Year after year, Imperial Blue’s advertising has managed to entertain its patrons with tongue-in- cheek humour and its signature two-line ghazal. What sets the brand apart?
Think of a whisky brand and its advertising, albeit surrogate, and one only remembers that they highlight the achievements/success/never-say- die attitude of the protagonist. However, one brand for almost 20 years has stayed away from the norm to create one of the most iconic campaigns in India. We are talking about Imperial Blue’s Men will be Men series, conceptualised by Ogilvy & Mather 19 years ago.
Says the agency’s executive creative director, Ajay Gahlaut (incidentally, the adman at the helm of it for the past 15 years), “The tagline was created before my time at Ogilvy but we have stuck to it for years because of the sharp positioning.”
Keeping it simple
The tagline for Pernod Ricard’s (the holding company for Seagram’s distilled brewery business) whisky brand Imperial Blue, over the years, has been showcasing how men behave around and in front of women. The campaign is based on a key human insight that ‘confident men take on life with optimism’. When woven in with the brand’s essence of being optimistic, fun-loving and having the ‘drive to succeed’, it leads to a brand experience of showing ‘the lighter side of man’s life’. This universal positioning, according to the agency, cuts across genders, age, geographies and races, and provides simplicity in its idea and execution. Recalls Gahlaut, “Whenever I hold any workshops or seminars and ask people to come up with stories for the brand, I have been shocked by their uniqueness yet obviousness.”
He further shares that when one looks at the scripts or the films associated with the brand, everyone, including women, agree with the thought that ‘this happens’. Seagram’s Imperial Blue was launched in 1997 and targets men between 25-35 years of age, with relatable creative storylines like men who suck their stomachs in when a woman is around, or offer their seats on flights or fix flat tyres to impress women.
As per Indian Alcohol Consumption Report 2017, India is the largest consumer of whisky in the world and it constitutes about 60% of the IMFL market. On the campaign, Raja Banerji, assistant vice president (marketing), Pernod Ricard India, says, “It is a very light-hearted campaign which has not only helped us connect with our target audience in a lively manner, but has also helped the brand grow.”
A slice of life
But with the same central thought, that of men going out of their way to impress women, for almost two decades, is the communication, while cheeky, becoming predictable? The creative agency believes that the brand’s campaigns, released once a year, haven’t bored people yet because they resonate with common men and women. “There is no way this campaign can offend anyone as the joke is on the man,” laughs Gahlaut, who many a time has used real-life instances and observations in the films.
“We all know if there is a man standing with a flat tyre, no one will help him whereas if a pretty lady is standing next to a car with a flat tyre, many will jump to help her,” he says as a matter-of- fact. Nonetheless, Gahlaut admits that coming up with interesting stories every time is the biggest challenge for the team. Standing out of the clutter is a good move for any brand but if it doesn’t connect with its audiences, then there is no point of coming up with different work, he asserts.
On why the brand has stuck with the tagline for so long, Banerji believes that with a consistent approach, it has been able to strengthen the connect with consumers and create a large following. Apart from TV, the brand also promotes itself in the digital space, sparking situational conversations online. The ghazal written by Gahlaut for the anniversary campaign has quite a few fans online. “Many a time, we have been asked where one can find the original ghazal,” chuckles Gahlaut, as not many people know it is him who has penned those two lines — Pyaar ki raah mein chalna seekh, ishq ki chaah mein jalna seekh. Gahlaut has finally completed the ghazal; he plans to record it by this month-end and release it shortly.
In 2011, Pernod Ricard had launched a 70-minute movie called Men will be Men starring TV actors Rajesh Kumar, Gaurav Chopraa, Rohit Khurana, Rahil Tandon and Gladrags (female) mega model Zeenal Kamdar, capturing the lives of the four young men. A smart move considering cinema, unlike TV, doesn’t have any restrictions on showing liquor advertisements/content.