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Branding Mishaps: BAL’s ad campaign disaster

The Bajaj Logo

The Bajaj Logo

The Bajaj Group is amongst the top 10 business houses in India. Its footprint stretches over a wide range of industries, spanning automobiles (two-wheelers and three-wheelers), home appliances, lighting, iron and steel, insurance, travel and finance. The group’s flagship company, Bajaj Auto Limited [BAL], is ranked as the world’s fourth largest two- and three- wheeler manufacturer and the Bajaj brand is well-known across several countries in Latin America, Africa, Middle East, South and South East Asia.

The group introduced an emotionally connected ad campaign sometime in the 1980s and have stuck to it until the current decade. The theme back then was “Buland Bharat ki Buland Tasveer….. Hamara Bajaj” which translated into English meant ‘Strengthened (fundamental-wise, culture-wise, etc) India’s Strong Image….. Our Bajaj’. It eventually transformed into ‘Naye Bharat ki Buland Tasveer….. Hamara Bajaj’ which in English meant ‘New (modernized, yet culturally strong) India’s, Strong Image…. Our Bajaj’. Check out one of those ad campaigns below. Also note the tune of the advertisement, this tune lasted for the two decades in all generic Bajaj ads.

 

Transcript of the Above Video:

Scene 1: A young guy travelling on his bike comes across a God Idol installed on the street near a tree. He makes it a point to offer a short prayer on his way.

Scene 2:Four young stylish hunks are walking towards their respective bikes parked close to each other. While sitting on the bike, one of the guys accidentally brushes his shoes against the others clothes. He offers his apology in a traditionally Indian attitude.

Scene 3: A young couple riding on their bike, are having fun while getting too close to each other. But while passing a senior citizen, the girl smoothly takes her hands off her man as a gesture of respect and an attempt to avoid embarrassing a senior citizen.

Scene 4:Two bikers enjoying their speedy ride in a residential colony come across a Rangoli (A traditional art form of sand-painting decoration that uses finely ground white powder and colours, and is used commonly outside homes in India.) drawn on the road. They make sure their trail doesn’t disrupt the design and beauty of the delicate Rangoli.

Scene 5:A married young woman is riding in the rains. After the downpour she stops by to check if her Sindoor (Sindoor is the mark of a married woman in Hinduism. It is a red coloured powder or vermillion that is traditionally applied at the beginning or completely along the parting-line of a woman’s hair) is intact and hasn’t faded off.

Scene 6:A young Punjabi guy has befriended a foreigner and likes her. He takes her to a holy place in Amritsar Punjab popularly known as The Golden Temple where he puts a Dupatta (a Scarf or a stole) on her head signifying that he does not want to take undue advantage of her but rather looks at her in form of his future wife.

Scene 7:Two youngsters are travelling with a very old Indian classical music instrument called Sitar as opposed to most youngsters who are fans of electric guitars and other modern instruments.

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But then of recently early this year, the company in a campaign to promote one of its latest bike, came up with a disastrous advertisement that, in our opinion, conflicted the entire 20-odd year old campaign associating its brand with the culturally rich traditions and attitudes of youngsters in India.

The new ad shows a group of youngsters breaking into a Bajaj Factory to investigate the new bikes features. The company apparently wanted to showcase the excitement in the youngsters about the new bike. Check out the video below. All through, many viewers of this audience had the “New India’s, strengthened image” saga running at the back of their minds while watching these youngsters (“New India”) breaking into a high security zone of a Bajaj factory.

The above advertisement caused a conflict of ideas passed on through two different ad campaigns to the viewers. As on the overall Bajaj Campaign, the company conveys its association with the culturally rich yet modern youngsters of India. The recent ad above, on the other hand, showcases certain youngsters, that Bajaj has been portraying as the ‘New India’ all these years, are illegally breaking into their high security zone factory. Such conflicts do their best in confusing a brand user’s perception about a brand. We reckon, the launch of this ad may have had an negative impact on the ‘Culturally Strong’ image of the Bajaj brand.

This is a perfect branding mishap occurred due to a failure to maintain a consistent brand image. Such mishaps generally creep up due to changes in business strategy or management positions. In case of Bajaj, the most obvious reason was a demerger that was approved by its shareholders and unsecured creditors in 2007 (Financial Express, 2007). The demerger may have brought in a change in the business strategy or management level positions. Often, companies fail to execute change successfully. Many a times they refrain from consulting or hiring (contracting) change management veterans to mitigate risks and threats associated with the change.

