Thumps Up and change of brand essence

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I have been in advertising long enough to have witnessed some of the earliest ads of Thumps Up. Trikaya Advertising created the  ‘Food, friends and Thumps Up‘,  Refreshing Cola featuring celebrities and the famous ‘Happy Days are here again’ campaign. I think Trikaya created the logo too, if I am not mistaken. And then Ashok Kurien of Ambience took away the Thumps Up account and created a new positing for the brand:  ‘Toofani Thanda’ – arising from the strong taste of the brand. They even launched a bigger bottle – the Maha Cola to counter the launch of Pepsi. Several legendary campaigns and base lines followed, ‘Taste the Thunder’ being the most memorable one.

All through, the core thought of the brand and the creative expression has been the same. Thumps Up is a strong fizzy drink that is meant for the macho and ‘people go to great lengths‘ to get it.  In fact, several brands have tried various creative expressions of ‘going to great lengths to get it’ – the platform varying from funny (check out this execution from Perrier which is in the similar space) to naughty to adrenaline-pumping. The platform is used across several categories, usually with exaggeration of course – from drinks to chocolates. It conveys that the product is special, precious and worth taking the trouble over. And the communication has to be product centric.

The recent commercials from Thumps Up featuring Mahesh Babu have been a departure. They cue Thumps Up inspiring someone to do ‘toofani‘ things. While ‘dare’ and ‘masculinity’ (perhaps missing in the ‘Ice Caves‘ ad) are  still portrayed I feel its a huge departure from the core creative idea of ‘I will do anything to get my Thumps Up’.  It is being explained as the ‘Thumps Up man no longer chasing thunder but living it’. But somehow, the magic is missing. And the core reason for it is the missing element of ‘I will do anything for my Thumps Up’ and hence a change in brand essence.

Avis, known for its legendary ‘We try harder’ tag line has changed to ‘Its your space‘. Are such changes in brand essence arising out of internal marketing fatigue? Or a belief that what has been successful thus far will not be so anymore due to a change in customer attitude or perception towards category?

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