Saumya Tewari

Brewing Togetherness

In its latest campaign, Brooke Bond Red Label moves beyond the idea of connecting families and positions "chai" as a beverage that binds diverse communities.

In India, tea plays many roles. It's a humble companion during hilly escapades, train journeys, highway stopovers, chit chat sessions and intense political discussions. But the country's most consumed beverage plays yet another very important role: it helps thaw awkwardness between people and builds bonds.

Brewing Togetherness
Brewing Togetherness
In its latest ad campaign, Brooke Bond Red Label positions both - the brand and tea in general - as the first brick in the bridge between communities. The minute long ad film exploits an oft-repeated yet sensitive theme - the Hindu-Muslim divide in India.

The campaign shows a visibly Hindu couple locked outside their own house. As the wife digs around her purse for the keys, their neighbour, a burkha-clad woman invites them over for tea. She tells them to wait at her place while they resolve their key crisis. The husband (played by noted actor Piyush Mishra), clearly uncomfortable with her religion, turns down the offer. His wife says, "Chai ki bahut achchi khushboo aati hai iske ghar se." While her words fail to convince him, the aroma of fresh tea does the trick. The couple ends up enjoying a cup of tea with their neighbour.

The catchphrase used at the end of the ad is 'Swad Apnepan Ka'. Abhijit Avasthi, national creative director, Ogilvy India (the agency that has worked on this campaign), says, "Most of the brand's previous campaigns talked about bringing family members together but this time the idea became more encompassing. It's about bringing together people across communities."

Does the religious element have anything to do with the on-going elections? No, says Avasthi, shrugging it off as a mere co-incidence. "The Hindu-Muslim plot is one that most audiences can relate to and our intention is to strike an emotional chord with the consumers," he explains. He is quick to add that subsequent campaigns by the brand will explore other themes with roots in our "societal fabric."

Executed by Purple Vishnu Films, the film is directed by Sainath Choudhury. It went on air in the first week of April and will stay on air for a few months. The media mix includes print and radio too.

According to an email response from Hindustan Unilever, parent company of Brooke Bond Red Label tea, the brand goes beyond the functional benefits of tea and stands for a larger social purpose, that is, to bring people together. "We believe in bringing people together over tea. The TVC aims to highlight this aspect of people bonding with each other over tea in a creative and compelling manner," conveyed the company.

Brooke Bond Red Label is HUL's largest tea brand. HUL, in its financial results for the quarter ending December 31, 2013, stated that its tea portfolio has delivered "broad based growth, with Taj Mahal, Red Label, 3 Roses and Taaza growing in double digits."

HUL's main competitor in the tea segment is Tata Global, which markets tea brands like Tata Tea and Tetley. There are numerous other players in the tea market, such as Wagh Bakri, Godrej, Pataka, Society and Duncan, to name a few.

According to the Tea Board of India, in 2012-13, the domestic consumption of tea was 890 million kg. Data from the board suggests that over the last two years, Indian tea production has exceeded total demand. However, despite this excess production, the price of "quality tea," as a report by the board puts it, has moved up over the last year.

As per a report by Onicra, a performance rating agency, the size of the tea market in India is estimated at approximately Rs. 10, 000 crore, with a market penetration of more than 90 per cent. With an annual export volume of approximately 210 million kg of tea, India is the fourth largest exporter of tea in the world; China tops this list currently.

Divided Opinion

We asked our reviewers whether the clichéd 'Hindu-Muslim' plot works this time around. We received mixed reactions to this question but found that the campaign is unanimously appreciated for its sensitive approach.

Brewing Togetherness
Brewing Togetherness
While Anupama Ramaswamy, group creative director, Cheil India, applauds the effort, particularly the creative execution, she feels the religious angle is something the commercial could do without. Incorporating a "social cause" in campaigns seems to have to become a trend of sorts, these days, she notes.

"The idea could have been simpler," Ramaswamy critiques, insisting that given the way we live our lives today, often, we don't even know our neighbours. "But the lovely aroma of food or chai is so unique to each house. What if the smell of chai makes people come together? Dramatising that would have been enough," she suggests. The other thing she didn't like about the ad is the last line, 'Ek cup chai aur milegi?'

Raghu Bhat, founder director, Scarecrow Communications, feels this is a "timely campaign" given how election campaigns are "dividing people." The best thing about the film, according to him, is the fact that "it uses story-telling to spread this message instead of preaching," a tack that's bound to yield a higher level of acceptance. Although religious themes have been used in the past, Bhat gives the film points for being "very real" and for generating "a lot of empathy."

"Also, the product functionality of 'khushbu' and taste is at the heart of the campaign. Over all, it's a commendable piece of communication," he appreciates. If he could change anything about this ad, it would be the line 'Swad Apnepan Ka', simply because too many baselines have the word 'Swad' in them.