Taking the ‘safe’ route

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Updated: February 6, 2018 12:30:06 AM

With women’s safety being a matter of paramount importance in the country today, brands have a real opportunity to address these concerns, either via products or ads. The trick is to avoid being gimmicky

The recent past has seen an array of brands addressing the issue of women’s safety.


Advertising is considered a reflection of the societal culture and that culture is currently undergoing a transformation. Femvertising — generally progressive by nature — has become an umbrella term for brands communicating a pro-female depiction of women’s issues. The concept has stewed in public consciousness long enough now to allow for brands to pick and choose which particular issue they wish to speak on next. One of which is women’s safety — again being a reflection of the real-life environment.

The recent past has seen an array of brands addressing the issue of women’s safety. On the spectrum are efforts of all shapes and sizes from brands across categories. Where Havells looked at the issue with the shopkeeper helping a woman stay safe in the Saree Shop ad film, Reebok had Kangana Ranaut play the inspiring narrator who talks of how women are capable of protecting themselves by staying fit and confident, with the #GirlsDon’tFight commercials. Then there are others like Titan Company, which actually launched product/s with a safety feature embedded in them. Whether it is a product for women’s safety or advertising that empowers women to feel secure and confident, the question that arises is: does the brand have such a theme embossed in its ethos, or are these exercises one-offs?

A safe bet

Aside from typical safety measures via apps or pepper sprays, brands are not doing much in terms of bringing out products that help in some measure with guaranteeing safety. Hence, the category remains underserved. Titan Company in December, 2016 launched a safety watch Sonata ACT (an app-enabled coordinates tracker) priced under Rs 3,000. A brand track study conducted a few weeks after the product launch indicated remarkable improvement in brand perception, shares Suparna Mitra, chief marketing officer, watches and accessories, Titan Company. “We saw a healthy growth in most of our brand metrics as well, especially our share of preference — which grew by five percentage points on the basis of just this one campaign,” Mitra adds.

More recently and almost a year since Sonata ACT, Titan We was launched in December, 2017 with three variants starting from Rs 9,995, pitched at the urban audience. Titan WE, among other features, carries a help/panic feature. The company, as a whole, is optimistic about making the safety feature in smart products much more accessible in the future.

Another example is smart jewellery start-up Leaf, which came into being in 2015. It retails a safety pendant that has an SOS feature which alerts the user’s pre-selected contacts when required. Safety products like these are few and far between though, and their traction in the consumer segment is even tougher to gauge.

Madhukar Sabnavis, vice chairman and director — client relations, Ogilvy India, notes that products with safety features will appeal to consumers that are ‘more anxious’ about the issue. If the safety feature is integral to a product, it can avoid looking like a marketing gimmick, he adds. The risk, however, of coming across as a gimmick is real if the product or the message about women’s safety is presented to the audience in a manner that can only be understood as a fly-by- night operation.

Samit Sinha, managing partner, Alchemist Brand Consulting notes that when brands take up this issue, it is important to understand that their motives cannot be purely altruistic. “Their ultimate aim is to sell more of their products and to more people,” he states. “But we should not fault them as long as they perform a public service in the process. To this extent, every little bit helps.” Consistently keeping on with the messaging and eventually building on it, then becomes the key.

And consistency is what Tata Global Beverages (TGB) seems to have got right with Jaago Re — an umbrella campaign which has provided it a platform to speak about a wide range of topics. In 2017, with Jaago Re 2.0, women’s safety was highlighted under its pre-activism thought — Alarm bajne se pehle Jaago Re. Aside from the social aspect of encouraging a conversation about women’s safety (among other issues), Jaago Re also made tremendous business sense. Sushant Dash, regional president, India, TGB says, “From a business perspective, Jaago Re has acted as a unifier of brands and variants under the TGB umbrella. All our products have functional benefits and functional positioning, and they get a mother brand positioning with Jaago Re. It has helped us create a larger connect and thus save media monies.”

Reebok created the Fit To Fight proposition with often-seen- as-a- rebel Kangana Ranaut as the brand ambassador. It focusses on encouraging women to fight against the stereotypes with the #GirlsDon’tFight mantra. ITC’s Vivel too has attempted to have a conversation on women safety and empowerment with the brand philosophy of Ab Samjhauta Nahin.

The business sense

In June, 2017, the Unstereotype Alliance was announced, co-formed by UN Women, Unilever and other companies which include WPP, IPG, Facebook, Google, Mars, Microsoft and J&J. Its aim is to discourage stereotypical portrayal of gender roles and encourage positive reinforcement of true gender portrayals in advertising. In a statement, Keith Weed, chief marketing and communications officer, Unilever had said, “It is no longer just a social imperative but a business one; progressive ads have been found to be 25% more effective and deliver better branded impact.”

Sure, it makes advertising sense to invest in safety and empowerment as pegs, but context and relevance trump all else. As far as including safety features in products is concerned, Sabnavis warns that to believe that all consumers will line-up to purchase such products, would be an exaggeration of their power.

“Consumers buy products for category need fulfillment and if safety is an added value (as in a watch/mobile handset), it will be relevant to a specific mindset and not everyone,” he points out. “It will be a gimmick if it is done as a one-off — that also has its value, but only tactical.”

A shout out to the ladies

Hamam’s Go Safe Outside

HUL for its soap brand Hamam rolled out the Go Safe Outside campaign which depicted women learning self defense. The messaging was targeted at the Tamil Nadu market.

Ceat Safety Grip

Tyre manufacturer Ceat designed a customised scooter handle grip that conceals pepper spray. The Safety Grip is currently compatible with Honda Activa and costs Rs 499.


Brylcreem ran a social media campaign that addressed women’s objectification by the men’s grooming segment. It also raised awareness about the National Women’s Helpline number, 1091.


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