Which is the longest running ad campaign ever? Names of the great marketing companies would naturally pop into your head – Nike’s Just Do It? Got Milk? Apple’s Get a Mac? But you wouldn’t even be close. That honor belongs to the Gujarat Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation (GCMMF), more commonly known in India as Amul.
For 50 years now, Amul Butter has been producing weekly advertisements bringing a smile to a face of many an Indian..and there are a lot of us. Centered around the brand’s mascot, the Amul Baby, and a simple but unique sense of humor, these ads have featured on billboards, in newspapers and more recently on social media. My personal connection to these ads is due to an Amul owned billboard on my way home from school as well as a more than generous consumption of the actual product. These ads have always given me a good laugh and kept me engaged, but it was not until signing up for a marketing class did I ever wonder why? This is my attempt at dissecting the brilliance behind the campaign.
Milk in India is largely distributed by cooperatives based in each of the 29 states. The GCMMF is by far the biggest in terms of both revenue and reach. This is largely due to the efforts of Dr Verghese Kurien, known as the Father of the White Revolution in India. His Operation Flood transformed India from a milk deficient nation to the largest producer in the world, surpassing the United States in 1998. Amul, is the brand name for all dairy products that the GCMMF produces. The fact that the brand’s tagline is “The Taste of India” demonstrates its value. I would venture to say every Indian has consumed an Amul product at some point in their lifetime. The marketing team is known for the famous “Piyo Glass Full Doodh” (literally translated as “drink a full glass of milk”) and numerous other catchy television jingles. But the Amul Baby and the campaign around it, is undoubtedly their biggest claim to fame.
The layout of the ad is simple. A current news topic is chosen and a humorous line about said topic is combined with cartoon images. The topics chosen vary incredibly – events, politics, film, sport, international, you name it. The characters in the ad are based on the look of the Amul baby and the colors are bold and diverse. The best part of the ad is the way in which Amul ties the topic to the product in the form of a continuously changing tag line. This also always seems to integrate well with the brand’s actual tag line “Utterly Butterly Delicious”.
Why it works?
Brand – The brand is synonymous with dairy in India. When you have a product that really delivers, a marketer’s job becomes a lot easier.
Simplicity – The vibrant colors don’t undermine the fact that the structure and content of the ad is simple but engaging.
Consistency – Barring a few exceptions, the layout of the ad is the same every week. Customers know what to expect and where to look, this fosters anticipation.
Relevance – The topic chosen is always one that is in the news that week. This leaves little room for a lack of background information or understanding.
Relatability – By using a perfect mixture of Hindi and English, the ads become relatable and appealing to all demographics.
Product focus – Once you’re done with thinking about the brilliance behind the pun, the fun designs and you’ve got a smile on your face, Amul manages to throw in a little sweetener by connecting all of it back to the product.
Food for thought
There’s no question about the ingenuity and success of the campaign, the longevity speaks for itself. However, the breakdown of why the campaign has worked isn’t exactly rocket science, which begs the question – why aren’t there more stories like this? I suggest two major factors – 1) a campaign like this is limited to unchanging staple products such as milk, bread or butter and 2) the connection to the brand itself has to be built to be significant enough that it is ingrained in the culture. The latter is evident in the fact that an Indian graduate student studying abroad chose this to write about when given a free choice!
So, while the local references might be lost on some of our foreign friends, the next time you’re in India look out for that billboard or that spot in the newspaper and definitely grab a slab of the Utterly Butterly.
You can view all of Amul’s approximately 2500 ads here. However, be warned that many an hour was lost in the production of this blog post.