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Indian Ad-Age: How Cadbury ‘adulted’ chocolate

Through “Asli swaad zindagi ka”, Cadbury changed the perception that chocolates were for only children. The ad did not highlight or make the product the hero - it barely had a few glimpses of the chocolate itself. What it however focused was on humans and how they were feeling, right through the ad.

Written by Nimish Dubey , Akriti Rana | New Delhi | Updated: September 29, 2019 4:16:50 pm
“Asli Swaad Zindagi Ka ad for cadbury The “Asli Swaad Zindagi Ka” campaign for Cadbury changed the whole perception of chocolates in India.

Advertisements are meant to sell a product or a concept. And that is what most of them try to do. However, a much greater challenge is to not just sell a product, but to change the way the target audience sees and perceives it, what the marketers like to call its “positioning”. Many have tried to achieve this, but very few have actually succeeded. One of those select few that did so was Cadbury. The brand changed the way we looked at the product that had been around for years, and indeed made it synonymous with happiness.

Chocolate is for children…

The ad campaign we are referring to was released in 1993-94. It was a time when India was in the early stages of liberalisation, with Manmohan Singh’s revolutionary budget having opened up the market and boosted private enterprise. Cable TV was making its presence felt and the State’s hold on the market was much looser. That said, many old habits and traditions still remained firmly in place. And the one pertaining to chocolate was definitely so: chocolate was mainly a “treat” for kids, or something you gave as a reward. It even had a slight negative perception among some parents, who associated it with tooth decay (aided by communications from toothpaste brands).

As far as adults went, chocolate had a slight romantic connotation at best (it was something you gave along with flowers to your date), but it was not seen as something that could be enjoyed by anyone at any time. And definitely not adults. It is not as if no one had tried marketing chocolates to audiences beyond children. Amul, one of the leading brands, had tried an advertising campaign that focused on making its chocolates more acceptable for an older audience using the line “I am too old for __, I am too young for ___, but I think I am just right for Amul chocolates”. But while it was a catchy line, the concept itself did not quite catch on. Chocolates in India remained entrenched in “Kids Land.” Or as we would say today, chocolates were “kidzoned.”

One of the leading brands in the market was Cadbury, which had been selling chocolates in India for decades. But it too had largely stuck to the “sell it to the kids” formula. However, this limited its market, a market that was growing stagnant and not expanding rapidly (also because of the fact that Indian families were growing smaller). How then could the brand expand its share? The answer was clear: by targeting adults. But how could you convince older folk to eat something that was almost as closely associated with children as toys were?

…but there is a child in every adult!

The answer came in the form of an ad campaign, from Ogilvy and Mather. Titled “Asli Swaad Zindagi Ka,” the campaign changed the whole perception of chocolates in India. While there were many ads in the campaign, one in particular stood out. The minute long (a long time for an ad in those days) ad showed adults across different age groups doing routine things and just being happy.

Sounds rather simple? That really was all there was to it: people being carefree and happy in an almost child-like manner, over seemingly little/routine things. Stuff that was not supposed to really excite adults, who were expected to be “over” such things, and have grown past them.

The ad showed an elderly man blowing bubbles for a baby, another one playing with his dog, an executive type dropping a piece of chocolate but still picking it up and eating it after blowing away the dust from it (and checking if anyone noticed), a young father handling his baby who seems to have soiled its diaper, a woman in a saree playing hopscotch with a little girl, a pregnant lady asking her husband to buy her a chocolate in the market because she needs it for the baby in her belly, two girls suddenly breaking into an impulsive fun run after nibbling some chocolate, a middle aged man juggling with a football while his wife watches in surprise, and ended with a boy throwing a chocolate to a girl who is going away in a bus.

While all this was happening, a very gentle song played in the background. A song with a very soothing happy tone, adding to the light vibe of the ad. These were its lyrics:

“Kuchch khaas hai hum sabhi mein
Kuchch baat hai hum sabhi mein
Baat hai
Khaas hai
Kuchch swaad hai
Kya swaad hai zindagi mein.”

Which can be loosely translated as:

“There is something special in all of us
There is something remarkable in all of us
It’s remarkable
It’s special
There’s a taste
There’s a taste in life…”

The ad ended with the line of the campaign “Asli swaad zindagi ka” (“The real taste of life”)

Candy and sweets were supposed to be a source of joy only for children. Through “Asli swaad zindagi ka”, Cadbury changed that perception. The ad did not highlight or make the product the hero – it barely had a few glimpses of the chocolate itself. What it however focused was on humans and how they were feeling, right through the ad. While the ad did not directly connect chocolate with happiness, the appearance of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk Chocolate every now and then, very subtly connected the two together. The people featured in the ad came from different backgrounds, were of different ages, and different genders, but what they all shared was a simple sense of joy.

