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Brands should avoid a communication that does not sell, says HUL’s Shiva Krishnamurthy

The Vice-President, Tea & Foods, HUL, tells how Red Label’s purpose-driven advertising has made it India’s No. 1 tea brand and taken its brand equity to an all-time high

Shiva Krishnamurthy

A brand should not go for a piece of communication that does not sell, feels Shiva Krishnamurthy, Vice-President, Tea & Foods, HUL, who heads India’s oldest (since 1903) and largest selling tea brand tea brand Brooke Bond Red Label.

Under its brand positioning ‘Swad Apnepan ka’, Red Label’s communications have always revolved around societal issues that are often spoken of in hushed tones. The brand recently launched yet another purpose-driven communication that brings to fore the issue of food preferences and the silent divide between vegetarians and non-vegetarians.

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The brand’s purpose to make India more inclusive has benefited it in a huge way and taken the brand equity at an all-time high. “It has always been about bringing people together over tea. Touching upon societal tensions under the warm umbrella thought of Swad Apnepan Ka has given the brand a contemporary edge. This has made us more salient and has increased brand love. Brooke Bond Red label is now India’s No. 1 tea brand and its Brand Equity is at an all-time high,” Krishnamurthy told

There are brands that rely on functional advertising to increase sales but at the same time, they occasionally go for emotional or purpose-led advertising aimed at growing brand affinity. Talking about Red Label’s communication strategy, Krishnamurthy said, “We believe that there is no such thing as a ‘purpose-driven ad’ or a ‘purely functional ad’. Every piece of communication on Brooke Bond Red Label is purpose-driven and strives to ‘Make India More Inclusive’. For example, we have a film that conveys a pricing message on Brooke Bond Red Label, that has the lady offering the shopkeeper a cup of tea.”

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In turn, the purpose-driven communications by the brand claim to have helped change social behaviour. Explaining the way the brand measures the impact of its purposeful and hard-hitting communication, Krishnamurthy said, “We believe that thought-provoking advertising by large brands like Brooke Bond Red Label plays a part in nudging people in the right direction. We have had several heart-warming responses from consumers, the marketing community and several other stakeholders on our Swad Apnepan ka campaign. This not only tells us that we are able to make an impact but also reminds us of our responsibility to keep fighting for inclusion and against prejudice.”

For HUL, it is imperative for brands to be purposeful today because people are not just looking for a product to buy but an idea to buy into and each brand has to find its own purpose and its own way of living it. According to Krishnamurthy, Brooke Bond Red Label’s purpose is to ‘Make India More Inclusive’ because it fits very well with what the brand has always stood for. “It will be very difficult for another tea brand to have the same purpose. Taj Mahal, our premium tea brand, has a different purpose of ‘Making Indians fall in love with Indian classical music again’. So I see it as a very happy synergy of different brands striving to be purposeful in their own way and making a positive social impact,” he said.

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