Why Pepsi went BLUE!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Give me a red, and a blue, and yes a green, maybe a white too, and let’s not leave black behind! Because the rules of competition are very clear; and there’s no space for shades of grey... Presenting, a thoroughly ‘coloured’ perspective on market leadership!


Colour my world

Whenever you think of a colour, do you feel something?
Or whenever you feel something, do you think of a colour?
Confused? Let’s put it this way... When you think of ‘purity’, which colour do you think of? Probably white.
When you think of ‘passion’, which colour do you think of? Probably red.
When you think of ‘peace’, which colour do you think of? Probably white.
When you think of ‘cool’, which colour do you think of? Probably blue.
When you think of ‘freshness’, which colour do you think of? Probably green.
Not just feelings, our association with colours has extended to products too.Try this...
If it has to be a detergent, which colour should it be? Blue!
If it has to be a lemon soap, which colour should it be? Green!
If it has to be a beauty soap, which colour should it be? White or Pink!
If it has to be an environment-friendly product, which colour should it be? Green!
It doesn’t stop here. Think of this...

COKE is RED
LIRIL is GREEN
NIVEA is BLUE
MAGGI is YELLOW


Opposite sides of the spectrum

What colour do you associate Coke with? Red?

Yes! It’s the red colour that makes it distinct and gives it a unique identity, apart from other factors like the brand name, flavour, shape of the bottle etc. After all, if Coke is evaluated as a brand, the colour red would be contributing 40% to its equity.

A question that comes to mind is – if Coke is red, then what colour is Pepsi associated with? Blue??

Pepsi tried to go blue. It wanted to associate itself with the colour blue. It was ready to shell out a neat $500 million (Rs.17.50 billion, approximately) to go blue. For 40 years, it has used the colour mix of red and white and blue so as to give it a distinct colour identity. Pepsi went to the extent of painting blue a concord supersonic jet to carry the colour message to bottlers around the world. This colour differentiation would help in giving Pepsi an identity distinct and different from Coke. To increase the association of the colour with the brand, Pepsi highlighted the colour blue in all its advertisements. What I’m trying to say here is that colours compete as much as brand names do. Close your mind’s eye and try to think of Coke – you will see a splash of red. Then think of Pepsi and you will, probably now, think of blue. If this exercise had been done a few years back, you would have been unable to decide whether Pepsi was blue or red.

What is it that made Pepsi turn electric blue? Is it then true that Pepsi’s erstwhile red and blue combination served just as a reminder of Coke? To cut a long story short, the bottom line is, when it comes to colours, be opposites if you are competitors. Many brands, consciously or otherwise, have followed this.

• Perk is blue while its competitor, Kit-Kat, is red.
• Kodak is yellow while the counterpart, Fuji, is green.
• Polo is green and blue while Minto is now red and yellow.
• Hertz picked up yellow, so Avis picked red.

There’s a powerful logic in selecting a colour that is opposite to that of your major competitor. It is more important to create a separate brand identity with the help of colour than it is to use the right symbolic colour. To put it simply, consider this example. For an eco-friendly product the right symbolic colour is probably green, but if your competitor has chosen it first, it’s best to avoid green and choose a contrasting colour. This way, you shall be saved the pain of being a ‘me-too’ product, and would have a distinct identity. Remember, Pepsi learnt it the hard way... after 40 years!

What is brand recall? It’s finally your ability to stand out in a crowd of similar sounding, similar looking products. To be successful, a brand needs to stick out like a sore thumb in the market place. This immediately makes it more noticeable and memorable. Think of the corporate world where everybody is dressed in blue or black suits. An orange suit would immediately be noticed and remembered. Similarly, in the market place, a colour strikingly different from your competitor’s will make you stick out, get you noticed and remembered. With the help of advertising, you could strengthen this association of the desired colour with your brand and help it build strong colour equity.

