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Neither saint nor sinner, Tanishq is a smart winner

Shivaji Dasgupta, Managing Director, Inexgro Brand Advisory explains why the Tatas were strategically clever in both creating and withdrawing this advertisement

Shivaji Dasgupta

Let’s get it straight once and for all. Brands are not in the business of promoting social causes, unless they clearly add back to the business they are in. This is true for Nike, UCB, Body Shop, Ariel and equally true for all the work done by Tanishq and Titan. When you evaluate the recent episode from this lens, you will realise that the Tatas were strategically clever in both creating and withdrawing this advertisement.

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It is the ultimate objective of every advertising agency to discover and milk the underexploited cause, especially when it is seamlessly connected to the business of the brand. So the bright folks at What's Your Problem, the agency behind this campaign, were doing a great job when they recommended this narrative to the client, as a sequel to a consistent stream of provocative work. The client must have got suitably excited and commissioned this piece of work and both stakeholders clearly knew that there would be social media reactions. Yet the calculated risk lay in the positive power of curated controversies, which actually leads to greater saliency and thus sales, truly coveted during this pandemic year. So, it is important to note that the motivation behind the scripting is strategic acumen and not a concerted affiliation to national integration. While it is equally civilised to acknowledge that the client management is suitably liberal, without which such a licence could not be issued.

So when trouble started to hit the roof, the reaction had to be suitably rational and not demandingly emotional, as seems to be the Twitterati's expectations. An expectation fuelled by a spontaneous and effortless merger of brand narrative and national agenda, which got the world at large very excited. As a responsible brand, Tanishq has to protect the interests of employees, dealers and the ecosystem at large and that cannot be endangered by taking an admirable but unprofitable stance. Already, there is sporadic evidence of shops being vandalised and if this had become a pattern, the pandemic year would have ended on an unnecessarily uneven note. Also, such reactions may endanger the physical health of employees as well, which can lead to unfathomable consequences. Thus the withdrawal was a mature business reaction and while this may lead to short-term admiration downgrading, nothing matters more than joyous cash registers and sustainable normalcy.

So, it is accurate to suggest that Tanishq has been very smart in their dealings and is neither the passionate cause monger nor the hapless or spineless victim it is made out to be. As mentioned earlier, the communication was a calculated gamble designed to spur intrigue in a tough period and I am certain that the think tank was ready with multiple scenarios. If the bigot brigade had been out-shouted by the lusty liberals, the communication would have continued aided by social campaigning with suitable innovations. As was the case with the Cannes winning Sindoor Khela created by FCB Ulka, which also got its fair share of conservative Hindu backlash. But when Code Red conditions struck, a separate plan was put into action and very soon, we will see a series of strategic repartee. A key focus of which will be to balance the virtues of creating this conversation with the rationale behind its withdrawal as business interests will have to be ruthlessly protected. The share market may see some initial flutters but that too will be positively addressed in a brief spell of time, as people will simply forget and move on to the next scandal.

There is a simple but necessary point that must govern our attitudes towards commercial brands and their worldviews. In every case, they are motivated by the growth of business and emotion is just the calculating conduit and never the overpowering motivation. The Colin Kaepernick campaign by Nike was followed initially by a white backlash but the sales among Hispanics and Blacks soared significantly. If that was not the case, then the campaign would have been summarily withdrawn. Modern marketers must thus develop cause manipulation skills to add their ever expanding repertoire as this becomes valuable strategic ammunition. In this case, the subject was communal harmony and thus the collateral damage could be more lethal than most provocative agendas.

On the creative execution though, I have no criticism as this agency is always polished and smart and I honestly fail to see the logic behind the voracious dissent. At the very end, the only winner promises to be the uber-smart Tanishq and do check out the Diwali sales graph when it is duly published. 

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of and we do not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.)

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