Once again, during this Diwali, Salman Khan has stolen a million hearts with his blockbuster “Prem Rattan Dhan Payo”, and his producer, the Barjatyas of Rajshri Productions are laughing all the way to the bank. The movie, which has been lambasted and derided by the movie analysts and box office pundits because of a wafer thin storyline, no hummable songs, very predictable climax and sloppy dialogues, has grossed ₹40 Crores ($6 million) on the opening day and more than ₹100 Crores ($15 million) till now. How did the much criticized movie get the mojo in the box office?
Well, one of the factors that contributed to the mega success of this movie is the word “Prem”. Salman Khan, in the past, has been associated with this name in fifteen movies, out of which three have been mega blockbusters --- namely, Maine Pyaar Kiya, Hum Aapke Hain Kaun and Hum Saath Saath Hain. The name “Prem” evoked nostalgic fond memories in the heart of his fans, who rushed to the theatres to see their favorite matinee idol recreate the magic of the rejuvenated Prem. And who cares for storyline, script, characters, songs, background score and exotic locations when “Prem” bhaiyya is entertaining you in full swing?
And, it is not the first time that a brand has got its marketing strategy right with a catchy word. Coca Cola, who was trying to make an aggressive foray into the rural and semi-urban Indian households in 2003, understood that when a guest walked in, the Indian host would always ask “What would you like to have --- Thanda ya Garam?” Thanda would imply anything from refrigerated water, soft drinks, fruit juice, sherbet, squash, coconut water or chilled beer. And hot would mean anything ranging from tea and coffee to alcoholic drinks. With this insight, Coca Cola unleashed the fun filled ad “Thanda Matlab Coca Cola” with Amir Khan dressed as a Mumbai Tapori, Punjabi Farmer, Bengali Bhadrolok, Bihari Contractor and Hyderabadi Shopkeeper, that left the audience in splits and also increased the market share of the soft drink beverage brand. The brand association with the word “thanda” was so powerful that it took Pepsi years to counter the challenge posed by Coca Cola.
But it was not the first time that a beverage brand had stirred up excitement among customers with a bewildering yet memorable word. The soft drink brand 7Up created a similar frenzy in 1967 when they introduced themselves as the “Uncola”. While the customer had heard of Coca Cola and Pepsi Cola, they started wondering --- What is this brand which calls itself the Uncola? Getting the customers puzzled with is catchy word helped 7Up to convert themselves from an uncool brand to a hot selling soft drink beverage as the sales skyrocketed. It soon became the third most preferred beverage drink of the 1970s.
In India, a similar positioning strategy using word imagery was done by Anchor, the electric switch and accessories maker. In 1996, the company decided to go for an unrelated diversification and started making toothpastes. The oral care market, which was dominated by big players like Colgate Palmolive, Hindustan Unilever and Dabur, had little room for a new entrant to elbow in. Anchor found that one of the main ingredients of toothpaste was dicalcium phosphate which was sourced from animal bones, while a vast majority of the users were vegetarians. With this insight, they came out with an interesting brand proposition positioning Anchor toothpaste as “vegetarian” toothpaste. The word “vegetarian” resonated so strongly among the consumers by questioning their ethical values that it soon became the second best-selling toothpaste in Gujarat and Rajasthan.
Another multinational company that has reaped benefits of powerful word association has been Cadbury. The brand very rightly understood that the main challenge in India came not from rival confectionary brands like Nestle, Amul, Parle and Perfetti but from the Mithaiwallas and sweetmeat makers. In India, every occasion like birthdays, marriage, festivals, passing exams, getting jobs and winning matches is celebrated with a box of sweets. Cadbury rightly understood that to get a bigger market share in India, they would need a stronger bonding with the word “Meetha”. With this realization, they have been releasing ads featuring Amitabh Bacchan with the tagline “Kuch Meetha Ho Jaaye”, and riding the pinnacles of success.
How do you get the right word that will give a clear message to the consumer about the brand proposition? While there are many popular word association techniques used by marketers, brand managers, ad agencies and market research companies, the ZMET (Zaltman Metaphor Elicitation Test) is perhaps the most structured tool that uses metaphors to compare between two unlike entities. But ultimately, it is a deeper understanding of the consumer psyche that will help the brand to get the right word that will stir up the excitement in the consumer’s mind. Whatever way it is, the underlying message is that one single powerful word is more effective to garner more brand equity than sentences and paragraphs running into volumes. And that is exactly why “Prem” bhaiyya will come back, year after year, to entertain you and earn his moolah, irrespective of whatever the film critics might have to say!!!