Oh, and they were all adults!

Not only did the ad use adults for a product that was perceived as being “for children,” it also broke away from the stereotypical image that adults had. Women in sarees were not expected to play hopscotch on the road, adults did not pick up chocolate from the ground and eat it, expecting mothers were not supposed to stubbornly demand chocolate (just like kids) and middle-aged people were not supposed to be trying skating or dancing with cheerleaders.

The ad changed the way people looked at “adulting,” stressing how it does not have to be serious all the time. It did not show any children eating chocolate but instead brought out the inner child that lies hidden in most of us. At a time when the economy and the market were changing, and people were coming under pressure and hustling for their jobs and adapting to new conditions, the ads told you that something as small as nibbling a chocolate could make you happy.

The language of the ad played a vital role too. Chocolate had always been seen as something that had come in from the west – most chocolate ads were predominantly in English. This one however was in Hindi, right through. And the tone was gently poetic. The composition of the song was relaxing, and very catchy (people actually liked listening to it, even without the video – check the Ad-ditional Facts below). There was no hard sell of the product. The ad did not try to tell you to go out and have chocolate or say that chocolate was super good for you. It simply pointed out that having a chocolate could make you happy. An adult could also get the simple joy that a child could get out of having a chocolate.

They were children in the ad all right. But they were the ones that were hidden inside every adult!

The taste of life remains…chocolate-y

More than 25 years after it was first screened, the ad still has a very good feel to it. That is because it highlighted simple joys that are constant throughout one’s life – the joy of playing with one’s dog, playing on the road, juggling a football, and of course, having chocolate.

Like the very best ads, “Asli Swaad Zindagi Ka” has a timeless element to it. And the extent to which it succeeded can be gauged from the fact that Cadbury is still playing the “happiness equals chocolate” card. Over the years, the brand has made chocolate an essential part of happiness and celebration – from Khush Hai Zamaana Aj Pehli Tareekh Hai to Kuchh Meetha Ho Jaye, but Asli Swaad Zindagi Ka is perhaps where it all started.

Life comes with many tastes, but thanks to Cadbury, chocolate is now one of them. Today, if you feel low, one of the first things someone will tell you is to go have some chocolate, because they are sure it will make you feel better. It will cheer you up. And if that does not tell you how effective the ad was, nothing will.

Indian Ad-Age | How Cherry Charlie made Cherry Blossom Shine | How ‘Mummy, I am Hungry’ made Maggi a household name in India | How Hamara Bajaj felt the heartbeat of a nation

Agency: Ogilvy and Mather.

Ad-vantages: Key Takeaways

You don’t always need a storyline

Unlike many long ads (a minute was a long time in those days), the “Asli Swaad Zindagi Ka” ad did not have a storyline. But it combined many slices of almost daily life that people could identify with.

Happy vibes always work

Drama and theatre are all very good and indeed, even needed sometimes. But nothing quite works as well as a “feel good” and happy vibe. “Asli Swaad Zindagi Ka” had it. In spades. Every single person in the ad was happy.

You can break stereotypes without offending

Adults being child-like and yet being happy? The idea was almost sacrilegious at that time, as it went against conventional “adults are serious” beliefs. And yet Cadbury executed it without causing any offence to anyone whatsoever.

Music is important

Just as in the Hamara Bajaj ad, the jingle played a vital role. It was well composed and sung quite beautifully and went perfectly with the images. It actually became a hit in its own right.

Believe Ad or Not: Some Ad-ditional Facts

A singer gives you “breathless” feels!

Does the voice in that jingle sound familiar? Well, he should. It is Shankar Mahadevan. He remembered the ad as “the jingle that gave my first recognition more than twenty years ago” on his Facebook account.

A cricket spin off…and a mistaken identity

The “Asli Swaad Zindagi Ka” campaign also featured a very famous ad, which showed a girl dancing on the pitch after her friend had hit a six. For many, this ad remains the most popular of the series. Interestingly, many felt that the girl in the ad was popular VJ Sophiya Haque, so much that when Haque passed away in 2013, fellow actor Dia Mirza tweeted that she would never forget her “dancing with abandon on the cricket field in the Cadbury commercial”. She was duly corrected.

Made in Hawaii?

The man behind the ad was one of the most famous in Indian ad history, Piyush Pandey. Evidently he got the idea for it during a holiday in Hawaii. Proof that holidays work for creatives!

They are still singing that jingle

The “Asli Swaad Zindagi Ka” jingle remains very popular to this day. So much so that people even sing it on Smule, a social networking music application that provides lyrics and background music even while you sing!

Next week: When Aamir Khan went through hell to get a Pepsi!

Akriti Rana and Nimish Dubey write on technology and communication, and have worked in both fields. They have been associated with a regular section on advertising at TechPP.com.

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