He no longer writes the briefs for this 'creative franchise', but we spoke to him anyway... about the inception and journey of 'Jaago Re', and being heard amid the din of cause-led advertising messages.
In an advertising landscape replete with purpose-led messages, we decided to go back to Tata Tea, one of the poster-boys of this kind of marketing. We spoke to Sushant Dash, regional president - India and Middle East, Tata Global Beverages, the man who wrote the first creative brief for 'Jaago Re' over a decade back.
The first 'Jaago Re' advert broke in 2007; in it, a young boy questioned the credentials of a haughty politician. The release was strategically timed to precede the 2009 General Elections.
The phrase 'Jaago Re' was born out of not a communication, but a business, need - to optimise the brand's media spend. "The starting point," says Dash, who has been in the Tata family for 17 years, "was the need to consolidate our media monies and get higher ROI on our media spends. So one of things we decided to do for this was - look at a new brand strategy..."
Up until that point, each of the Tata Tea brands - Tata Tea Premium, Tata Tea Gold and Tata Tea Agni - were individual brands, advertised separately. "We wanted to create and advertise 'Tata Tea' as the mother brand and each of these as product variants," recalls the Bangalore-based executive. The logic: "Regardless of the variant, what the consumer buys into is the mother brand. So we separated the emotional and transactional advertising. That also saves you media monies."
What was the communication challenge? Well, the team needed a line that straddled both the premium ("the Gold consumer belongs to South Mumbai, South Delhi") and the non-premium ("the Agni consumer is from rural UP, Pratapgarh") ends of the market.
"We wanted people from both ends to see the commercial and think 'Yeh mera wala Tata Tea hai'... that was the creative challenge. We needed an insight that could cut through pop strata, demographics and psychographics," explains Dash.
The other clause he added to the brief was - the need to appeal to the youth, "not directly, but through the grammar, language and storytelling aspects of our communication." Why? "Because there was a feeling at that point in time that tea was losing its relevance... while people continued to drink tea twice a day, in terms of imagery and perception it was becoming a little fuddy-duddy..." he admits.
Zeroing in on the line 'Jaago Re' was fairly easy, in that there were no other catchphrases or lines that almost got picked instead. No, none of that. "They (the agency Mullen Lintas) came back with the script, directly. I remember it was on a call with Balki (former group chairman, MullenLowe Lintas Group) and Amer (Jaleel, present day chairman and chief creative officer, Mullen Lintas)..."
"'Jaago Re' was a way for us to take the higher moral ground and re-position the brand. When you make a statement like this, which is somewhat over the top, in a sense... well, all brands cannot make it. One can make it because one is a Tata brand. A local brand can't," Dash says, about the idea of moving from 'tea that wakes you up' to 'tea that stirs an awakening'. He and his team saw it as an instant differentiator in a competitive category full of local, regional and national players. 'Jaago Re' ad films have no product shots in them.
By the way, the deep voice you hear at the end of the ads -"Har subah sirf utho mat, Jaago Re"- is Amer's, a little birdie tells us.
With the basic phrase in mind, when the team started brain-storming further, they realised that a lot of people feel strongly about various social causes. "Also, that was the time social media was coming up in a big way, people were finding their voice online," he says.
Cause-led marketing comes with its dos and don'ts. About the latter, Dash says, "The brand shouldn't be condescending. Don't lecture consumers. The tone and manner of the communication shouldn't be preachy." That's one of the things he attributes the campaign's longevity to.
The very first campaign took up corruption as a cause. "We did debate a lot about which cause to take," he shares, adding, "We researched, tried to find out what's relevant, we debated, had second thoughts, discussed whether we're treading on grounds that are not politically right... but our campaigns are about self-realisation. It becomes controversial if a brand says the system or a certain section of society is bad..."
In 2007, when the 'politician ad' was launched, the team's research revealed that a lot of youngsters don't vote due to issues relating to the whole registration process - many have no permanent address/documents. Dash et al worked with the Election Commission and MapmyIndia to simplify and digitise the registration process. They got six lakh people registered in 2008.
Since 2007, every two years or so there's been a big 'Jaago Re' campaign. "Everything has a shelf life. Have we debated whether there's a time to re-look it? The answer is yes. That's one of the reasons for the three year gap," says Dash referring to the long advertising hiatus 'Jaago Re' took between 2014 and 2017, during which time he flirted with the idea of doing away with this 'advertising franchise'.
About the break, Dash says, "2016 is when we should have done another ad, after the 'Power of 49' campaign in 2014 (election time). But we noticed that every second brand was talking about some or the other social cause, whether there was merit to it or not... when that happens, the consumer looks at all of it with cynicism. Hence, we asked ourselves, 'Is it time for us to ditch 'Jaago Re' and look at something else for an emotional connect?'"
But the line stuck on. How so? "We realised that 'Jaago Re' still had a lot of resonance with the consumer... but it required a 'refresh', including the grammar of storytelling." That's what led to Jaago Re 2.0 last February; the new 'pre-activism' campaign line went 'Alarm bajne se pehle Jaago Re'.
Does the frequency of the ads depend more on the social activism aspect than on marketing realities? And is that okay - for a brand's communication to be more cause -than business- led? Answers Dash, "I believe advertising is not just about solving a business problem. You need to be in constant conversation with your consumer. 'Jaago Re' helps us do that... I might not be doing big campaigns all the time, but there are other ways to communicate - through your pack, on-ground, digital... also, the 'Jaago Re' site is always active; I post on it every single day."
Finally, marketing literature notwithstanding, we just had to ask - when making a purchase decision, at moment of truth, does a consumer really think beyond her wallet and taste buds? Does she really care about the cause a brand supports?
"I think so," says a confident Dash, "While functional benefits are still table stakes for a product, consumers do go out of their way to associate with brands that stand for a cause. That gives you the higher moral ground. P&G and Unilever do it, globally..."
Closer to home, one of his biggest rivals in the organised tea market is an aggressive purpose-led advertiser - HUL's Brooke Bond Red Label. Outside of distribution, does beating competition then boil down to media visibility?
"We don't believe in that. I don't need to outshout anyone. As long as I'm clear about who my consumer is and where my business is coming from, I'm good." Dash signs off.