Ashee Sharma

Let down your hair this Holi, says Parachute

Marico's new digital campaign #KhulKeKheloHoli encourages one and all to enjoy the festival of colours as the company's hair oil brand Parachute Advansed takes care of their hair.

You are never too old to play Holi. And, if it's your hair that keeps you from enjoying this spray of colours, Marico has a solution. The health and beauty consumer goods company has come up with a digital ad to tell people that this festive season they can leave it to its hair oil brand Parachute Advansed to care for their hair.

The ad #KhulKeKheloHoli, conceptualised by McCann Worldgroup India, is set in an old-age home Shantivan, features popular television actors Sudhir Pandey and Neena Kulkarni. It's Holi and Pandey who is all excited to let the child in him indulge in the seasonal frolic, is caught hoarding packets of 'gulaal' by another inmate, played by Kulkarni.

Let down your hair this Holi, says Parachute
But, unlike him, she looks composed, and is seen preparing for the festival by oiling her hair with Parachute Advansed. Although it is supposed to be a colourful morning, Pandey realises it's just another day at Shantivan. His hopes soar though to see a group of young boys and girls enter the place, presumably to play Holi. But, contrary to his expectations, they treat him like an old man, make him sit, and apply the customary 'tilak' on his forehead. Pandey, who actually wants to get drenched in the colour of Holi, is dejected and also amused trying to figure out the relationship between age and play.
Let down your hair this Holi, says Parachute
Kulkarni, who notices all this realises what Pandey wants and stealthily approaches him to smear his face with 'gulaal'. Everyone is surprised and looks at her questioningly, to which she remarks, "Holi hai, chutki bhar se kya hoga" (it's Holi, a pinch of colour is not enough). The household springs into action, with the intense background track suddenly turning cheerful. There's laughter and colour all around.
Let down your hair this Holi, says Parachute
Interestingly, the brand makes an appearance only once in the ad where Kulkarni is shown oiling her hair. Why? The takeaway from it is not a functional, but an emotional message that goes, "Yeh rang hain gaadhe rishton ke, inhein feeka mat padne do, is baar khul ke khelo!"

In a recent interaction with afaqs!, Anuradha Aggarwal, CMO, Marico, had said, "In high penetration-high consumption' categories such as soaps and hair oil, the task is to see if we can give value-added benefits to consumers. It could be in the form of branding, proposition, or product benefits. This will make them pay more for the product. It's about providing 'value growth' over 'volume growth'."

As the functional benefits of a product or category change, the communication around it must also evolve. The ad seems to be an effort in that direction. But, has it been able to deliver the message successfully? Experts opine...

Brand Connection?

Appreciating the ad Santosh Padhi, chief creative officer and co-founder, Taproot Dentsu, says, "It's a well-shot ad with a lovely cast and good music." Padhi is, however, not quite convinced with the brand's role in the commercial. According to him, there was room for Parachute to play up the rational bit and state, more conspicuously, the benefits of using the product.

Let down your hair this Holi, says Parachute
Let down your hair this Holi, says Parachute
"While the spot is beautifully executed, it can be owned by anyone. A detergent brand, for instance, could have said 'Khul ke khelo holi, we are there to take care of your clothes'. That's what Parachute should have done -- established a relation between haircare and itself, particularly on the occasion of Holi. It would have made the ad more 'ownable'. Right now, it is more of an example of 'brought to you by' advertising," he explains.

Padhi insists on brands being an integral part of the stories they tell because consumers may or may not join the dots the way advertisers and marketers do. "Bringing out the functional benefits of the product or the category would not have harmed the plot. But instead, the ad takes an emotional overtone towards the end, and the 'moral of the story' gets lost," he rues.

For Sameer Aasht, founder-director, Alma Mater Biz Solutions, a brand consultancy that targets start-ups, the context of Holi and oil go well together as the growing concern around toxicity of colours used in the festival gets people anxious about their hair; a "pre-Holi oil application ritual is well-entrenched".

"From the consumer's point of view, the perceived benefit of the category is to nourish and protect hair, so it is definitely the right occasion for the brand to be vocal. #KhulkeKhelo is an apt articulation to project the brand as the armour that will get people out of the closets on Holi," he says.

Aasht concurs with Padhi on the missing brand connect in the ad. According to him, the role of the brand, as well as the category could have been further strengthened by choosing alternatives which could have been to enhance the brand's (emotional) appeal, recruit more oil users, make oiling a ritual for the young, drive home a category benefit, or tell a story.

"In their obsession to make all look happy, Utopian, emotional, do good and heavenly, ads at times, overlook the potential of straightforward messaging that leverages the pain point/opportunity. Nevertheless, given the leadership position of Parachute, the marketing task would have been to reinforce stature and salience, and not as much to grow it. The overall campaign could have been enveloped with some functional message in case business growth was also expected," infers Aasht.

"In terms of the execution, the music is endearing, the cast seems like the usual suspects, the location of old-age home is odd and is a slight cultural misfit for India, but adds to the drama, a subtle product window/voiceover comes with a high risk of compromised comprehension on a proposition's RTB (real-time bidding), all of which may have been a conscious choice," adds Aasht as he recommends shorter and crisper edits for the long video which, for him, was a bit of a drag.

He reckons that the campaign will create greater affinity for the brand on a short research cycle with limited incremental impact on business or recall value beyond Holi. Hence, it will be important for Parachute to do a follow-up campaign to extend the #Khulkekhelo proposition beyond the festival. Or else, it will be "life as usual for consumers".

"The ones using the brand will continue doing so with some pride for some time, while those who considered and tried the brand with Holi, will relegate it to a 'Holi special', forgotten soon with the epitaph of a tactical solution. Consider #khulkekhelo for sports, IPL, football, and summer holidays, #khulkeghumon for bikers wanting an anti-pollution sheath, #khulkejiyo for maybe other life-enhancing purposes," recommends Aasht.

Let down your hair this Holi, says Parachute
Kalyan Ram Challapalli, chief strategist, Wolfzhowl Strategic Instigations (Ex-Leo Burnett, Ex-TBWA), calls the campaign the beginning of a new narrative for brand Parachute. "Author Amish Tripathi, in his Shiva trilogy, re-introduced Lord Shiva and his legend in a fashion which was more 'buyable' for the youth. So did FabIndia in the way it re-glamourised the kurta with the jeans for the activism-oriented youth. In this ad, wanting to counter the 'criticality of oiling', we see Parachute boldly embracing 'Jadon se judi'. Today, when young India seems to be re-discovering its heritage and ancient wisdom, this is a good move by Marico," says Challapalli.

In his opinion, Parachute has also acted wisely by using this opportunity to capitalise on a mass occasion/event. "One knows that on Holi and even otherwise, oiling your hair helps to protect it from any kind of abuse and also nourishes it better as compared to shampoos and conditioners. The brand has embraced the purpose of liberating people from the worries of indulging in the festival," adds Challapalli.

He dismisses the argument that bringing in an older couple distances the youth from the brand. The difference between advertising and story-telling, he believes, is that while the former specifically targets a particular age-group, story-telling has a more humane orientation.

"And moreover, there is undeniable relevance of ancient wisdom today, even for the youth. That said I hope to see more youth-centric ritual-marketing initiatives from Marico in the future. I hope to see wisdom/advice and songs exchanged between "mothers and daughters/sons" during the oiling ritual. In this time-starved world where parents and children hardly spend time together, oiling is a brilliant, nourishing way to create parent-child quality time -- it's fun and also practical advice. A perfect way to own 'Jadon se Judi'," suggests Challapalli.