Brand Makers

Never forget that you need an idea and technology cannot save you: Piyush Pandey

Pidilite’s Bharat Puri and Ogilvy’s Piyush Pandey take a trip down memory lane and talk about Brand India.

By  Kashmeera SambamurthyAug 26, 2022 5:35 PM
Never forget that you need an idea and technology cannot save you: Piyush Pandey
In an interview with CNBC-TV18, Bharat Puri and Piyush Pandey spoke about what the idea of ‘being Indian’ meant to them when they started out and the brand playbook for success in India and Bharat. (Representational image: Dibakar Roy via Unsplash)

“In 1982, when colour television came to India, and the proliferation of television happened, that is when it presented a big challenge for marketers and for advertising agencies,” says Piyush Pandey, chairman - global creative and executive chairman - India, Ogilvy, in a recent interview with CNBC-TV-18.

Pandey and Bharat Puri, managing director of Pidilite Industries Limited, spoke about the making of the iconic Asian Paints’ campaign, how India’s voice on a global stage began to resonate, the playbook for success for companies in India and Bharat, and the importance for a marketer to localise strategies and really know and understand their audiences.

Catch the best moments and anecdotes from the conversation here.

How advertising embraced localisation

Speaking of his early days at Asian Paints, Puri, who was a young marketing professional then, recalled how the multinational paint company used to advertise in English only. It was around then that colour television entered India and changed how brands communicate with their audiences.

“A lot of what was advertised in English, it would get translated or transliterated. I said, “Listen! The country’s mass speaks so many wonderful languages, why are we advertising in English?" There was this wonderful campaign which was, ‘Celebrate with Asian Paints’, which was translated as, ‘Asian Paints ke saath Jashn manao.’

I said, “Guys, I want somebody who has grown up speaking Hindi at home.”

Puri recalled how they were pointed to a writer called Piyush Pandey. He went to recount the day he was briefed, before Pandey got home he came up with the line, “Har khushi mein rang laye.”

As the marketers went to work closely together on festive campaigns to highlight the occasion of Onam, Pongal, Durga Puja and Diwali, Puri mentioned that, for the campaign around Pongal, they were sure they wanted to shoot it in Chennai and wanted to authentically capture the festive celebration as it was done at home. The campaign was shot by cinematographer Rajiv Menon and an upcoming music director named Dileep Kumar worked on the campaign. Kumar went on to become the award-winning, globally renowned composer AR Rahman.

How India stood tall on a global stage

Puri recollected an experience during his days at Cadbury, where he led the brand and company to greater heights.

“As India began to open up, people began seeing what was originating out of India. Slowly and steadily, India’s voice, first on a multinational stage and then on the world stage began to resonate. Cadbury finally had 100 managers outside India handling global positions, because they groomed themselves within India. And, there were many people asking for them.”

Pandey said when Ogilvy had pitched for Mondelez at an international level, an Indian was asked to come and lead the meeting which was held in Chicago. Pandey said that person was “Yours truly.”

Playbook for success for other companies and the marketer’s cardinal principle - "Know your audience"

“As far as the India playbook is concerned, people who thought global and acted local, are the people, who over a period of time understood India," said Puri.

He added, "Those who thought 'I will think global and I will approve what is happening in India in Singapore or London or the US, over time have struggled, and have started all over again. This is because they have not understood that India is a market that has the size and complexity of a large market but has the revenues, at least in the initial years, of a small market.”

Unilever’s ‘Winning in many Indias’ strategy highlighted why and how companies must localise their strategies. Here, Pandey stressed that the basic principle for any marketer and an advertiser is to know their audience.

Agreeing with Pandey, Puri stressed upon how nothing beats the power of insight, observation and understanding of what worked in the country. Citing the example of Pidilite, he spoke of how they were sure that they wanted to be a part of the emerging markets on a multinational level.

He said, “70% of the growth of the world is going to come out of emerging markets. Different states of India are like different emerging countries of the rest of the world. We perfect our model in India, we learn in India, we make mistakes but get it right, and then we go and still understand locally.”

Pidilite entered Bangladesh much later than its competitors. But within a decade Pidilite became the market leader. Puri spotlights the power of the brand with an anecdote: “When I was visiting Bangladesh, the immigration person asked me, “Sir, what brought you here?” And I said, “I work for Fevicol.” He then plays me a Fevicol ad. And that is the power of knowing that you are doing it right.”

What has changed over the years?

There are three basic changes Puri spoke about and they are Choice, Access and Prosperity.

“When Piyush and I were younger marketers, there was a middle India, and there was an aspirant India. Now, there is a premium rich India, there is a middle India, and an aspirant India. Every marketer needs to have a strategy for all three,” he added.

Pandey said, “Every new technology is an enabler for you to take your idea to your audience. Never be scared of technology, and never forget that you need an idea, and technology cannot save you.”

Then vs Now: How risky is it to convey a message?

“People criticised you earlier also. They will do now also. There is no politician in the world who got 100 percent of the vote,” said Pandey. Here, Puri said that as a marketer, the belief is to first do the right thing and “we are not here to make a comment on religion, politics and so on, we are here to tell stories about our brands.”

He said, “Anybody who has a voice today, it could be disproportionately loud at times. We are here to tell stories about our brands in a certain context… If we get it wrong, we will be the first to acknowledge it.”

Pandey is clear that if something is going to spark a problem in society, they stay away from it. But if the majority or most people understand the sentiment of what a brand is conveying, that’s enough validation for Pandey.

On his vision and hope for India, Pandey spoke about the importance of integration and inclusivity. “Keep this country intact, you better be a Fevicol,” the veteran adman concluded.

First Published on Aug 26, 2022 3:58 PM