Coca-Cola raps to a Bol­ly­wood tune

Business Standard - - STRATEGY - URVI MALVANIA

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-build­

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

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