Brands on the Moon

Musings on how lunar tides have influenced marketers and their wares

Fifty years ago, man landed on the moon, and Neil Armstrong said, “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind”. Imagination had become reality. I was just seven years of age then, but the moon had already captured my imagination through a very different device. That device was a delightful magazine called Chandamama, which literally means Uncle Moon.

The man who named this magazine was a marketing genius because, in one stroke, he made both magic and warmth come alive for young readers. I would wait eagerly for “uncle moon” to come home, each month. Within this magazine, I read and re-read the stories of Vikram Aur Betaal, where a King and a witty ghost sparred with each other, under the light of the moon.

Some years later, I entered college in BITS Pilani in Rajasthan. On clear nights, I looked up at the desert moon, and moped that I would never get there. But that turned out to be entirely incorrect, because another set of geniuses, from the world of music, soon took me to the moon. This was Pink Floyd, and while their music was heavenly, their marketing masterstroke was naming their most famous album “Dark side of the moon”.

That seduced me totally, because the dark side of the moon, the side that has never been seen, could hold just about anything. As I listened to Pink Floyd’s mind-altering music, I think I walked the dark side of the moon not just once, but several times. I learnt quite happily that you don’t need a rocket to take you to the moon, there are many other ways of getting there.

Moon-inspired

Marketers have, of course, known that for years. In the state of Kerala, where I did part of my schooling, I recall using Chandrika soap, named after the moon. Chandrika means “light of the moon”, and moonlight comprises clean, bright, pure rays. That’s what this soap would do — it would lather generously and leave your skin clean, bright and pure. So this product stayed true to its lunar inspired name.

Then, when I began marketing tea in the late 1980s, I was amazed to see the moon being used in this category too.

Tetley had launched its round tea bags in the UK with a beautiful ad campaign which told us that because the moon is round, this is the most natural shape for tea bags too. Until then, tea bags had been square in shape, but this new campaign made its impact instantly, and round tea bags, modelled after the moon, were soon selling like hotcakes.

Did I say hotcakes? Perhaps I should say mooncakes, which are such hot favourites in China. Here, the round shape of the mooncakes stands for inclusion, a shape that envelops all members of a family into a cozy, secure home. That’s why Chinese families gift and eat mooncakes during the Autumn festival. Modern marketers have seized on this sentiment to develop multiple varieties of this delicacy, including Louis Vuitton mooncakes that come in million-dollar jewellery cases bearing the famous logo.

Later in my career, I moved from selling tea to marketing jewellery and watches. The moon followed me here too. Jewellery brands began perfecting the art of marketing to Indian women on Karva Chauth, the festival day where the woman sights the moon through a sieve, before she breaks her fast.

I heard of the Omega Speedmaster moonwatch, an adaptation of the watch that astronaut Buzz Aldrin wore when he landed on the moon. Omega marketed this watch brilliantly, bringing alive all the adventure involved in moon travel. Closer home, Titan had its own moon phase watches too, where you could visually track the waxing and waning of the moon on the dial. I also heard of the exotic Romain Jerome watches, where every watch contains actual moondust, shaved off from a moon rock. Wow.

Lunar experiences on earth

The “wow” reached a new high when I saw the Taj Mahal under the moonlight, in Agra. The marble wakes up, glistens, and turns magical. There is potential here for so many beautiful tourist spots to be marketed for full moon experiences, because the moon makes every structure special, be it a palace or a ruin.

However, the brand that has begun experimenting with moon experiences comes not from tourism, but from another interesting category. Talisker single malt whisky has organised moon experience events for its customers. Since this delectable single malt comes from the desolate, moon-drenched isle of Skye, the marketers of Talisker thought that its new blends should be sampled with a specially curated moon experience in a museum, where an expert leads you on a moonlit single malt journey across the island. Very nice. On that happy note, over a tumbler of the award-winning Moon Glow whisky from Japan, whose brilliance is said to glow under a rising moon, may I raise a toast to fifty years of the first man on the moon, to the grand success of India’s own moon mission Chandrayaan-2, and to many more moonshots by all the brands we love.

Harish Bhat is Brand Custodian, Tata Sons. These are his personal views. [email protected]

Published on July 25, 2019

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