It all started with a social media post where Amul called out cookie makers for putting too little butter in their so called ‘Butter Cookies’ . Amul in fact got catty enough to claim that its Amul Butter Cookies contain 25 per cent butter as against three or five per cent contained in the competitors' cookies. While this happened almost three weeks go, Britannia, one of the biggest cookie makers in the country, has now responded by saying that their Good Day cookies have much less cholesterol as they contain less butter.
For the longest time, Amul’s communication has been synonymous with tongue-in-cheek billboards and the endearing Amul girl. But all of a sudden, the little one seems to have developed fangs and claws. The bright eyed tot is going all guns blazing at its competitors. Earlier, we witnessed this in Amul’s ice cream vs frozen dessert debate. And now, this.
But wait...Amul didn’t stop there. They chose to crowd-source their aggression by encouraging netizens to post butter cookie pack shots of rivals that were all blurb and no butter.
Former adman MG Parameswaran (Ambi), founder of Brand-Building.com, candidly says that we now have a Cookie War upon us.
On the recent move made by Britannia's flagship brand Good Day, he responds, "I wonder what got them to react to a total newcomer. As a market leader, I would not have responded and acknowledged the new entrant. Obviously, they may be feeling the heat and hence the response."
Positioning butter as good or bad:
"That begs the question, what is the right amount of butter to be put in a cookie? Is butter to be treated like a flavour? So we have chocolate cookie, a vanilla cookie and a butter cookie, with traces of chocolate, vanilla and butter. The bigger question that remains is that a cookie is also consumed for its taste appeal. How tasty is a 25 per cent butter cookie? If it is really more tasty, and is better value for money, will a consumer compromise on the cholesterol level and plump for a 25 per cent butter cookie? I am sure other players may jump in and add to the dynamics. All in all, the consumer is benefitting. A wider range of products. Better value. And more information. All for the good of a vibrant consumer market," he concludes.
A couple of things surprised creative consultant L Suresh about Amul’s social media campaign. Firstly, the decision to take the market leaders in the butter cookie segment head on even before they (Amul) made their product available across the country. And secondly, coming up with a slippery argument (butter vs vegetable oil) that was always going to fall flat, considering that both ingredients are threats to a cholesterol-conscious TA.
But the twist in this tale is produced by Amul themselves, for they are leaders in the butter segment. “So what better strategy than to play up their strength in the newly launched product?” he points out.
“Besides, there’s a section of the audience that would still root for butter over vegetable oil. Incidentally, Britannia knocked the latter when it panned fried snacks in its decade-old radio campaign for its digestive and NutriChoice range,” he explains.
We quizzed him about the intended advertising puns and whether ambush marketing has attained a new avatar in the advertising scene and more.
Sharing his insight on Amul's move (since they made the first move in this case), he says,“In an era where trolling has overtaken PUBG as the most indulged-in pastime, their faithful audience didn’t disappoint.”
He is of the opinion that by starting the butter vs vegetable oil debate, Amul seems to have taken up the age-old strategy of ‘if you can’t convince, confuse’.
However, will the cookie-devouring lot be enraged that their cookie has vegetable oil instead of the butter that they were promised? Or will they be outraged that they’ve all along been attracted to cholesterol magnets with 25 per cent butter? “The numbers in the following quarters will tell,” pat comes his reply.
When asked about Britannia’s game plan/ response, he says, “One would have expected Britannia to respond earlier. Perhaps they thought it was just a gimmick that would fade away. Perhaps they didn’t expect their brand to feature that many times in Amul’s ‘bitter butter’ contest. Perhaps the approving authorities were on vacation!”
JWT Bengaluru has been handling the creative duties for Good Day for several years now.
But doesn't it come as a surprise to see them react almost a month later?
Taking the cue he adds, “And when one looks at their rebuttal, one not only questions the delay in response, but also the need for response: ‘Butter cookies with 25% butter have up to seven times more cholesterol than Britannia Good Day Butter Cookies.’ No explanation about having 22% vegetable oil and calling it a butter cookie. Or why vegetable oil is healthier than butter.
Interestingly, this argument would fly – out of the window, in the hinterland where paratha and lassi are topped up by huge dollops of butter and cream. “Forget taglines - on health grounds, butter is still better,” he shares.
Competitive ads are not new in the food category. Horlicks vs Complan, Nutramul vs malt drinks, the half a dozen Marie brands, and of course, Coke vs Pepsi, are legendary.
We asked him about brand wars and here's how he explains that with an analogy (and albeit a throwback!).
“Back in the 80s, Godrej refrigerators became synonymous with PUF (Polyurethane Foam) despite the fact that all refrigerators had them. The same applied to Promise toothpaste when it went to town with the ‘promise of clove’. In these cases, a generic ingredient was promoted as the secret sauce and because of the way it was advertised – and possibly because of the etiquette back in the times – other brands didn’t react,” he recalls.
But times have changed. “The brand made popular by a cute little girl in a polka frock has donned the war paint and sounded the bugle. RSVPs have been sent out to FMCG giants like HUL, Britannia, Parle and ITC. It will be surprising if they decide to respond. And disappointing, if they choose to respond like Britannia has,” he proves his point successfully.