Five brands that caught my eye
By Sumanto Chattopadhyay
Zoom: Hackers inserted porn clips into stiff-upper-lip Zoom meetings. Haters boycotted the app because it was ‘Chinese’. And it made ‘Am I audible?’ the question of the year. For me, though, it’s the defining brand of 2020.
Zoom helped keep businesses afloat through the pandemic. It even engendered its own culture: schizophrenic fashion for your camera-facing bits; ‘e-charisma’ (smile more, nod more, avoid the ‘resting b*tch face’); and for escapists, virtual backgrounds which they tend to dissolve into, like the Cheshire cat. Not least, there were the Zoom oopsies: people forgetting to switch off the camera during loo breaks. And (I’m not lying) a corporate leader getting sacked for deliberately exposing himself during a meeting!
Facebook: I love the Facebook film. No, I’m not talking about The Great Hack on Netflix. I mean the Pooja Milk Centre ad for Facebook India. A story about the power of generosity, it could easily have become cheesy. But instead, the brand kept it subtle. And brought its role as an enabler organically into the narrative.
This viral video is over seven minutes long! (Umm, you were saying, ‘People don’t watch anything over seven seconds nowadays’?) If you haven’t seen it, please do. And take my #DryEyeChallenge: if you can get through it without shedding a tear, well, then, I’ll commend you for your heart of stone.
Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw: Liquor’s loss is medicine’s gain: Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw topped her course in brewing, but was unable to get a job as a master brewer because it was considered ‘man’s work’. Instead, she started an industrial enzyme manufacturing firm from her garage in Bengaluru, with a capital of just Rs 10,000. Against all odds, she grew it into Asia’s leading biopharmaceutical company, Biocon.
Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw is a fine example of not just a human brand, but a humane one. She makes affordable medicine for cancer, diabetes and more. She repurposed Biocon’s psoriasis drug to treat Covid. And when she herself contracted the disease, she shared her experience of it publicly — as an antidote to the prevailing fear and misinformation. Mazumdar-Shaw is the face of compassionate capitalism. A philanthropist, she has pledged to donate half her wealth to charity. Brand purpose is supposed to be about living your philosophy. And she certainly shows us how to do it.
Himalaya Pure Hands: Along with Buddhism and yoga, the namaste is one of the greatest things to come out of India. But while the world is waking up to its value, we seem to have ditched it for the handshake — a downright dangerous act in Covid times.
The namaste is the most hygienic greeting, hands down (sorry, couldn’t resist). So, it’s apt that Himalaya launched its Pure Hands hand hygiene range with an ode to it — describing the namaste as #ThePurestGreeting, one that ‘only spreads love’. I love this lyrical, soulful film because it shows the relevance of our cultural heritage. To quote from the ad, the namaste is ‘a greeting from our ancient past to our future’. Truly, it is.
Corona: ‘Corona beer virus’ was, at the start of the pandemic, among the most searched phrases on Google. Apparently, millions of consumers couldn’t tell the difference between the beverage and the affliction. Sales of this Mexican beer hit rock bottom. I know that David Ogilvy said that the consumer is not a moron. But I struggle to keep the faith in this instance.
In this era, when brands are supposed to respond to everything all the time, Corona beer maintained a dignified silence — waiting it out till better sense prevailed.
So let’s make a toast — to a safer, smarter world in 2021 — with a Corona beer, of course. Salud!
The author is chairman & CCO, 82.5 Communications