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How the script was drafted for Bajaj Auto’s new global avatar

Murali Gopalan | Updated on February 14, 2019 Published on February 14, 2019

Sumeet Narang, Vice-President, Urbanite Businesss

Hamara Bajaj of the 1980s has now given way to the World’s Favourite Indian

When Sumeet Narang tells you that he jokingly refers to the 1980s’ Hamara Bajaj ad as the Sholay of advertising, he is actually spot-on.

“You cannot make another Sholay, right? Likewise, for this ad, enough can be written about what made it so iconic,” says Bajaj Auto’s Vice-President — Urbanite Business. Today, even while the new campaign (The World’s Favorite Indian) is being splashed across the landscape right from print and TV to the company’s plants and dealerships, nostalgia is in the air all over again for Hamara Bajaj.

“It is about putting together a new narrative around the brand for what it has been known by over the years,” says Narang who was closely involved with the new campaign. It clearly signals the evolution of the company, which has now come a long way since the Chetak days when it was the monarch of the geared scooter space.

Brand Bajaj

Three decades ago, when the Hamara Bajaj ad had literally become a part of all Indian households, it pretty much encapsulated what the Bajaj brand already meant to a lot of people. For India of the late 1980s, the Chetak was the first choice for mobility. In the process, it set the roots for Bajaj Auto as a brand in terms of what it was known for (value, trust, reliability, credibility, etc).

Incidentally, a lot of advertising in the 1980s was glamorous, aspirational, westernised and largely in English. The Hamara Bajaj campaign caught the whole slice of life as well as an acceptance of the Indian flavour.

Today, the same company has exited scooters and is a specialist in motorcycles, which are sold both here and abroad. The Chetak is only a distant memory and the stable now has an array of motorcycle brands. The shift was inevitable when geared scooters lost momentum in the market.

“When the Pulsar was launched in 2001, the company began transforming itself significantly. It also marked a dramatic shift from scooters to motorcycles,” says Narang. The strategy of focus on one category (motorcycles) and differentiation for every product and brand has been the cornerstone for the last two decades now.

Bajaj Auto changed completely as also the product line-up in terms of technology, styling, innovation, design, etc. “We were aware that the business and the reality around our products were way ahead of brand perception,” says Narang.

Perception, of course, takes time to evolve and the team at Bajaj realised it was important to take this message to customers and tell them that here was a brand trusted in India and across the world. This would then become a big value-add to those looking to buy a quality motorcycle.

Over the last many years, the focus within Bajaj was clearly on building individual product brands like the Pulsar, Discover, Avenger, ‘V’, Dominar and Platina. It was important to differentiate them right from the most affordable to the top-end motorcycle and this is where the ‘Distinctly Ahead’ tagline played its role in communicating the intent.

Back to the mothership

However, the time had now come to get back to the Bajaj mother brand after the evolution of these products both here and in overseas markets. “We wanted to invest in terms of bringing in a new identity, narrative and telling people what the brand truly stands for,” says Narang.

From the messaging point of view, it was important to add a new narrative/identity around the brand without any change to the ‘Flying Bee’ logo. As he reiterates, it is crucial to have one’s priorities clear in marketing since “there will be a whole lot of areas to invest in than what you actually can”.

Three decades ago, when the Hamara Bajaj campaign was launched, the facts were on the table and it was a summation of all of them. “Today, with The World’s Favourite Indian, the facts and numbers have been achieved and we have packaged it to customers. It is a much better reflection of what the brand has already achieved today,” says Narang.

There was, of course, a lot of hard work in preparing for the new campaign. The message had to be kept simple (as is the case of any good campaign) and the idea was to deliver it dramatically while tugging at the heartstrings.

“We are still very clear about the fact that if someone wants a Pulsar, Avenger or Platina, his inspiration or motivation comes from what the product stands for,” reiterates Narang. While the Bajaj Auto association is “definitely comforting”, it is the individual brand that will attract the customer. Hence, going forward, each product and brand will need to stand up for itself to draw the targeted user.

“There is no change in our belief and it is about a strong differentiated portfolio. With the kind of salience that our products have enjoyed in the marketplace along with our investments in them, the bigger association that comes to people’s minds is the motorcycle(s) as opposed to any other category,” says Narang.

Learning from real life

He also makes it clear that the team at Bajaj has always believed in experimenting and learning from real life experiences rather than marketing philosophies. “We do realise that the mother and product brand have a role to play and the relationship between the two has come across very clearly to us over a period of time,” he says.

Through the new campaign, the endeavour is to focus on the relationship “and this is how we learn from experience and experimentation”. Narang also thinks it is too academic to define which is more/less important — the mother or product brand. It is his belief that the Bajaj brand name earned its respect and trust because of the products sold over the years.

“In markets where the Pulsar is doing very well and where we launched the Dominar, the common link is the Bajaj brand. It is a symbiotic kind of relationship and I feel the mother brand needs to be talked about now,” says Narang.

Given that the company has focussed on innovation, technology, styling and design as differentiators, it was now obvious that there needed to be a narrative for the mother brand to go hand-in-hand with this story and take it ahead. “The Bajaj brand has always stood for trust, reliability and value but it has moved beyond that,” he explains.

As part of the drive, there will be a change in visual identity at all Bajaj dealerships over the next three months along with new signages, facia and graphics inside the showrooms. “It is early days yet to gauge customer impact and we would rather be humble and wait,” reasons Narang.

The underlying message to any customer is that if he is keen on buying a global bike, he has come to the right place. “In today’s rapidly globalising world, even small towns have people who know a lot about brands that are respected across the world,” he adds.

Narang also makes it clear that there is no patriotic angle to this campaign. The feedback coming in on social media shows that customers are proud that an Indian brand has achieved so much. “There is a lot of brand love coming in too from those who love their bikes and are rooting for us,” he says.

Published on February 14, 2019

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