Ananya PathakPublished: 9 Jun 2019, 6:58 PM

Hajmola plays 'topical' ad game; "Our ideology is different from Amul's," says marketing head

The brand has taken to meme culture with timely puns on current affairs and trending subjects with the hashtag #BaatHajamNahiHui. We spoke to Dabur's Ajay Singh Parihar about it.

Lately, Dabur Hajmola's march into the meme world is becoming hard to ignore. The hashtag used by the team is #BaatHajamNahiHui, an allegory for events hard to digest, metaphorically and true to the brand promise, literally as well.

Such news and trend-based topicals have, for years, been the preserve of Amul.

Ajay Singh Parihar, marketing head-OTC healthcare, Dabur India, tells afaqs! that Hajmola's topical posters and accompanying hashtag have roots that go back to the 1990s.

Hajmola plays 'topical' ad game; "Our ideology is different from Amul's," says marketing head

Ajay Singh Parihar

"Back in the '90s, Dabur Hajmola came up with a series of ads hinged on 'Baat Kuch Hazam Nahi Hui', casting Bollywood actors and cricket players from the time. Back then, television was the only medium to reach consumers," he explains.

He goes on, "As a brand, we have wanted to communicate with our consumers more. In a brainstorming session, we decided to revisit this old tagline in a modern avatar. And what could have been better than launching it as a hashtag in times when anything can go viral overnight."

Dabur's recent topicals include those on JCB Ki Khudai, 'traffic jam' at Mt. Everest, Arnab Goswami's 'Sunny Leone' slip of the tongue, and the big Game of Thrones coffee cup incident. The idea of the hashtag came from Dabur's in-house marketing and digital teams. The memes are being developed by Daily Digital, a digital marketing and creative agency.

Hajmola plays 'topical' ad game; "Our ideology is different from Amul's," says marketing head

Dabur Hajmola ad 'Baat Kuch Hajam Nahi hui', released in late 1990's, featuring Kapil Dev

"When the coffee mug blooper from the GOT episode started trending, we thought - why not take this opportunity to launch the idea. It was then that we first published the #BaatHajamNahiHui meme on social media. The idea was to resonate with our digital audience and reach out to them in a more 'chatpata' way. In a win-win situation, the hashtag received a lot of love and so we decided to continue communicating through it," Parihar explains.

What thumb rules do the team keep in mind while cracking these memes? "We aren't following any protocols or thumb rules. The life of a trending subject is short. The only brief given to the team is that the content should be humorous, relatable, topical, and should have a quick turnaround time. Those are the only four 'dos'. The only idea is to bring a smile to the reader's face," Parihar's answer.

He continues, "A brand like ours deserves more communication. We aren't playing by any deadlines either. There isn't an unsaid rule of 'one meme per week'. However, as soon as we spot a relatable subject going viral, we try pitching in. If it is a 'chatpati khabar', it is our thing. If not, we let it pass. We are focusing more on quality rather than quantity."

However, Parihar does err on the side of caution. "We avoid getting into areas of conflicts or taking up subjects involving individual personalities or politics. We do not want to take sides and be called 'a biased brand'. We are very careful not to hurt anyone's sentiments. As long as it sinks in with our ideology, it works for us," he outlines.

About the longevity of the hashtag, he tells us, "The hashtag has, so far, received a good response. Dabur plans to build on this property. Communication is an inherent part of the brand. We are kicked to take this forward in more creative ways in the future. So far, we have punned on trending subjects and soft news. We are not against taking up hard news topics. For now, with the ongoing World Cup, there will be more opportunity to find pegs to pun on. We are focusing our attention on that."

To Parihar, being compared with Amul is a compliment. "Our ideology is completely different from Amul's. They've been dominating this territory (of news based topicals) for long and have come up with great puns over the years. But we have a different point of view. Our idea of punning is chatpata, like our product. We are grounded to this idea... Humour is an open domain; it is universal. Whoever is able to connect with the situation has a go," he states.

Expert Views

In general, experts feel that the hashtag should have been a little shorter, other than that, they think it works.

Hajmola plays 'topical' ad game; "Our ideology is different from Amul's," says marketing head

Sumit Negi

Sumit Negi, executive creative director, Dentsu Webchutney, feels Dabur's hashtag is based on a colloquial term and is hence, easy to comprehend. He is of the opinion that a hashtag only gains popularity when it reflects shades of our everyday life and can consequently be used for tagging general posts and tweets. On both counts, he appreciates Hajmola's hashtag.

Nevertheless, he cautions, "Using this to pun on trending issues is a different discussion. Hajmola has been a part of our lives for decades and I'm sure it controls a big chunk of the category. As a brand, its communication is on the lighter side of life, so punning can be a valid arm for their digital extension. But the thing with puns and memes is that people are also doing the same on social media every day and sometimes, far better than brands because they have the freedom to say what they want. So, until or unless a brand's take on trending issues is very different, the fear of getting lost in the crowd is quite high."

Negi feels it's premature to compare Hajmola's memes to Amul's iconic topicals. Of course, Hajmola can't compete with Amul's legacy just yet, but trends are fair game on social media. And regarding a brand having 'thumb rules' to try and compete with the best, he says, "Remember that viewers are always looking out for fresh perspectives and a different take. Just punning is an easy way out; brands should think of a fresh approach."

Hajmola plays 'topical' ad game; "Our ideology is different from Amul's," says marketing head

Mithun Mukherjee

Mithun Mukherjee, associate creative director, Grapes Digital, feels Hajmola's hashtag is bang-on. "Seldom do brands manage to come across a popular colloquial phrase that actually fits in with the brand language and imagery so well."

He points out that since "moment marketing" and "slice of life conversations" have become the mainstay of brands on digital platforms, having a phrase that ties back to trending conversations makes sense to the brand's heart.

Will team Hajmola make good on this new-found digital success or lose the plot along the way remains to be seen. Trending hashtags have short lives. But experts feel Hajmola must try and build a long-term digital property around this game of punning. For that, the tonality must be consistent over the years to come.