The internet is brimming with both supportive as well as brand-bashing comments from Amul's pan-Indian consumer base. We wonder what Amul's tubby little moppet in the familiar polka-dotted dress, who has been the brand's mascot for over half a century, would have to say about this.
Meanwhile, Amul's managing director RS Sodhi appears in a social media video, clarifying that the negative buzz is "100 per cent incorrect..."
We leave it to the experts to debate on whether the brand's video with the voice of assurance from its upper echelon (Sodhi), is good enough to make a strong impact on the minds of the consumers or at least keep all the scepticism/suspicion at bay.
Applauding the execution of such an endeavour, Madan Bahal, managing director, Adfactors PR, feels that Amul's response is appropriate under the circumstances.
"A CEO is the most credible and influential spokesperson to hear from on behalf of the brand or corporation and a swift and emphatic denial will help address doubts generated by fake rumours. Mr Sodhi also did well in reassuring the public about the broader category, including cheese and like a true industry leader, he spoke on behalf of the whole industry in India," Bahal shares his take on the subject.
However, he feels that something was a little amiss when discussing Sodhi's implications that competitors were responsible for the rumours. "It could be anyone," he quips.
Given the fact that today's marketers consider negative social media outbreak a nightmare in the digital world, Amul clearly took the timely alert quite seriously and has, therefore, clarified the rumours by stating that the emulsifier (E-471) used, is from a plant source.
Dilip Cherian, image guru and consulting partner of Perfect Relations, notes that there are salient points to this incident. "That Amul is facing this head on and quickly is quite admirable. However, a company known for using humour to sell its products, should have kept it light while rebutting the rumours," he says.
"At Perfect Relations, we believe that when, on the rare occasion, a company has a "Signature Style", it must use it when there's a crisis or a major announcement. Some may argue that humour may not be appropriate, but the little Amul lady could also stomp her angry feet in a quick animated rebuttal," Cherian elaborates.
"Pointing fingers at an overseas company is, perhaps, just a tactic. The attack may well have emanated from a "suspect" Indian company entering the Amul market (you know who!)," the veteran prefers to leave it at that.
Whoa... rumors about Amul? I haven't seen them (yet), but Amul is the kind of brand that I would trust with my eyes closed. I don't know why, but I simply do, having grown up with the brand :) pic.twitter.com/2szSlIpNtz— Karthik (@beastoftraal) September 7, 2018
"The rebuttal in Amul's video is earthy and looks authentically under-rehearsed, so it tends to be more believable," points out the former editor of Business India.
Jaideep Shergill, former chief executive officer of Hanmer MSL and co-founder, Pitchfork Partners, a strategic communication consultancy, acknowledges the fact that Amul is an iconic brand, the products of which are consumed by millions.
"Therefore, when quality-related allegations swirl around, it's imperative for the brand to respond quickly and effectively. Given that the rumours were gaining ground, it's good that the senior-most person in the set-up put himself out there to reassure customers. And a video is a very effective way to do that," he states.
Nonetheless, Shergill maintains that it reminds him of what the Domino's CEO did years ago when a video of workers contaminating food went viral.
"He too put out a video assuring customers of the food quality and detailing how he was fixing the problem. It always matters when the corporate leader himself/herself reassures stakeholders in such situations," Shergill winds up.
The brand seems wise enough to grasp that we live in a time where existing and potential customers often resort to a search engine for product reviews and, in such a scenario, a baffled consumer is simply bad for business and so is a disgruntled one with access to the internet.
Considering that the video has drawn earned attention and driven home the message, Valerie Pinto, current CEO of Weber Shandwick - India, believes that it's a strategy well-crafted and delivered on point.
"In today's digital age, there is no right or wrong way, only the best engaging way. Considering the video has received so many likes, shares and conversations, I think it has served its purpose. If you ask me if there was a better way... yes, maybe. But if this worked, it's done what it aimed to achieve," she signs off.
In a press release titled 'The Taste of India is Pure Vegetarian', Amul said that it 'vociferously negates all these accusations and will clarify any issues regarding the same'.
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