The Death of a Brand

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brooke bond supreme tvc pakistan

I remember when I interned at JWT in the summer of 2002, one of the most exciting and vibrant brands in the portfolio, was Brooke Bond. With great admiration and satisfaction I would view the ads on TV. I loved the whole brand identity, the line ‘Yehi to hai woh Apnapan’ was one of the most comprehensive platforms in the country. The advertising was spot on and excellent.

During my tenure at JWT we knew they were coming up with something big and new, but owing to the nature of our market, everything was hush hush. All I knew was that a film was being cut in the audio/visual department downstairs and I can still remember the glint in the account management teams’ eyes whenever they discussed the ‘project’

When I left JWT, after a few months (I think) the aptly named Supreme Ishq hit the airwaves. Although this was the time when we didn’t know what social media meant- the song was a viral sensation. Everyone was talking about it and everyone who hadn’t seen it wanted to see it. Not one to sit on their laurels JWT and the Supreme brand team released an even more memorable song which starred Eiman Ali as the romantic Anarkali. This new song was also a talking point and was very well received. Brooke Bond Supreme seemed to be going great guns (communication wise at least)

However what was a superb advertising master-piece turned out to be the brand’s swan song. In recent years the brand equity of Supreme has been eroded. First the tagline that encompassed the brand was changed to the cheap sounding (my view) Chaska zindagi ka. When discussing the sorry state of the brand and why it was so, a friend told me that according to his sources –the brand suicide was actually a homicide. The logic he had (based on his info pool) Supreme was being sacrificed on purpose as Lever wanted to focus on Lipton.

Why destroy something you built over a period of years, what short –sighted strategy was this? If it’s true then the brand gurus at Unilever need to do a double think. Also if it’s not true that the brand is being killed they need to do a triple think as to what communication or brand strategy they are applying. I may be emotionally attached to the brand (I was never a heavy user) but I don’t think my judgement is in any way clouded in this matter.

What brought on this rant you may be asking? Why have I once again decided to use this blog as a vehicle to air my frustration and disgust?  The answer is simple, yesterday while watching TV I saw the latest Brooke Bond commercial. I was left with my mouth open in disbelief, I was wondering for a while whether I had imagined the whole thing. Unfortunately no the ad was real, my horror was also equally real.

The ad is about a family drinking tea and the discussion turns to tea being unhealthy, one by one the family members name each other as having told them that tea is unhealthy, finally the old grandmother is stuck with no one to blame so she quickly says that her dead husband had told her (his painting is hanging in the hall). Next Shaan tells them that tea is actually healthy and should be drunk. Next they show the dead grandfather in the painting is shown saying “Kaash kisi ne mujhe bataya! (I wish someone had told me!) and he sips a cup of tea. The ad ends with the shot of a tea cup and the smoke from the cup which is in the form of a human figure does a handstand over the cup!

Trying to look for a silver lining in a very ferocious thunderstorm –let’s see what’s good in the ad: the concept is trying to tackle the issue of tea being unhealthy and how you should not listen to ‘suni suni baat’  that’s great but the attempt at humour as well as the steam from the cup doing cartwheels has crossed the realms of creativity and entered very firmly the area called stupidity!

For us marketers sitting at home, scanning TV channels for ads like we’ve been conditioned to by our profession and education. We’re left asking questions:”What were they thinking?  “How did this get approved?”  No doubt the agency and brand team will come out with some face saving excuse- in research people were concerned about health, this concept was best liked in ad testing , the brand manager came up with this concept etc.

However if Pakistani advertising is going to win even regional recognition then we need to apply more rigor and accountability to make sure that such farcical ads are an exception not the rule.

Oh to be in India! Yes it’s true or neighbor and 24 hour rival is better than us in creating impactful and relevant communication. A while back I saw a tea ad that really entertained me (no there was no humor a la Ufone histrionics) just good advertising.

Looking for the ad today I noticed that ironically its an ad for Brooke Band Taaza, couldn’t find it but here’s one from the same series:

I’m a fierce advocate of having local solutions and communication instead of copy cut pasting  ‘global/regional’ ones, however in the case of the death of a great brand like Brooke Bond run the Indian ads please!


    Your criticism is excellent, especially on the latest ad with Shaan being the one revealing benefits etc. I ,myself, am not a heavy drinker and drinks thrice a week in winter and ,well, once in summer. But after seeing this new ad, I was dumbstruck. Shouldn’t they be focussing on how the tea is a part of family life or
    a drink being consumed while people sitting enjoying, musical background and etc??
    This ad even crossed the ads of medicated products. Tea is more to people than “health advantages”. That ad is disastrous. They’re “killing” the product.

  • Tyrone

    Hi, apologies for the spelling mistake it should have been our neighbour not ‘or neighbour’

    Anyway using tea as healthy and refreshing seems to be Lipton’s world platform these days and if you focus on the result not getting stuck in the whole health area (the Indian ad is a great example of showing what your product does not talking)

    Remember Kotler said people want a hole in the wall when they buy a drill- focus on the end result.