Column : Give the Devil his due

Written by Alokananda Chakraborty | Updated: Sep 11 2009, 02:34am hrs
After more than two decades, electronics and home appliances maker Onida has decided to jettison its mascotfirst-green-then-blue-later-yellow-horned Devil. The company will also drop its iconic tagline, Neighbours envy, owners pride. To give the Devil its due, he has served his purpose. The challenge before the company today is quite different from the 1980s when it decided to stoke envy in peoples hearts. Back then, Onida was a late entrant in the growing CTV market, and although it had a technologically competitive offering, the segment was getting cluttered with players also selling on the back of technology. To stand out, Onida decided to flog the brands biggest assetits unconventional vertical frame against the traditional horizontal format. In that context, the slug, Neighbours envy. Owners pride, made a virtue of envy and pride. And the Devil became the seducer.

In 2004, the company decided to renew the Devils franchise, but gave the character a softer look and feel. Out went envy; he now talked about nothing but the truth. But there was a problem. Bereft of envy, the Devil didnt amount to much. Also, the category discourse has evolved, especially in the light of the aggressive, featureand technology-driven hardsell of rival brands led by chaebols LG and Samsung.

In that sense the Devil had become something of a blind spot; which is probably why it is talking about a new campaign sans the Devil and the envy. One may argue that Onida is treading a difficult path, and that mascots bring brands to life. But Onida is definitely not the first to take that risk. Take Ronald McDonald. His first TV appearance in the early sixties as the gleeful clown was portrayed by none other than Willard Scott. Since then, Ronald has gone through several incarnations. Today, Ronald McDonald is seen prancing around as a snowboarding, soccer-playing clown in a form-fitting jumpsuit. Then there is the case of the chubby and balding English butler, the face of Ask Jeeves Inc for nearly a decade, which was ousted in a corporate takeover, when InterActiveCorp bought Ask Jeeves in 2005.

Mascots are mortal.