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b4-i-4get: Scarecrow for Nestle Birds?

What does Nestle India want to scare? The birds off its corporate logo? Check out what Nataranjan Bohidar reads between the lines.

By Nataranjan Bohidar

Can’t say about Nestle S.A. but Nestle India may be going through its most schizophrenic phase ever. Appointing a creative consultant called “Scarecrow” simply takes the cake - made with Nestle MILKMAID, perhaps, now that the Company is into confectionary, when news as interviews last came in! What does Nestle India want to scare? The birds off its corporate logo? Sounds a bit like the forest department in a country or the environment ministry appointing “AXE” or better still “PODU”, which among our tribal communities is short for slash & burn! The public sector may well be excused for not estimating the image impact, such as we pardon our tribal brethren for not connecting podu cultivation to overall environmental degradation. But brand sensitive Nestle?

Hands off and hats off, of course, if this has the nod of the bosses in Vevey. Because, if the best ad agencies of the world aligned with the Company globally cannot solve Nestle India’s creative problems, well, then welcome “Scarecrow”! It was the company’s pride once that if you took roughly 35 Nestle brands to a country and factored in about 85 years of Nestle operations in 145 nations, Nestle India would always have close to half a million brand marketing experiences to bank on at any given time.

Clearly not enough for India! Basis the recent census, that’s only 0.00036 ideas per capita. Too few, in the local company’s view, in this viral age of social networking that’s taken mass customisation simply, or not so simply, to dizzying heights altogether. No? Particularly when compared to a promised investment of a staggering Rs.19/- per capita planned for next year! Can’t make a co-relation? Well, all Nestle India has to do is raise prices by a mere 5 paise per product it sells in India and hold it for a year to be able to fund the so called  bullish investments it promises to make in the coming year in  “ factories, capacity increases and new technologies”. For this it needs ‘Scarecrow’? More likely a scare to take it out of deep ennui set around a myth – an old Indian rope trick that has transcended into a rope-a-dope trick - that the Indian consumer of Nestle is reluctant to pay 5 paise more per person per day for the exquisite products it buys from the Company, because of no other reason than that s/he is an odd kettle of fish! (Now there’s a new visual that the Company may consider once the birds have flown leaving the local Indian counterpart an empty nester!).

But seriously, is “Scarecrow” expected to brood over a full fledged marketing services department that I inherited and a full fledged advertising unit that I created and a full fledged Communication Department that I launched for the first time in the history of the Company in India? Or is it going to impart soaring lessons to a once battle ready adult mother bird that appears to have regressed into a fledgling?  If it does not scare that bird and its chicks away in the first place…squawk!

So, what’s the brief going to be? Please help our advertising to take wing without scaring the pants of our blue eyed trainees, wet behind the ears, because our communication induction programme is just not in place! See, how we cannot spell confectionery right! (Aside: is that confectionery or confectionary, man?) And that milk factory we have up North in what’s that place, Monga or Moga , please check out the correct place with our production manager, will you ? Well, what can we do to increase sale of powder milk among the farmers there who supply us liquid milk in the first place? They are a rich lot you know…How about painting every farmer’s house blue with the Nestle EVERYDAY logo? Great idea!

You know outdoor is cheap in the hinterland and we are a bit tight on budgets. But no worries, we’ll protect your 15%, okay? Or will that be 2% for your creatives on all media spends and remaining 13% to the AOR who will buy the media? But because the walls of farmers’ houses cost nothing in media terms, well, you’ll just have to give us the designs and we will get it painted ourselves…but, of course, the logos are with us!…That’s right! But you can give it a great slogan, no? Just make sure it’s in the local language…Punjabi or Gurumukhi or whatever…find out from the Nestle CERELAC guys …they are doing this all the time, in 16 Indian languages…so, if you have a great slogan for powder milk or dahi we can take the campaign all-India. Oh, no no, not dahi …that will have to be in Marathi…are there any farmers in Pune whose derelict walls we can paint? …or near the factory…there’s bound to be prosperous farmers thereabouts…oh, but that’s a co-packer …so, forget it….or, wait, we’ll get back to you on that later …ok?

Also, could you audit our ads for us, too? You know, compile all the ads on a disc…this I need urgently…Vevey’s asking for it…so can you do it quickly …no , no …don’t contact our aligned agencies for this …it can take ages ...and will never come…you just buy it off the market ..yes, yes, Ad Index will do …buy off our ads and tell them not to put the Ad Index logo on it…or take it out long will this take? Really urgent, this! Top priority, theek hai?

