Girls in green lipstick, guys in bridal nose-rings: What's Jabong rebelling against?

By Suraj Ramnath and Ashee Sharma , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Digital | June 03, 2016
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Anti-establishment symbols, sequinned faces, satiny turbans, and feathery eyelids - Jabong is trying hard to make a point in this new ad film. What might that be?

I am not a match...I am not a catch...your mom won't call me suitable...

You don't have to call me don't get to call me don't deserve my pity...I'm just me...

And, if you and your mom were listening to, or reading these lyrics, sans the video, which is a new ad for the online fashion portal Jabong, you will wonder what the fuss is about, or what is the brand rebelling against. Towards the end, the video tells us that the 'rebellion' is aimed at encouraging people to be what they are through the brand's tagline 'Be You'.

Jabong's new ad 'Be You' - Discover all things fashion

Jabong's new ad 'Be You' - Discover all things fashion

Jabong's new ad 'Be You' - Discover all things fashion

While the ad world's new-found love for such irreverence and the understanding that brands have about the youth could be a matter of speculation for some, the video, directed by the London-based creative and art director Harvey B Brown is high on aesthetics; one can also see it as projecting fashion on steroids.

Jabong's new ad 'Be You' - Discover all things fashion

Jabong's new ad 'Be You' - Discover all things fashion

Harvey B Brown

Sanjeev Mohanty

Asheesh Malhotra

Commenting on the execution, Brown, who is known for his well-acclaimed commercials for Mont Blanc, Swatch, D&G, and closer home, for IndiGo Airlines, and Incredible India, says, "Fashion can be bold and brave and yet be within reach. Through this campaign, I want to break the stereotypes that limit the very creative expression that is needed to make a truly personalised fashion statement. Beauty in advertising is usually defined to fit set criteria. I wanted our styling to be contrarian and inspirational. So, you'll see young men and women wear shirts as colourful turbans, sweatshirts as pants, men's trousers as women's jackets, and so on."

The 360-degree campaign, conceptualised by Bates CHI & Partners, is a contemporary take on Jabong's positioning 'Be You' which celebrates diversity. This diversity also comes through in the ad which features models with north-eastern features, models who are not the skinny type, and models promoting gender-neutral fashion.

Sanjeev Mohanty, CEO and MD, Jabong, says, "Youth today are confident, comfortable in their skin and ready to make bold choices. They want to be fashionable, yet not be a slave to a trend. You could be skinny, plus-sized, bold, meek, short, or tall -- but you are who you are -- and fashion helps you 'Be You'."

According to Asheesh Malhotra, president and head of Mumbai & Delhi, Bates CHI & Partners, fashion isn't understood well in our country. "Most retailers and e-commerce aggregators have commoditised the category further. Wearing/selling bright, pretty clothes and putting them on chiselled bodies is equal to fashion. Having spent a good part of his life in the industry, Mohanty is very passionate about the category; his vision was very clear. He wanted to give fashion its due and redirect the conversation about fashion, which is beyond the fabric, and talk to people who want to be fashionable and be comfortable with their bodies and not be enslaved by trends. The team delivered a campaign which is rule-bending, yet not preachy," says Malhotra.


Pooja Rawat

Sakshi Arora

Pooja Rawat, associate vice-president, Lowe Lintas, says, "'Be you' has been Jabong's philosophy for a while now, but previously, it was in a playful, real, and friendly space. This execution is edgy, catchy, and individualistic, but if the task is to create relevance with the bulk of the millennials who are possibly not in the metros and not as brave, experimentative, or curious, this seems like a disconnect."

Rawat further adds, "The reality is that Jabong is still an e-tail platform that stocks all kinds of things and brands, just like its competitor Myntra. So, to truly stand apart, it would help if Jabong explained 'Be you' not just in the context of the consumers, who I think, already believe in being themselves, but also how the brand is helping them to be this 'edgy' you. Millennials like authentic stuff and are not easily fooled, so what is the brand doing other than creating this campaign to truly live and breathe its philosophy?"

Sakshi Arora, Digital Strategist, DigitasLBi, says, "The point that strikes me the most about this ad is that while most e-commerce brands concentrate on female fashion, this is one of the firsts to give equal weightage to male fashion. The ad has tried to break 'male fashion stereotypes' and that in my opinion, is a very insightful move on the brand's part."

According to Arora, although the brand has tried to touch various other issues through the ad, there is nothing fresh that is being said. "I feel that there is nothing that the brand is saying that has not already been said before. Also, the execution concentrates too much on highlighting the glamour associated with the brand, which is apt, given the category to which the brand belongs. However, somewhere it feels that the intent gets blurred in translation," she says.

Does the ad have the viral DNA?

Arora says, "In my opinion, the campaign has to focus on a single point to generate conversations. If it clearly communicates the idea of 'breaking male fashion stereotypes', then there are good chances of drawing the audience's attention since this would be a first in the category."

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