Saumya Tewari

Imperial Blue: Man thing to do

Ogilvy's 'Men will be men' campaign series for Imperial Blue whisky has given the brand a real high. A look at how the catchy tagline made the brand stand out.

"Men will be men." Seagram Imperial Blue's pithy tagline has withstood the test of time ever since Ogilvy & Mather came up with that declaration, 17 years ago. It was an idea, cleverly and humorously utilised by Pernod Ricard's (the holding company for Seagram's distilled brewery business) whisky brand to keep interest levels 'high'. While these ads leave men in splits, the fairer sex can't help but smile at the hilarious, yet true situations depicted in the campaigns. Almost every man - or woman - can relate to them.

Imperial Blue: Man thing to do
Imperial Blue: Man thing to do
Imperial Blue: Man thing to do
Every element in the series is plucked out of life whether it is impressing women by showing off someone else's luxury car (
), eyeing another's wife in a store (
), trying to hit on an attractive woman in the elevator (
) or bargaining for a diamond ring after forgetting one's anniversary (
which earned a gold for the agency in Goafest 2012) these ads never fail to crack you up.

The latest campaign in the series is 'Lift'. It opens with a ghazal, "Pyar ki raah mein", playing in the background as a beautiful young woman (played by former Miss India contestant and upcoming model, Disha Patani) is seen talking on a phone in a lift. The camera reveals the torso of two men (dressed in formal wear and one of them wearing his employee tag) standing with her. The minute the woman exits both the men heave a sigh of relief and exhale, letting their stomachs hang out again. The film ends with both of them sharing a friendly high-five.

Tagged for life

Seagram's Imperial Blue was launched in 1997. It targets male consumers between 25 and 35 years of age. A pen portrait of the target consumer is the working class, married male living with his family in a Tier II city, which doesn't allow him many avenues to entertain himself. He, however, likes to bond with his childhood friends over a drink or two catching up with their lives and possibly relive a couple of humorous situations he has faced with them.

The brand is positioned on the platform of "The brighter side of man's life". The insight is that of a young, progressive Indian male who looks on every interaction (especially with the opposite sex) as a means to reinforce his status as the confident, bright and positive individual.

Ajay Gahlaut, executive creative director, Ogilvy & Mather, Delhi who has worked on all the brand campaigns says that half the battle was won when they came up with the tagline. "It is self-explanatory and anyone can narrate a quick anecdote around the tagline," he says. Although the stories are simple, it has been a challenge to come with new ones, which are refreshing yet relatable. Like the commercials, what has caught audience's fancy is the poignant ghazal that is used as the background score in each of the ads. Almost every search result on Google and YouTube has a mention of it with users asking for the full version of the musical piece.

The man behind the two-line ghazal is Gahlaut himself. "Not many people know but I've written just two lines - 'Pyaar ki raah mein chalna seekh, ishq ki chaah mein jalna seekh' - for the commercial. I remember going for a pitch and the client (who has been trying to source the ghazal) actually asked me to complete it," he chuckles.

Short and sweet

While the earlier campaigns from the brand were 40-seconders, the last three ads are around 20 seconds each. "The challenge was to say something in a brief period so instead of stories we had to find moments to showcase in the ads," says Gahlaut. The campaigns have a viral element in them. Gahlaut recalls how he received the 'Lift' campaign on Whatsapp, "I believe that is the biggest compliment for any creative person when your work becomes so popular and it comes back to you."

In terms of media mix, television continues to be the lead medium for the brand. It is heavy in print and OOH. The campaigns have been running in cinemas for the last three years and there's sporadic presence on radio as well. However, India has a growing 180 million+ active mobile internet subscriber base. This growth is powered by the non-metro audience, which is home to 95 per cent of India's population.

It is to be noted that as a marketing effort, Pernod Ricard made a 70-minute film called "Men Will Be Men" in 2011. The movie was promoted as "a slice of life story about four young adult males", who are the target audience for the brand, and starred TV actors Rajesh Kumar, Gaurav Chopraa, Rohit Khurana, Rahil Tandon and Gladrags mega model Zeenal Kamdar. Unlike the ban on television advertising, there is no restriction against showing alcohol advertisements in cinema.

The Indian IMFL market is over 200+ million cases of which Pernod Ricard has a share of approximately 15 per cent. Raja Banerji, GM - marketing, Pernod Ricard India says that Seagram's Imperial Blue is the No.2 player in its category with annual sales of over 10+ million cases.

Right blend

Highlighting the marketing challenges for the brand, Banerji says, "Given that this segment is growing mainly on the back of younger new entrants, Imperial Blue also needs to evolve with this changing consumer, while remaining relevant to its existing consumer base."

Imperial Blue: Man thing to do
Imperial Blue aims to dominate the category by making it the destination brand at its price point. A blended whisky, Seagram Imperial Blue combines Indian grain spirits with imported single malts. It is available in sizes of 1 litre, 75cl, 37.5cl, 18cl and 9cl and priced at Rs 370 (750 ml), Rs 186 (375 ml) and Rs 93 (180 ml). It faces stiff competition from United Spirits (Mc Dowells Green Label Whisky Rs 300 (750 ml, Bagpiper Rs 227 (750 ml), Haywards Fine and Directors Special Rs 227 (750 ml)). The other players in the category include John Distilleries (Original Choice), Old Tavern, Kishore Chhabria's Allied Blenders and Distillers (Officer's Choice) and Radico Khaitan (8PM).

Ramanuj Shastry, co-founder and director, Infectious believes that many elements make the Imperial Blue campaigns so memorable. "The ghazal track, the insightful storylines and the downplayed humour have all worked together to make the Imperial Blue 'Men will be Men' campaign a big hit with men," he says.

Shastry personally loves the campaigns, and wouldn't change a thing. "The Pankaj Udhas type ghazal is what small town India listens to when they down a peg with friends. The ban on alcohol advertising does not stop good creatives and marketing from doing great work for surrogates," he notes. He also highlights the fact that digital medium does allow alcohol brands to create edgier and funnier content.

Have news to share? Write to us