Patanjali Ayurved, which has disrupted the FMCG space with its out-of-the-box marketing and distribution, is now joining the digital ranks to cater to upwardly mobile consumers. The company, which has been featured consistently among the top advertisers on TV, and claims to have a ‘need-based’ marketing budget, is now looking to shift some of its TV ad budget to digital. “In November last year, we realised we were spending too much on television. So we are now weaning away some of our TV budget to digital,” admitted Avinash Kumar, head, marketing, Patanjali Ayurved, at the Adtech Summit last month.
Till February, mobile video ad platform Pokkt was the only digital medium on which Patanjali was advertising, but March onward, it started digital video advertising for its two brands Saundarya (premium natural cosmetic range) and Shishu Care (baby care range). It is now advertising on YouTube and Facebook, in addition to tying up with video adtech player Unruly. “In March, we increased our digital budget by almost 500%, spending around `4-5 crore,” shared Kumar.
While that is a small figure compared to its MNC counterparts in the FMCG space, it shows a shift in Patanjali’s advertising strategy given its entry into unfamiliar premium and non-traditional categories like noodles, muesli and health bars. “The kind of advertising that big FMCG players have invested in over the years has become an entry barrier for new players like Patanjali Ayurved,” observes brand consultant Harish Bijoor. “For Patanjali to make a difference in its non-core categories like premium cosmetics or muesli, it will not only cost money but also dollops of creativity in its advertising: something the brand is not used to.”
Rightly so, since so far Patanjali’s advertising has been rough around the edges. “The purpose is to keep it that way. It appears to be a strategy to give its communication a desi feel and a back-to-roots kind of narrative,” counters Jessie Paul, CEO of Paul Writer Strategic Advisory. Then of course, there’s the other school of thought which believes Patanjali’s success has very little to do with paid advertising.
It has been a factor of three things — media visibility and the credibility of Baba Ramdev; pricing, and sound retailing. So far the rustic communication style worked for the brand. But as it readies for a digital push with offerings in non-core categories, does it need to change its narrative?
Clearly, ayurvedic products is going to be a space where Patanjali’s current style of communication will continue to work — understated, focussing on desi and chemical-free. “Ayurveda has an umbilical connect. However, the brand now needs version 2.0 for its extensions beyond core areas,” says Bijoor. The TG for these categories comprises consumers who are young and want everything like the rest of the world. The fastest ticket to reach them would be to use digital. “With digital coming in, Patanjali has to get the brand story right,” says Samit Sinha, founder, Alchemist Brand Consulting. “The moment you get into spaces not directly associated with ayurveda, the change in advertising will need to play a role.”
Patanjali Ayurved’s biggest differentiator in traditional categories was to swim against the tide of chemical-oriented narratives that had existed. But in non-traditional products, there is a huge degree of pari-passu. As of now, the brand equity entirely rests on the shoulders of Baba Ramdev. But non-core launches and going digital can have a significant impact on the brand growth trajectory.
The digital connect
Can digital help the brand bridge the possible disconnect in communication when it comes to non-traditional categories? Experts say a foray into digital opens new avenues for content-based storytelling, especially for premium products. “One of the biggest delusions marketers tend to harbour is that ‘digital’ is for urban, English speaking consumers. Over 50% of all internet users in India are local-language only,” points out John Thangaraj, executive planning director, FCB Ulka.
In fact, Patanjali appears to be bending the rules of the game in digital, too. It started its digital journey with mobile advertising company Pokkt a year ago. “Our tie-up with Patanjali is for two things — first, to run rewarded video ads within gaming; and second, in-game integration,” says Rohit Sharma, founder and CEO, Pokkt. On the rewarded video front, Pokkt works with seven key brands of Patanjali such as Powervita and Energy Bar. “The tie-up with Patanjali aims to provide the brand reach, targeting and engagement,” he shares. The platform runs 30-35 lakh video impressions per month for Patanjali. In fact, in September, Pokkt ran an in-game integration with one of the Chota Bheem games for Patanjali noodles. It resulted in half-a-million unique users and 10 million unique sessions for the brand.
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Unruly is currently distributing the campaigns for Patanjali Saundarya and Shishu Care. “Control of video ads is an important issue for Indian consumers and Patanjali has put itself ahead of many of its peers who are still using formats like forced pre-roll,” says Vijay Kunduri, commercial director, ASEAN and India, Unruly. While Patanjali currently has leveraged good word-of-mouth, it should refrain from self-talk on digital, say experts. “Instead it should talk via real consumers and harness its consumer base using video and social media,” advises Rajiv Dingra, founder and CEO, WATConsult.
Sure the brand is going digital, but can the rustic Patanjali legacy backfire for the premium ranges? “It may want to use a sub-brand and change its packaging,” Paul offers. Devangshu Dutta, chief executive, Third Eyesight, sees the transition happening soon, from a company driven by distribution to a company which is driven by marketing. “It will become more and more like any other FMCG competitor,” he concludes.