Just avoid that Cup-o-Noodles ad in it …that’s right …ha ha …imagine a couple of kids carrying hot water in flasks to eat instant noodles on a picnic in a jungle…Are they going on a trek or are they going on a noodle eating trip? I mean, where’s the convenience? Why wouldn’t they just carry hot food instead …if they can carry hot water…Then there’s that splash in the end in really dirty brown mucky water in the jungle with Cup-o-Noodles in hand … the cues are totally wrong …so forget that ad …just compile the rest..

Speaking of MAGGI…it’s just MAGGI, o.k., not Nestle MAGGI …never make that mistake.. Why? I’ll tell you why … in fact, why don’t I come over and make a presentation of our brand architecture, the worldwide standardisation of colors, logos, categories, brand names, descriptors, and the birds in a nest…little nest, you know…that’s what Nestle means…in German…or is it French?…well, you know Switzerland is a big country …I mean, it’s a small country geographically but is hugely influenced by its neighbouring countries…that’s right , neutral during the war and all that…you know the history…400 years of peace…impressive , hahn? ..achha, so we’ll send you there for a junket if you do good work …ahem…ahem…perhaps organise a w.w. seminar at Rive Reine…how would you like that?

But we also need this  name for a new MAGGI flavour we are launching …so, you have to conduct that contest …of course , response will be huge …we did that many years ago when we launched MAGGI only…..we asked for names …huge response…and then we called the brand MAGGI ..after Jules Maggi, founding father …very creative it was ! Now, you handle this contest…no no, TOMATO TANG kahan chalega …in fact , nahin chala…it cannibalises our ketchup sales …but you don’t have to come up with a brand name ..yaar…that will come …woh ayega…we have more than 35000 brands around the world and still counting …tum sirf contest ke entries handle karosamjhe…ya, ok, we’ll pay per prospect…per hit , if you like…

What ? Sevian in soya milk …kya abhi jaga hai ya soya…..woh  soya project kab ka soya hua hai…was shut down ages ago, man…bahut laphda tha , boss! But keep generating ideas …who knows what may work…No no no , this Deepika NESCAFE thing …don’t touch what if she is not doing the brand ambassador thing as defined in your classic promo books, bhaiyawoh sab chhodobhool jao your MBA tembia …I tell you don’t fix what’s working …all the hip gyration during coffee preparation…its doing wonders… of course we lose sales in the summer months ..but we pick it up in the winter months, na…so business as usual… hai ki nahin

Then we have the press …you know very nosey…chirp chirp…we use them only for product launches…current-news walla funda…taaza front page …full page we could afford in the past …ab quarter chalata hai…paua…kuchh strip shripkuchh arcane publications…and we use T.V. for regular advertising ..trp trp…and we don’t care for edits…paid or not … I know, I know...totally lost opportunity…we really wanted to slip some news out about how unhygienic is the daily  milk supply in our cities and how mother’s ought to turant switch to Nestle tetra PURE MILK…well, what to do… there was this chap here earlier , in my place, so headstrong…he wouldn’t do it and he wouldn’t allow anyone else to do it either…saala bada saadhu ban ta tha…he put out a Press Policy that stopped everyone and anyone from talking ‘officially’ to the press except himself and his boss, the Market Head…real chalu.. Real duffer, if you ask me… added no value for 8 years …so we asked him to quit …and true to form we took his nest away …you know, this house… the Company had loaned him money to buy a house…so, he built it ..and just when he was ready to move in , with his family…da baangg! we had him put in his papers…so he builds the nest and we get to lay eggs in it…serves him right!

Communication was in a mess then… much better now… we allow more people in the Company to talk to the Press…didn’t you read how one junior guy told this national newspaper off  when it tried to pry into our Nutrition Programme in colleges.. “we cannot give you details of our programme because it will adversely impact the competitive position of our Company”, he was quoted…solid, boss…kya maara…then he resigned , of course…pata nahin kyon…must have got a higher package elsewhere for his amazing communication effort… about our strategic CSR…we have a reputation for that ..HBR padho, sab samajh jaoge ! It’s nothing short of a miracle what we have done in Punjab. You can organise a media visit there…yes, yes, another good idea!

So, don’t worry about this controversy that “Scarecrow” will scare away the Nestle birds in its logo…we’ll fix the guy who started this …Incidentally, how did the press get to know that “Scarecrow” has been appointed Nestle creative consultant? Oh, you squawked, did you? Well, don’t do it again …without my written permission, ok…we have a Nestle India Press Policy, you know…its our NIPPle contract…allows us to show just as much as we like… no more, no less.. all in writing, proof read by me…Next time media wallahs call, on a slow news day, just avoid, or direct them to me.

