American singer Jason Derulo (left) and Canadian-Indian singer-producer Tesher in the ‘Jalebi Baby’ remix released in July 2021. (Image: screen grab)
In a sweet marketing manoeuvre Zomato partnered with singer-producer Tesher to integrate the brand in ‘Jalebi Baby’, a remix of the Canadian-Indian rapper’s 2020 song which became a Tik Tok chartbuster. Remixed with American singer Jason Derulo, the July 2021 digital release of 'Jalebi Baby’ coincided with Zomato’s blockbuster IPO, which prompted many part-time internet sleuths to wonder if it was all part of a grand marketing plan. This theory has been debunked.
The timing of the music video was “absolutely unintentional” and “coincidental”, says Chandan Mendiratta, who leads brand marketing at Zomato. Briefly, Mendiratta considered running it by the Legal department when he first saw the comments pouring in on social media. But “because it was purely a marketing activity and had nothing to do with the public offering...” it was all jalebi, baby.
Zomato and UMG For Brands, the creative agency within the global music juggernaut Universal Music Group, have been engaging for a while to explore how the brand can be a part of popular culture through music. “When the opportunity came in the form of 'Jalebi Baby', it became our fastest deal!” Preeti Nayyar, VP - new business and brand partnerships, India & South Asia, Universal Music Group, tells Storyboard. The music video gave Zomato an opportunity to integrate the brand with an internet sensation that has transcended into the mainstream.
Tesher and Derulo sing, do bhangra and make jalebis to woo a woman in the family-friendly music video. Tesher's plan almost fails when he drops the plate of jalebis he whipped up. Cue Zomato delivery partner, carrying a box of jalebis, to the rescue.
As of July 2021, 'Jalebi Baby' has amassed over 200 million global streams. The MV featuring Zomato’s cameo had over 20 million views in a week on YouTube.
Easy recipe for success
Now, when he looks back, Mendiratta says the partnership was a “no-brainer”, given the success of Tesher’s original song, global star Derulo in the mix, and jalebi, which, according to him, is a universally liked food that’s high on nostalgia factor. “For me, personally, jalebi takes me back to my childhood. It brings back memories of me riding behind my dad on his scooter, going to get jalebis for breakfast every Sunday. I had a personal bias,” he admits, “We brainstormed with UMG and closed the deal in a day.”
At Zomato, “if you like something then just execute ASAP,” he says, highlighting the importance of speed and agility in decision-making. Today, in terms of the music video, “audiences are talking about Tesher’s sherwani, Jason Derulo’s bhangra and jalebis from Zomato.” The objective is to get people to talk about the brand, he says: "The jalebi song is not about us, but we are part of the story."
The recently-listed food delivery giant is carefully cultivating its brand personality using levers like music, which is “always top of mind” for the marketer. “We have a music sensibility,” says Mendiratta, sharing examples of the brand song they created in collaboration with composer Anirudh Ravichander for Tamil audiences - Summa Semma Zomato and its festival, Zomaland.
The pop-culture wagon
“As label and content creators we want our content to travel far and wide and we look for a win-win with brands. The brand also needs to be equally submerged in that culture and experimentative enough to pick up such opportunities,” says UMG’s Nayyar who sees two ways to embed brands in internet-driven popular culture.
Brands either try to be a part of a success story or create their own space with bespoke content. “In this particular case, Tesher is already a hit here and across the diaspora in the USA and Canada. We knew that for Zomato an international collaboration would be a game changer.” She adds, “Team Zomato is fast in deciding what they want and play along once they are on board.”
The brand also leveraged the integration on social media to bring its own share of virality to the campaign. On Zomato’s Instagram post about 'Jalebi Baby', one user asked how they did it and the brand replied, “Basically go big or go home.”
Food for thought
Zomato is not the only brand that makes an appearance in 'Jalebi Baby'. Before the music kicks in, we see Tesher on a Lyft bike. “Both brands are very noticeably placed,” says Harshil Karia, founder of Schbang, a Mumbai-headquartered marketing solutions company. But, he says, “as a brand, Zomato has perpetuated itself into pop culture in much better ways through its banters on social media and its highly engaging content and advertising.” Karia adds, “Considering the stature it has, music videos should be using Zomato organically!”