afaqs!

Rajnigandha trolled on Twitter, lessons to learn

By Saumya Tewari , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Digital | January 29, 2016
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The DS Group-owned pan-masala brand landed in trouble when its campaign #RajnigandhaSixWordsStory was trolled on Twitter.

Twitter and trolls go hand-in-hand and brands are no exception to this norm. From the digitally-savvy e-commerce player Flipkart (#Acchakiya campaign) to a traditional FMCG brand such as Fair & Lovely (whose brand ambassador is Yami Gautam), all have been trolled.

The latest addition to this brand-wagon is the DS Group-owned pan masala brand Rajnigandha which executed the Twitter campaign #RajnigandhaSixWordsStory. Six-word stories have a rich history. Nobel Prize-winner Earnest Hemingway wrote the first six-word story ever recorded in 1920.


The campaign was created as a part of the brand's association with the Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) which was held during January 21-25, 2016. As part of the campaign, users were asked to write an original story in six words and submit it across the brand site, its Facebook page, email and Twitter account. Its on-ground activation was executed at JLF. Three stories were chosen each day of the festival as the best stories.


The brand started tweeting about the contest on January 21, inviting users to tweet their stories. The campaign drew attention over the micro-blogging site when a parody account of the popular writer Chetan Bhagat tweeted using the official Rajnigandha campaign hashtag.


What ensued was a series of tweets trolling Rajnigandha. More often than not, people have associated the brand with oral cancer and the harmful effects of tobacco. However, Rajnigandha claims to be a non-tobacco product.

afaqs! reached out to the DS Group for its comments on the campaign, but no one was forthcoming.

Launched in 1983, the brand targets the premium segment of consumers who want the taste of their good old 'paan', but in a less messy and dry form. The product has a robust distribution network, which is complemented by efficient agents, dealers and retailers across the country. It is available in 1.7g, 4g, 12g, 18g, 60g, 100g and 1,000g pack sizes. The brand is endorsed by Bollywood actor Priyanka Chopra.

Recently, the pan-masala category went under the scanner when the Health department of the Delhi Government appealed to celebrities to not appear in ads for such products. The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI), a self-regulatory body that propagates responsible advertising, has also announced that it will look into pan masala advertisements featuring celebrities.

Tread with caution...

Rajiv Dingra, founder and CEO, WATConsult, believes that brands in a high-risk category such as alcohol, tobacco, condoms or even hospitals need to be sensitive when they launch campaigns on social media.

Rajiv Dingra

Sidharth Shukla

"It can easily be misinterpreted," he cautions, adding that the best reaction to negativity is to accept the public sentiment and apologise and withdraw the campaign.

Dingra notes that this particular Rajnigandha campaign was generic which did not bring about any positive rub off for the brand.

His advice to brands is to not be generic, and execute open-ended campaigns as it makes such brands vulnerable and open to subjective interpretation.

Sidharth Shukla, head digital strategy and social media, Cheil India, believes that even campaigns with the most sincere intentions have fallen and will continue to fall prey to trolls. However, he feels that in Rajnigandha's case, this risk was far higher.

Shukla argues that the brand association with the Jaipur Literature Festival does not make sense fundamentally.

"#RajnigandhaSixWordsStory just stood out without any sense of belonging. If the intent was to get some 'premiumness' attached to the brand then it was a very tall task from day one, and once we add the category it operates in, it's a Herculean task," notes Shukla.

Social media, he thinks, should not be a force fit in any brand's marketing mix.

Noting that Rajnigandha has a very strong loyal base of consumers, Shukla suggests leveraging CRM (Customer Relationship Management) as a strong pillar for communication and achieving business objectives. According to him such brands should, in fact, stick to referral and loyalty programmes for acquiring and retaining consumers. "A branded community, I believe, is an option - if you link it strongly back to CRM, additional possibilities and opportunities emerge for engagement. Additionally, the mobile phone can also play a huge role as an interaction touchpoint," concludes Shukla.

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