Selling sentiments: Does nostalgia help relaunch brands?

Mahindra Group brought back its Jawa motorcycles last year; Campa Cola is keen on making a return; and HUL’s Liril has attempted many relaunches

Mahindra Group brought back its iconic motorcycle Jawa last year
Mahindra Group brought back its iconic motorcycle Jawa last year

By Venkata Susmita Biswas

Thirteen years after it went off the market, Rola Cola, a hard-boiled cola-flavoured candy from Parle Products, will be back in stores tomorrow. The comeback is courtesy of a Rola Cola fan from Kerala who requested the company in a tweet to revive his “favourite candy”. The user’s plea turned into a nationwide social media drive. In turn, Parle Products tweeted that 10,000 retweets of the original tweet is all the company needs to relaunch the product.

Parle Products is not the only one to have given in to sentiment and nostalgia. Mahindra Group brought back its iconic motorcycle Jawa last year; Campa Cola is keen on a return to take on Pepsi and Coca-Cola; and Hindustan Unilever’s Liril has attempted many relaunches. Nostalgia has been crucial in the launch of brands such as Paper Boat and Saregama’s Carvaan.

According to Snehasis Bose, SVP – planning, L&K Saatchi & Saatchi, the complexity and chaos that our current lives are besieged with are propelling nostalgia brands. “People want to go back to the simpler times when products satisfied direct needs.”

Does it sell?
Before attempting to stage a relaunch, Oindrila Roy, head, strategy, Essence India, says the one question that must be answered is “whether nostalgia is suited to the category.” She believes categories such as food and beverages, fragrance, music and automobile designs lend themselves well to nostalgia. “Dadima ke haath ka khaana has sold many a ready-to-cook masala brand,” she adds.

Even though a strong influence, nostalgia alone won’t ensure products fly off the shelves. KV Sridhar, co-founder and CCO, Hypercollective, says, “Nostalgia works if the target audience at the time of the relaunch is the same as the one that will purchase and consume the product.”

Take brands like Liril and Onida for instance, which were built on strong advertising communication. They failed to make an impact on their return to the market years later. The Liril girl’s joie de vivre appealed to the housewife for whom a shower was the only time off she had from her dull chores. This a sentiment the woman of today does not necessarily share. Meanwhile, Onida’s ‘devil’ positioned the TV as the ‘neighbour’s envy and owner’s pride’. “Today, when everyone has a TV, sometimes two per household, where’s the question of envy?” asks Sridhar.

Bose reiterates that it is very difficult to bring back a product that was made popular mainly through advertising.

Parle Products, hence, was more cautious. “We realised that the nostalgia strategy will not work. We needed to figure out ways to be relevant to the new audience,” says Krishnarao S Buddha, senior category head – marketing, Parle Products.

Relaunch pad
Although it is the millennials who want Rola Cola back, the core target audience of the brand is school children. Buddha says the relaunch will be challenging because a majority of the target audience does not know the product. “Therefore, the relaunch is, in fact, going to be like a new product launch.”

Hence, the brand will need to get its positioning, packaging and pricing right. “The packaging of a product is as important as making sure the brand and its positioning are still relevant to the target audience,” Sridhar states. He cites the example of Paper Boat which stood out in the market with its unique packaging.

The new Rola Cola will have bright
plastic packaging, instead of the earlier paper and foil wrapper. A 30gm pack of the candy is priced at `5. The company will also launch larger combo packs, priced at `20, to be sold at modern retail outlets.

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