Thoughts on ‘touch therapy’ and Vicks #TouchOfCare

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Vicks Vaporub is one of those iconic brands with a strong emotional connect. It’s unique smell, brand colours, packaging and product feel are etched in consumers’ minds over generations. Even today, Vicks Vaporub is what I (and many of my generation) turn to for relief from cold or headache. The choice is driven not just by product efficacy but an emotional connect with the brand. The connect comes from associations of care, in which touch plays a critical role. The process of smearing the product and mother’s touch are part of the Vicks Vaporub memories. The marketing team has made commercials highlighting this touch therapy or ‘sparsh chikitsa’ over the years.

In this context, comes the #TouchOfCare film which has created a lot of buzz – 2.2mn views as of now and lots of social mentions. Many have raved about the film leaving them teary eyed.

Agency: Publicis

I wasn’t aware that this is based on a true story – which is very touching and epitome of care in itself. The film, a recreation of that true story is well made and ticks off many boxes. The casting and acting seems spot on – especially in the scene where the mother bids goodbye to the child in the school. However, the film did not move me to tears for the following reasons:

– I am a bit sceptical of long format brand films which have little or no connect to the brand. I couldn’t spot one in this film. I feel the story of the protagonist is what will be remembered and not as a brand film
– A lot of brands are placing far too much importance to YouTube views and viewing (no pun intended) them as the only metric of success. In fact, CMOs seem to give targets like ‘10mn views in one week’ to their agencies. The more fundamental, ‘how does this help my brand from a business POV?’ seem to be all but forgotten (at least it appears to to grumpy, old ex-advertising folks). How did the Samsung India service film strengthen its equity or create preference? Did the popular Myntra web films help build business? Such questions will always be asked of viral films.  

The thinking behind the Vicks #TouchOfCare campaign (and I am indulging in some kite flying here) seems to be to create an affinity among a younger audience. The choice of the story (featuring a transgender mother) could be reflective of that. But still, questions about its brand connect and role in business-building remain in my head. In the quest to build brand affinity is the brand relegated to the background? Or are the accolades from the intended target audience (not me, perhaps) proof of brand equity being strengthened among a new set of audience?

Update: sharing views of Neeraj Ghaywan – the director of the ad film from a Twitter conversation.

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