How Digital Marketing Can Move the Masses in India

With a Smart Website, Tata Tea Has Become a Mainstream Civic Force

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Sourabh Mishra
Sourabh Mishra

In a market like India, it is easy to assume that something as "evolved" and technology-dependent as digital marketing can be used successfully only to target and communicate with an "evolved" target audience -- perhaps in suitably cutting-edge categories like, say, the latest smartphones or gaming consoles or computers. It's an assumption based on conventional thinking that cannot be faulted for its correctness. But one brand showed how disruptive digital thinking can help establish a mass connection for a brand.

The brand in question is Tata Tea, a mid-segment tea brand from the corporate house of Tata (of Nano car fame). It started with a campaign for the brand based on the proposition "Jaago Re," which literally translates to "Wake Up." You get the drift -- tea and waking up. But the leap in the thinking happened when they took the "Wake Up" proposition beyond the physical waking up to a larger call for social action.

Think back to 2008. 2009 is general election year in the largest democracy in the world. A widely acknowledged problem in India is the large percentage of no-show voters, especially from the educated middle classes. So now you have this TV commercial from Tata Tea (below), wherein a group of young men is exhorting people to "Jaago Re" (wake up) and go out and vote on election day, because if they don't vote, that means they are sleeping. They are handing out cups of Tata Tea to wake people up and send them to the ballots. "Ha! Ha! Cute ad ... but we know all this. The problem is: How do I register myself as a voter in a country infamous for its bureaucratic hassles?" is what I thought. And the answer comes the next second from the protagonist in the spot who is trying to "wake me up."

That is where a good campaign made the transition to an absolutely brilliant one. The answer is at jaagore.com, the spot tells you. When you log on to the site, you realize that it has everything you need to know and do to register yourself as a bona-fide voter in India. As the home page says, "Jaago Re! One Billion Votes." And that audacious bit of ambitious thinking and execution to involve an entire country's electorate with the brand's message is what takes the campaign from good to an all-time great.

The digital beauty of the entire thing is that there is no other way for a brand to have dared to think of connecting with the entire country (or at least the 18-plus eligible-to-vote segment), except through a website. A tea brand that tells me to "Wake Up" my social conscience and then actually shows me exactly how and what to do climbs up several notches in my esteem.

The brand team stood conventional wisdom on its head and used digital to connect with mass India. The brand message is an intrinsic part of this movement to "wake up" the slumbering Indian voter and get him to take part in electing his leaders. And then digital is integrated seamlessly to deliver on the proposition. As a matter of fact, it is only digital which could have delivered on the brand's proposition to an entire nation. So in hindsight, the entire campaign was made possible because someone understood the possibilities offered by the digital medium.

As an aside, a follow up e-mail campaign directed at senior managers in organizations asked them to send out an appeal to all their employees to register and vote -- the process now having been made so simple at jaagore.com. And I know of at least a few ad-agency CEOs whose agencies handle competitive tea brands who have sent this to all their employees. That to me is a truly powerful brand idea.

P.S. The author of this post and his agency had nothing to do with this idea or its execution. But how he wishes it was not so ...

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Sourabh Mishra is chief strategy officer, TBWA/India Group, India.

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