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Bole to, Bollywood!

Meenakshi Radhakrishnan-Swami in New Delhi | March 31, 2005

Call it the Karan Johar school of film-making. A college campus complete with basketball court, cheerleaders, bright, colourful costumes -- it's like an Archie comicbook come to life.

Enter the nerd  -- a helpful arrow on the screen points him out as 'Apna Bhondu' -- who asks "Yeh Frooti peene se kya hota hai? (What happens if you drink Frooti?)."

As the cheerleaders and jocks freeze with disbelief at such ignorance, 'Apna Hero' swings into view and clicks his fingers and voila -- a Frooti pack appears.

"Aadmi bindaas ho jata hai (You become cool)," he explains. But Bhondu, as the name suggests, is clueless. "Bindaas bole to? (What is 'cool'?)" he asks, again.

On cue, the crowd and Apna Hero burst into song, twirling and waltzing around. Hero sings: "Jab jeeta bindaas, jab haara bindaas. Khushi ho ya gham ho, main hoon hardam bindaas. (Cool when I win, cool when I lose, sorrow or joy I am always cool)."

At last, Apna Bhondu understands. "Fresh and juicy! What a beauty! Mango Frooti!" Now both Bhondu and Hero are bindaas and the male voiceover also intones "Bindaas".

Grey Worldwide's new television commercial for mango drink Frooti makes no song and dance about Bollywood worship. The 45-second ad, which broke earlier this month, pays obeisance to the 'cool' wave that's currently sweeping Hindi films.

Of course, it's helped in this by a new product design -- the first major redesign since Frooti was launched in 1985 -- that features mangoes encased in ice against a bold, orangey-yellow background.

"We wanted to bring back vibrancy and youthfulness into the brand," says Nadia Chauhan, marketing head, Parlé Agro. "The overwhelming message is that Frooti is fun."

That's where the filmi connection comes in. The ad has been directed by Nikhil Advani (who made the 2003 blockbuster Kal Ho Na Ho) and features upcoming actor Akshay Kapoor as Apna Hero.

The jingle is sung by Sonu Nigam and was set to music by Sanjeev Wadhwani. "Bollywood appeals to everyone. It's a generic way of charming people," explains Raj Kurup, regional creative director, Grey.

In December, Parlé called for pitches for the campaign. It tested some of the options offered by several agencies, including Lowe, before zeroing in on Grey's effort.

"The bindaas campaign is cool and chilled out, which were the attributes we wanted to play up," says Chauhan. With a new corporate tag -- 'Refreshing India' -- to live up to, Chauhan says the brief was very clear: do something different; play up the 'cool' attitude.

For his part, Kurup isn't too sure the new campaign is all that different. The brief called for creating a character that consumers would identify with the brand, but the product attributes narrowed the scope for innovation.

"A character in a cola ad can be brash, but Frooti had to be fun and have mass appeal," says Kurup. The trick was to charm people without standing out.

"We simply zeroed in on an attribute that everyone would want to be associated with -- bindaas. It's not rocket science," he adds.

Accepting that Frooti would perhaps always be identified as  "fresh and juicy," the new campaign incorporates the decades-old tagline, adding a twist -- "what a beauty".

"We had to go one step forward, not 50," points out Kurup. He adds that "bindaas" is not the baseline for the campaign -- it's the platform on which to build the brand. "The trouble with Frooti was that it lacked attitude."

It would appear that Chauhan, too, recognised that shortcoming. Which is why Frooti went in for a makeover some time before the new campaign was conceptualised.

Early this year Parlé rolled out a new packaging for the 20-year-old brand. The familiar green pack has given way to a bright mango colour, although the product lettering has been retained.

Parlé's hoping the new packaging will work for Frooti much as a redesign refreshed the company's apple juice brand Appy. When Appy switched from white to black packaging, there was strong resistance from salespeople.

But the brand's performed "phenomenally well" since then, says Chauhan -- in parts of south India, its sales equal those of Frooti.

Still, there has to be more to a redesign than just an enhanced brand communication. Chauhan vehemently denies any stagnation in Frooti sales, but concedes the increasing threat of competition.

"The market is cluttered. We're now competing with several international brands as well, so we needed to do something different," she explains.

The new pack -- designed by Mumbai-based Yellow Resources -- was chosen after extensive market tests with five options. In blind testing -- where the product design minus the brandname was shown to customers -- this proved to be the only design that people consistently associated with Frooti.

"From a branding perspective, the brand essence of fun and vitality is reflected much better through the new packs. From a pure design perspective, the new packs are much more detailed. The colours are bright and lively and the mangoes also look much more 'fresh and juicy'," says Sujay Nanavati, business head, Yellow. 

Right now, the ad and the packaging may be the new elements, but Parlé's been working at keeping the excitement levels around the brand high.

It's experimented with product variants and different SKUs in the past few years -- not always successfully.

In 2003, Frooti launched two variants, orange and pineapple. They bombed. Even last summer's sweet-sour variant, Frooti Green Mango, hasn't found its sweet spot yet.

"Sales could be better," admits Chauhan. She's counting on the relaunch this summer in new packaging to bring in volumes.

Consumers may have turned their noses up at Frooti flavours, but Parlé's SKU strategy does seem to be working.

Working on consumer feedback that the brick Tetra Pak, which needed a straw, was seen as too kiddie, Parlé introduced a slim "paper can," targeting teenagers -- the pack even had a pull tab, to cash in on the craze for soft drinks in cans.

Other innovations were the 1 litre, 500 ml and 250 ml PET bottles for home consumption and last summer's "small" pack, priced at Rs 2.50.

The innovations paid off -- Frooti now accounts for 85 per cent of the Tetra Pak fruit juice market in India.

All the action has helped Frooti widen its customer base and, perhaps, remove the perception that it is a kids' drink. Parlé's now working on driving that point home.

It's budgeted Rs 5 crore for the media blast, of which Rs 50 lakh was spent on the new look. Now, the 45-second TVC will be followed by 20-second and 10-second short ads on cable TV.

While the TV jingle is already on FM, Kurup says made-for-radio ads will soon be aired. Extensive point of sales material and outdoors are planned for the next burst. As the summer heightens, expect the action on Frooti to heat up as well.

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