If you are the first to enter the market, you have a choice of which colour to associate your brand with. When you are second, it has to be a colour strikingly different from your competitor’s. When you have the freedom to choose, a colour should be chosen with great care. Colours influence us in a variety of ways. They seem to have a direct physical impact on us. Donald Kaufman conducted experiments to show how colour influenced our daily lives. He found that when we are placed in a room with red light and all of a sudden the light is switched to blue, instantaneously, our body temperature falls.

Moody blues and the flashing reds

Colours don’t just have a physical impact; they also have a deep psychological impact. Our association with colours is natural. The reds and yellows will always be associated with warmth and passion. The coolness of the blues and greens will also remain. Moreover, due to our desire for warmth, we would always prefer warm colours, red being the quintessential colour of warmth.

Colours conjour up certain images. The reds and yellows give the image of youth, as they are considered to be young colours. Black is a very interesting colour. It can draw up numerous images almost at the same time! It can be perceived as sinister, sensual, mysterious or even inauspicious. The way you use it in your advertisement makes all the difference. Purple is a colour symbolising luxury.

Things become more interesting when we combine colours. It is said, putting two colours together causes them to vibrate! Thus, it produces a dramatically different effect. Think of a restaurant done up in shades of red and burgundy. It would have a very rich and sophisticated ambience about it. The colours would decide what kind of people, what kind of menu, what pricing this kind of place would have and hence, what kind of advertising would go with it. Now let’s combine red with yellow and see how dramatically different the effect would be. The same place would have a different ambience, a different menu, different pricing and a different clientele. It would be a funky place, average priced for the youth, probably serving fast food! It was the same red both times, but different combinations produced different effects.

An advertisement, which just tells us what the product is all about and what it does, is not a good ad. Believe it or not, but most of the time, when we buy things, it’s on the basis of emotions. As an advertising man, one must always remember ‘people don’t buy things or products or even brands – they buy solutions’. Those are our emotions that help us in finding these solutions. When an advertisement is created, it should evoke the right kind of emotions. Using the right colours or the right colour combinations holds the key to trigger the right emotional response... after all, as I asked in the beginning, when you think of a colour, do you feel something?

It happens only in India

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Guess what the famed ruthless MNCs fear in India? 500 bhelpuri hawkers, 5,000 dabbawalas, 40,000 illiterate papad makers, and of course, 1 ubiquitous brand called Banta! Rest assured...

There are two stunningly successful businesses in Mumbai. One is run by 5,000 people and makes roughly Rs.25 crore a month. The other provides employment to some 500 people and has net sales of more than Rs.5 lakh everyday. The first one has been ranked by Forbes magazine at par with Motorola and General Electric on the basis of the highly prized Six Sigma rating for quality assurance. It is a business that is probably as complex as FedEx. The only difference being, this one is run with uneducated staff, without telephones, computers or even delivery trucks. Both the above-mentioned businesses are run by simple, almost illiterate people, yet they have made many multinationals gasp at their efficiency. If you haven’t yet grasped it; I’m talking about the ‘dabbawalas’ and the hawkers who sell ‘bhelpuri’ on the streets of Mumbai.

More than one lakh meals in aluminium tiffin boxes are carried from homes and delivered to people at their workplaces – just in time for lunch! These 5,000 odd dabbawalas have no computerised database records. They simply memorize the 30-35 addresses from where they need to pick up and drop the lunch boxes. They have been around for almost a century and the organisation is still going strong, so much so that when Prince Charles visited India, he singled them out and met them – these simple men dressed in white shirts and pants and Gandhi caps, bound and committed so strongly to each other, have shown that if you are motivated and committed, even huge MNCs with very large marketing budgets cannot beat you. They have helped Mumbai retain its passion for home-cooked food, by making sure it’s delivered on their work-desks, right on time!

If men in Gandhi caps have created a stir in Mumbai, then those are Gandhi’s philosophies that have changed the lives of more than forty thousand illiterate women. Started by a bored housewife and her six friends, this organisation took off with no huge initial investment and no super qualified staff to run it. Just sheer common sense and Gandhi homilies have made it today into a $65 million company. Mrs. Popat started Lijjat Papad in a chawl in central Bombay. Today, it has its headquarters in the swish Bombay suburb – Bandra. All that the housewives did was to make papad from the raw material given to them during their free time. Today, the papads are sold in the US, UK and Middle East. A few dedicated women, a sunny rooftop and an idea became the foundation of this organisation, which today fears no competition ‘Yeh Hai India!’

McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, KFC and many more, with their smart packaging and snappy advertising, have not been able to take away the charm of a ‘bhelpuri’ made in 5 minutes and delivered in simple plates made out of leaves on a street corner under the blazing sun, sans any air-conditioning or hip-hop music and modern lighting. So much so that now these very MNC food chains have included dishes in their menu which no one ever thought existed. It’s only in India that one could find a ‘Do Pyaza Tandoori Masala Pizza’ or a ‘McAloo Tikki’ burger. If you need to succeed here, you need to take care of not just their taste buds, but also their religious beliefs. No wonder so many big food joints have ‘Navratra’ meals. Some even have a Jain menu. Guess it wouldn’t be long before a McJain burger would find a place in the McDonald’s outlets here! Necessity is the mother of all invention.

If our taste buds are unique, then so are our TV viewing habits. Nowhere else, could a whole nation come to a stand still when a mythological serial was aired on TV. That is exactly what happened when Ramayana and Mahabharata were aired on Doordarshan. People sat glued to the television sets on Sunday mornings. Till date, no other channel has been able to create such hysteria. However, there is someone who is making a lot of money with her serials. No where else, but in India could bickering of saas-bahus have made so much moolah as in India. ‘Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi’ brought back TV to life. It turned Ekta Kapoor’s Balaji Productions into a Rs.200 crore organisation in a couple of years. In fact, Ekta Kapoor’s serials generate TRP ratings, which are much higher than that of the live Indo-Pak cricket matches!

Nevertheless, cricket is one sport, which can drive a whole nation into a frenzy. In fact, it’s the Indian cricket team that can drive any nation into a frenzy. Whenever our team plays and wherever it plays, the TRP ratings shoot up. No one else worships the game as we do! Coke and Pepsi may fight their guts out trying to prove which tastes better, but on the Indian turf stands a drink that does not advertise, is made in not-so-hygienic conditions, yet has a large market share. ‘Banta’, the lemon flavoured drink, still remains a popular thirst-quencher of Indians. It has survived and thrived in a way that Coke and Pepsi’s marketing analysts can never imagine.

Lay’s potato chips is finding tough competition from our home-grown entrepreneurs – Haldiram’s. Lay’s just sell potato chips, Haldiram’s, with its collection of bhujias and mixtures etc sells a whole lifestyle. The whole country’s culture and its snacking habits are what Haldiram’s is all about. Someone rightly said: The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. Haldiram’s has found a permanent place in the heart of Indians forever. Come what may – Akhir Dil Hai Hindustani!

We are different, our culture, climate, language makes us so. We have some good and some bad. A population of one billion and yet we cannot win a gold medal in the Olympics. Cameroon, Mozambique, Bahamas, all much smaller than us, yet they each have taken home a ‘Gold’, not us!

We pray to female deities, and yet, there are fewer people hunting down tigers and lions, compared to the number hunting down female children. India has killed 10 million girls in last 20 years.

Snake charmers still remain a very important part of our tourist promotions. Snake charmers, like royalty, attract foreign tourists still. These snake charmers are the ones who don the role of doctors in rural India providing cures for diseases like asthma, skin infection, gastric problems etc. They also provide themes for Bollywood movies. A snake woman got the cash registers jingling never before. ‘Nagina’ could have been a box-office hit only in this land.

Bollywood too, with its unique way of movie-making, is something Hollywood has never seen before. We take their movies and remake them, almost scene by scene, and they turn out to be bigger and better hits. This Republic Day, let’s take a few minutes to ponder on our uniqueness and find a way to minimize the negatives. We are a very special nation. A nation, which still values families, love and all things wonderful. When anyone – MNCs, tourists, etc – comes to India, they need to understand our uniqueness to really be able to succeed and enjoy here... After all, certain things happen in India only!