And yes, before you go, you can look after our in-house magazine, VARTALAP…yes Nestle VARTAPLAP, but with a small Nestle on top, or on the side…not too big..HQ is very sensitive about associating the world wide NESTLE bird-nest  visual id with every this or that publication…but we use it discreetly, sort of, because we so value internal communications…or should that be communication? You figure that out….the singular plural angular stuff…okay!


Nataranjan Bohidar is a Sr. Management professional with 35 years of positioning experience. He held key integrated marketing and communications positions with reputed companies like NESTLE India, Bennett, Coleman & Company and leading American collaborations in the automotive industry.

Views Expressed here are personal. HE MEANS NO OFFENCE TO INDIVIDUAL OR COMPANY, ONLY TO SYSTEMS & PROCESSES OUT OF WHACK! Mail for BACK perspectives & more. BACK = (B)rand, (A)dvertising, (C)ommunication, (K)angaroo. Or just follow this column exclusive to

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Comments (6)
  • Can Notplac- 8 years ago

    what absolute rubbish! Nestle is the most multinational of multinational companies in the world..98% of its revenues come from countries other than its home country can it make such an elementary error? i suggest the agency change its name to "robin" or "pigeon" or sparrow" or "cuckoo"...anything but "scarecrow" !

  • Watcher- 8 years ago

    Ronnie Bohidar, I have absolutely no relationships with any present Nestle people or their associates - but in my purely personal capacity I strongly believe you have gone way over the top with sarcasms about your ex-company which you yourself have actively contributed to leading at a senior level within Nestle India. Your commentary is not in good taste. Not very becoming of you. LAck of grace - why? Just because you left (had to leave) from there,leaving few to miss your departure?

  • natbohi- 8 years ago

    Dear Watcher, Why not have the guts to reveal your real self/name? Appears you know me from are you one of the 'birds' the 'crow scared'? It takes courage to be proud of the Company one has contributed to create and some more courage to correct that very Company when it may be going wrong...Nestle India needs such courage, not fence sitters and voyeurs!Write to me in detail, Watcher...i promise to keep the secret of your identity safe...Here's mine :

  • natbohi- 8 years ago

    Hello,Can Notplace...not sure how Nestle's multinationalism is connected with changing the agency's name...unless you mean that some cultures may be sensitive to co-relations such as "scarecrow" & "birds", while some may not..and that multinational Nestle should be sensitive about such cultural differences...well, i think someone in Nestle India didn't make the association... or was complacent because no one really ever finds out who appoints whom what why and where to do advertising duties for Nestle...What do you think ? write to me in detail:

  • natbohi- 8 years ago

    Dear Ankita, Thank you for writing to my id!i thought it would be best to reply here so everyone who is interested in the issue can be informed in one go.i, teachery ..but what to do ..aadat se majboor! I hadn't touched on the subject in our classroom because the article in HBR on strategic CSR by Michael Porter & Mark Kramer did appear in DECEMBER 2006 but i got to read it only in late January...Sorry for being such a late laid back latif!! But i wrote back immediately my concern/s and ..can you believe it ...HBR, true to the great publication it is , actually responded saying they will publish my letter, concerning corporate schizophrenia, in their JUNE 2007 issue...LOL, YOU MAY SAY...BUT TRUTH is that Mike's & Mark's article raked up such a huge global debate on the subject that letters were flowing in from all over the world i had to wait ...i was in the queue, so to say, b4 they found space for my letter! Go ahead, read them both now...the primal article , 'Strategy & Society:The Link between Competitive Advantage & Corporate Social Responsibility', HBR DECEMBER 2006 and my letter HBR,JUNE 2007, page 136, to which both Porter & Kramer have responded...Once you've read them ask me to tell you the follow up i did with Warren Buffet!Have fun...

  • nataranjan - 7 years ago

    Trust the Americans to update us about Nestle in India!Go to page 99 in William H. Avery's amazing rendition titled,"China's Nightmare, America's Dream, INDIA as the next Global Power". This is what he writes,"The Swiss food giant Nestle has planned to open,by 2012, a research centre in Manesar, south of New Delhi,to develop food spcific to Indian tastes"...So, when is the inauguration? Also, please see my para 3 above...IS THIS NESTLE'S PROMISED EL DORADO FOR INDIA? More about Nestle India's Nineties foray into Indian foods,some time later!!