"For a day, we kept our competitiveness aside": Bajaj's Sumeet Narang on Avenger ad feat. rival Royal Enfield

By Shweta Mulki , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Digital | September 14, 2016
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The idea is to celebrate the brand-agnostic unity among all bikers, learns afaqs!, after speaking to the marketer.

Blue skies, naked mountains, endless roads, and a lone cruiser - this is the standard visual recipe in many a bike ad. Now, throw in a rival bike brand into the same frame and you have Bajaj Avenger's recently released digital film celebrating World Brotherhood Day (on September 11). The film features the Avenger cruising alongside the Royal Enfield Bullet, with the Bullet seemingly getting more footage, in at least, the first half of the ad.

Sumeet Narang, vice-president, marketing, Bajaj Auto, reveals that putting the bikes together was a bold move and had the team wondering whether to go ahead until the last minute. But, the team is now happy to have made the move.

"From the moment we went on air, the response has been great. People are appreciating it for going beyond the brand, and are viewing it as a magnanimous gesture. The film has riders tagging their rally groups, riders of other brands, and non-riders, too. It has connected at various levels with our customers," says Narang.

Bajaj Avenger's World Brotherhood Day campaign

Isn't there a risk of the Enfield stealing the thunder?

"You give some, you take some - the Avenger is not some unknown brand that needs to add to its visibility. The 'mileage' is in our favour for the way we connected with the people. Both brands are beyond awareness and visibility - less or more of either brand will not really affect customer perception at this stage. It's all about being a 'positive riding' brand," says Narang.

Sumeet Narang

Sriram Iyer

This is Avenger's second digital film under its 'Liberation from the mundane' campaign, following the one released on Social Media Day (June 30). Narang explains, "We've been periodically creating some kind of digital engagement with our customers as our digital audience is almost 80 per cent of our target group, and I don't think we would've earned this kind of brand love on TV. So, while looking for the right avenues or events, our teams chose World Brotherhood Day on September 11 as an idea to work on since there's a brotherhood prevalent among bikers."

Narang adds that the mundane part here was the 'rivalry among competitors'. "We wanted to celebrate that day by riding alongside our competitor, as both are committed to the above cause. For this one day, we wanted to keep aside our daily competitiveness," he says.

Sriram Iyer, national creative director, Mullen Lintas, says that the film is a statement of stature where the brand Avenger is secure about acknowledging another bike brand, and 'World Brotherhood Day' was a great opportunity to showcase the 'riding as one' idea.

"Avenger is a cruiser and not a speed bike -- that territory is bold, and that's how biking as a category is hardwired. It has to evoke edginess," adds Iyer.

Explaining further, he says, "Bike marketing is as much about bikers as it is about biking. Bikers are seen as a large-hearted breed that looks out for each other on the road. In acknowledging both 'fellow bike and biker', you come across as a larger brand instead of one that is just hard-selling."

On the execution of the film (produced by Crazy Few Films), he adds, "It wasn't about how much we show the Enfield versus how much of the Avenger. There's equal status for both bikes. It begins with the Enfield, but we, of course, had to close it with the Avenger thought. Also, Bajaj allows us to work with terrain, and really go out there. Drone cameras make the experience that much richer."

Biker dudes may have loved the film, but how well does this work for the brand?

Viren Razdan, managing director, Brand-nomics, says, "These are two very different brands, and there is clear posturing on the part of Avenger. Frankly, this tribute to the Royal Enfield Bullet actually pushes the Avenger way down the 'manhood' hierarchy, and the whimpering, in fact, affects its 'Feel like God' positioning."

Viren Razdan

Amit Akali

Speaking about specifics, he says, "I'm surprised though that the Avenger rider has a fully-grown beard in the ad. This way it claims to be as mature as the Bullet - the rider should have had a spurt of a beard instead, as that would have rightfully projected a young boy looking up to a man, since this is all puppy love."

Razdan adds, "Any biker knows Ladakh is Bullet country - you won't really find an Avenger there, and in that sense, this is almost an assault on the DNA of the Bullet. Traditionally, challenger brands make bold statements and take on their rivals, but Avenger doesn't fit here. It has completely precipitated the brand gap, and simply wants to place itself among the 'men'."

Amit Akali, managing director, What's Your Problem, doesn't agree. He says, "It's a nice gesture, and in a way, the brand has risen above advertising. It's bold for an advertiser to put in money into a video or a TVC where another brand is portrayed to this extent. This is exciting new thinking. You are respecting another brand, so this becomes more about the 'act' than the ad."

Referring to a similar international campaign by Burger King, Akali says, "The McDonald's-Burger King campaign was very 'guerilla' -- it also wanted to do something together, but McDonald's would never agree, so in that sense, the Avenger creative, too, falls into the guerilla zone."

Akali sums up saying that the Enfield is an iconic brand, and this ad has given it that respect. "Had it been negative or sarcastic, it wouldn't have worked, and the brand would've been pulled down and been accused of latching on. It is surely a fresh approach, and will make both the Enfield and the Avenger rider feel good, and will bring in more affinity towards the Avenger."

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