The Cola Wars in 1990s were well known – with both multinationals (Pepsi and Coca Cola) pushing media to grab the largest pie of the market. However, while both Pepsi and Coke leveraged their global playbook, that strategy itself became an impediment to growth.
Thums Up’s management was a lot smarter than the competition thought. They waged a clever guerrilla marketing war against Pepsi by carefully studying its global playbook, and pre-empting its moves. As a result, by the time the bubbles settled, Pepsi emerged as number two in the market, but Thums Up was number one, having positioned itself as ‘the stronger cola, with a more adult taste’, expressed by the slogan ‘Taste the thunder’.
Today, India is a unique three-player cola market: Thums Up, with a 16.6% share; Pepsi with 13%; and Coke with perhaps less than 10%. According to Anwar Alikhan (JWT India),
It’s a brand that’s so successful that it’s said to be a bit of an embarrassment for the company that makes it. No matter what the Coca-Cola Company has tried to do over the past quarter of a century, it hasn’t been able to alter those market positions.
How has Thums up managed to retain its top spot even in such a competitive environment?
Home-grown Flavor, tastes good even when not chilled – It’s a home-grown flavour that resonates with the Indian palate (and tastes good even when the drink isn’t chilled – an obvious advantage).
Stronger, Powerful – Macho Image – The Thums Up brand has done a great job of leveraging its ‘stronger, more powerful’ taste story into the emotional dimension of a stronger, more driven personality – presented by a series of Bollywood action heroes, who are shown going the extra mile for their drink’s unique taste.
The company has roped in several famous personalities to act as its brand ambassadors like Salman Khan, Akshay Kumar, Sunil Shetty, Mahesh Babu, Chiranjeevi and Vishal. Thums up has entered in a tie-up with Being Human, Salman’s charitable organisation (Marketing 91).
Consistent Messaging – While the campaign has been freshened over the years, it has remained rooted in its ‘Toofani’ (‘Stormy’) positioning. Thus, the original product-centric message of ‘Toofani thanda’ (‘A storm of refreshment’) has been externalised through expressions that range from ‘Chalo kuchh toofani karte hain’ (‘Come on, let’s do something really stormy’) through to its current slogan ‘Main hoon toofani’ (‘I am the storm’). It’s a classic case study in brand management.
Will the leadership continue? While the market itself is shrinking (apparently) with healthier versions rapidly taking a larger pie of the market, the powerful brand equity, as long as it is continually refreshed, would still enable the leadership.
From Inner Potential to Macho to Drive your Purpose
The Campaign “EkToofanKhatam to DoosraShuru” – ‘Toofan to sab ke ander hai, bas dhakkan hi to hatanahai’. The campaign builds the Thums Up philosophy of inspiring today’s youth to recognize their inner potential and unlock the Thunder within.
In October 2016, Coca Cola dropped Salman Khan after four years of association, for hosting Big Boss 10, which was sponsored by Appy Fizz, a brand under the aegis of Parle Agro, and a potential competitor to Coca Cola.
#MainHoonToofani – Purpose in Life
Subsequently, the company signed up Ranveer Singh with a modified message –
Ironically, running after a bottle probably signified “lack of distribution” for the company! “Our research stated that youngster felt that they can pick up a bottle of Thums Up from anywhere. Hence, our proposition Mai Hoon Toofani shouldn’t represent an individual who is running after a bottle. He/she must have a purpose in life. Therefore, we decided to give the brand a human face and purpose. Ranveer Singh fits in with the brand philosophy so well. He is an outsider who is not scared of failure and has achieved success after overcoming various challenges,” explained Sachin Das Burma, national creative director, Leo Burnett.
Will this ‘purpose’ful change work for the company? Is this good enough to keep competition at bay?
According to a recent statement by Coca-Cola CEO James Quincey,
Coca-Cola needs to have “greater curiosity”, as there is a danger the business will rest on its laurels and fall behind.
“That is the danger of having 130+ years of success. We have the answer to some things but we need to have lots of curiosity to how things can be different and respond to how things are changing. We then need to have the courage to try new things,” he explained.
Redefining Macho – The Multidimensional Man
JWT’s State of men Report published in 2013 highlights the Macho Nature and the driver behind it. Ironically, while Macho is the driver for Thums Up in India, Coca Cola in Latin America redefines this very imagery a little differently.
As gender conventions fall away, men are coming to a more nuanced idea of masculinity that’s less hard charging and career focused, more well-rounded and family focused—even in cultures where a macho or “bloke” ethos has prevailed.
Masculinity is no longer synonymous with womanizing or other uber-heterosexual traits. “Today, who is really a macho?” asks the dramatic voiceover for a humorous Coca‐Cola Light commercial from Latin America.
Relationship. Macho is a man who runs in tights, who can admit there are more attractive men than him, who knows how to do the laundry, who gets up at 4 a.m. to change diapers.” Ultimately, “macho” is a guy who brings Coca-Cola Light to a party “and couldn’t care less what others think of him.”
As the country gets more progressive, maybe that’s something the agencies would pick up – Little risky though, given the scale at which the brand is currently. If Atom is a hint, it would definitely be a tall order to redefine what “Macho” stands for in India.
Maybe the marketing folks in the company will be macho enough to refresh the brand’s equity, shouting in unison, “Aaj kuch Toofani Kartey hain!” 😉
Get entertained with the masculine Ads – 1, 2, 3, 4
Pic Sources – Thums Up India, Thums Up Bikini, Thunder, Ranveer Salman, Thums Up Macho