Coca-Cola raps to a Bollywood tune
Even as cola brands are facing a backlash of sorts from health conscious millennial consumers worldwide, brand Coca- Cola finds itself straddling the worlds of commerce and culture in the country. In a forthcoming film Luka Chuppi that is set to release in March, the American brand is part of a love song.
With this Coke joins a select list of labels such as Zandu, Fevicol, Murphy, Twitter and WhatsApp among others that have made the transition from a product or service to a cultural reference. Coke has been a part of another movie ( Gulaal, 2009) in the past but it did not get an exclusive billing in that song as it does in this one.
Not always is the transition— from a product and service to a cultural marker—a planned or welcome one, but it still reflects an inflection point in the consumer-brand journey, say experts.
For the brand, any reference is usually a sign of its rising aspirational value in society, be it a car or a drink or as the case has been in more recent times, a digital app. Hence even if the reference is not very flattering and the association not bound by a legal contract, advertisers usually welcome such inclusions.
“My old boss, Diwan Arun Nanda of Rediffusion used to say that your advertising is really nothing till it becomes part of the language and the culture of the people. If your brand name is being belted out multiple number of times every day on television as part of a song and millions are tuned in to listen or see the same, as a brand you cannot ask for more,” said Sandeep Goyal, founder Mogae Media.
However it does not always work out as a win-win formula. Back in 2010, the Salman Khanstarrer, Dabangg, featured the brand Zandu Balm in the lyrics of its song Munni Badnaam hui. It was one of the biggest hits of the year but the company took the producers to court. “I think it was used without permission; the brand owner jumped in to sue the filmmaker and managed to extract rights for usage of the film footage for brand publicity,” says Ambi Parameswaran, founder, Brand-building.com.
Another big look- out for brands is negative portrayal. Back in 2012, when the movie Barfi! used Murphy Radio in a song, even though the brand was no longer in business, the trademark owners objected for it was used without their permission and alleged that the song showed the brand in poor light. “The inevitable pitfall is a negative portrayal. But then you win some, you lose some,” Goyal said. He believes that brands can really do very little if they are represented in a negative manner. There are legal remedies but injunctions are difficult to secure in Indian courts. “My personal belief is that most usage is playful and fun, and too much should not be read into ‘negative’ usage,” Goyal said.
In fact it may well turn out to counterproductive, given that most brands target young audiences who are also the biggest consumers of such songs. Rappers and hip-hop artists use brands with abandon too, in their songs, and not always in favourable light. But the songs are usually so popular that brands do not mind taking a jibe or two for high visibility and recall.
However, in cases where the brands have been approached before using the logo or the brand name, Parameswaran says that the onus to carry out due diligence is upon the brand. As a brand manager on Burnol, in his early days, he says he faced such a situation. “The film maker wanted to paint the brand name on the wall where the heroine gets multiple burns while cooking,” he said. But the agency refused for it was felt that the brand would turn out to be a laughing stock. And thus Burnol’s screen life ended even before it could begin.
Coca-Cola is used as a term of endearment in a movie starring Kriti Sanon and Kartik Aaryan