Nevertheless, the consumer perception of the brand Bajaj has been dented with a scare that might take some time to be re-healed.

We invite the brand managers of Bajaj company to respond to our findings and would be happy to work with them on their upcoming campaigns.

Financial Express, 2007, Demerger of Bajaj Auto gets shareholders’ approval,
URL:
http://www.financialexpress.com/news/Demerger-of-Bajaj-Auto-gets-shareholders-approval/211217/

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Update

24th August’2009: After no response was recieved to the above post from Bajaj Auto’s representatives, we have buzzed the Marketing Manager (2 wheelers), Bajaj Auto Limited. It will be interesting to see how (if ever) he responds to our criticisms.

4 Responses to Branding Mishaps: BAL’s ad campaign disaster

  1. Komal Reply

    August 21, 2009 at 9:09 am

    Most of the people when talk about change management, associate it with technological or human resource perspective. I myself am doing my Masters in Business Information Systems from a prestigious Australian University. Yet, till date I have never come across any resource, integrating the change management concept with brand management so well.

    In fact it is ironic that corporates spend millions on information systems areas and marketing,separately, where as what’s probably required, is the integration of efforts & resources invested in both the fields. The post you wrote proves the drawback of failing to do so.

    Good going…………..!!!!!!!!!!

  2. kalpana Reply

    August 24, 2009 at 5:48 am

    Dear Meheer,

    These campaigns are not reverting the Business strategies of Bajaj. These campaigns are targeted to different demographic segments.

    Its changed it advert title Bulend Bharat ki Buland Taveer to Naye Bharat ki Bulund Tasveer, the campaign title running till late 90’s to rejuvenate the Bajaj scooter brand and to enhance their corparate image . And the scooter market is still sizeable in India( Punjab, Haryana, North-east India, mostly the Tier-II,III cities and villages) and Bajaj owns a lion’s share in the total pie. So no confusion the campaign targeted was targeted to them.

    Taking the case of its recent ads like the one mentioned above is for the 18+ and above group.Campaign targeted towards the college guys.

    Bajaj XCD(the advert title: Jini and the three wishes )targeted to the guys who are aspirational. Wishes or possess Luxurious lifestyle.

    Bajaj New Pulsar DTS 220, the Fatest Indian commercial which comes from O&M Creative team headed by Abhijit Avasthi ( big time fan of avasthi :) ) is to reposition the entire Pulsar brand of Bajaj.

    Pulsar has always been positioned on SPEED as catching aspect, the new model is adding impetus to this product category.

    Concluding that the various campaigns has no co-relation with each other and are mend for its relevant customer categories.

  3. Meheer Reply

    August 24, 2009 at 12:02 pm

    @ Kalpana
    Thnx for your comment

    They aren’t condoning lawlessness, but are poking fun at the kids stupidity (the bikes are in showrooms for all to see); Not convinced if that is indeed the right thing to do. One must also say, the tone and theme of the new ad is disrespectful of Bajaj’s property, but that would be pretty harsh and much more conservative to criticize about.

    That being said, the transformed theme focuses on Modern, Young India who still preserve and actively practise traditional values. You are incorrect when you say the theme is focussed at promoting their scooter market existent in non-urban areas of the country. Perhaps Im misquoting you. It is quite clearly evident to me that the theme is to build the brand BAJAJ AUTO two wheelers market as a whole rather than just the scooters.

    Also, to my knowledge backed with a report by Financial Express, Bajaj’s overall market share fell from 26.5 % to 14.6% recently in November 2008. http://www.financialexpress.com/news/bajaj-falls-off-pillion-seat-in-twowheeler-marketshare/404915/ . It’d be interesting to see what their current market positions are.

    You quoted, “Concluding that the various campaigns has no co-relation with each other and are mend for its relevant customer categories.” In my opinion, a brand must make sure that any two of its campaigns released in recent times do not conflict the brand values given out.

    Two separate ad campaigns may have different core values and different target market, but definately not a niche target with conflicting values.

    I reckon, Bajaj is in for a change in their Brand Values and/or Brand Strategy in the near future.

  4. Pingback: Bajaj confirms what we predicted 3 months ago | Posted in Branding News | Webalue.com Communications

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