger than Frooti." Perhaps it was also the other way round. Frooti was too small for Digen. In fact, it has often been said that the Digen campaign would have better served a new brand, with no history to speak of.

While it can be debated whether Digen should ever have happened to Frooti, going back to the same old format isn't an answer. "Digen had no product legs, so when sales flagged, it is back to the product song," Seth is critical. "But again, 'fresh and juicy' is no longer a sharp discriminator. Maaza too can be fresh and juicy."

If Frooti's Digen was a false start, Rasna's latest 'rasna, rozaana, utsav' campaign isn't wowing too many people either. In execution terms, it is just another slice-of-life ad. It doesn't say anything about the brand, neither does it give the consumer any incentive to buy, apart from the 80-paise-per-glass value proposition.

As one ad professional who was previously associated with the brand says, "The problem with Rasna lies in its advertising, which is clueless about where the brand really fits in today's scenario. Rasna entered middle-class homes by saying you have so many glasses from one pack, which works out to so much per glass. However, with the colas getting belligerent and prices coming down steeply, that advantage ceased to exist. A glass of cola would be at most 20 percent more expensive, but that is offset by the cola associations… young, hip, aspirational. Increasingly, in middle-class homes, Rasna is not seen to be 'with it'. So what is Rasna? Where does it fit? Is it still relevant? The advertising is still grappling with these questions."

Rasna's advertising has also to deal with baggage. "It is clear Rasna wants to break out of 'I Love You Rasna'," says Ohri. "Okay, so Rasna is not a kids' drink. The ad shows all sorts of people across all age groups. So everybody drinks Rasna - is that what the company is trying to say? But then, you don't even remember the vignettes… the old lady, the postman, the pregnant woman… This is what I call complete wallpaper advertising. And again, the problem arose because there was no product idea integral to Rasna. It was just a very clever jingle built around a price advantage - which doesn't exist now."

Rasna is also being seen as making that cardinal marketer's mistake - being everything to everyone. "That is the resort of a lost brand," says Seth. "And I cannot understand what the new slugline (Relish-a-Gain) aspires to communicate."

McCann's Mohan is more sympathetic. "Who are the people for whom Rasna will still have an appeal? It would be what I call the 'emerging class'. It could be the driver whose son has become a salesman and come to some kind of money, or the guy who, at 40, can afford to buy his first Maruti 800. These are the kind of people associated with Ujala or Nirma advertising. Now, to appeal to that kind of person your advertising has to be louder, the colours shinier… Basically, the advertising has to be 'outer directed'. Today, Rasna has moved down the social ladder. So the ad might offend the sensibilities of you and me, but they definitely have a connect with white-collar people. Rasna does have relevance."

Seth is brutal in his assessment of the advertising for both brands. "I cannot see how the advertising has taken these brands forward at all," he says. "And I also think both brands have ceased to connect with the consumer's needs and imagination."

Perhaps the whole problem here is that, in the past, the communication for both Rasna and Frooti always connected with consumer needs. But somehow, it never connected with the consumer's imagination. © 2002 agencyfaqs!

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