In 1977, fortune favoured the world of brands, especially domestic ones, in various ways.
That was the year when Coca-Cola exited India, thanks to regulations that required foreign companies to dilute their stake in local subsidiaries to 40 percent. The beverage giant also claimed that local authorities expected them to disclose the formula of their concentrate.
Following Coca-Cola’s departure, local companies stepped in to tap the opportunity in the market for fizzy drinks. The Pure Drinks Group introduced Campa Cola and Parle brought in Limca, a lemon-flavoured drink, and Thums Up, a cola.
Parle also owned Gold Spot, an orange soft drink, and the company stepped up its advertising and marketing efforts to try and cement its position in the audience’s minds and hearts.
With Campa recently making a comeback in a fresh avatar and in three flavours – Campa Cola, Campa Lemon and Campa Orange – Gold Spot nostalgia too found space on social media platforms, especially Twitter.
Someone please bring this drink back !— Sameer (@BesuraTaansane) March 26, 2023
Gold Spot >>> Fanta >>> Mirinda pic.twitter.com/5y5B45ILeA
Three carbonated drinks (Thumbs Up, Limca & Gold Spot) were launched by Parle after Coca-Cola exited (1977) from India. That’s the story I knew. #GoldSpot, introduced in 1950s, was then not available nationwide. Other parts of India, therefore, weren’t familiar with the brand. pic.twitter.com/mu7DKy0c0Q— प्रियराज PrriyaRaj (@PrriyaRaj) March 27, 2023
Harpreet Kaur, the head of marketing at KGOC Global who runs a series on lost brands on LinkedIn, recalled to Storyboard18 how Gold Spot was widely popular in the 1980s and 1990s, her growing years.
“There are a lot of memories associated with Gold Spot where in the school canteen, we would bond over a drink. Though Fanta and Gold Spot have similar taste, nostalgia continues to be high among the latter,” she recollected.
In the early 1970s, the Gold Spot print and outdoor advertisements starred Bollywood actress Rekha. The ads were helmed by the creative ad agency MCM (Mass Communication and Marketing) – no longer in existence. Its founder, the late Kersy Katrak, coined the slogan ‘Livva little hot, Sippa Gold Spot.’
The ads were shot by Govind Nihalani and directed by Shyam Benegal, both cinematographers. Ad film director Prahlad Kakkar was a young assistant on the sets then.
The ads featured Rekha casually strolling along the beach with Usha Uthup singing in the background. They were splashed across newspapers, magazines, walls and boards. The target audience then was adults.
After a flavouring agent was flagged as possibly carcinogenic, Kakkar reminisced how Gold Spot had to make modifications. A campaign was run to highlight the change and efforts were made to position the drink as the ‘new’ Gold Spot to keep criticism at bay. Advertising agency ASP took up the mandate of creating commercials for Gold Spot.
Gold Spot was perceived to be a brand for children – it was extremely sweet to taste and would be served at practically every birthday party. However, its popularity came under threat when Rasna, which was launched in 1976, started becoming popular in the 1980s, targeting the same audience.
BTS: Introducing ‘The Zing Thing’
That was when Parle pressed the damage control button: What about shifting the focus with respect to the target audience? Gold Spot made its way to advertising agency Rediffusion.
“Gold Spot was suffering because of Rasna’s dominance over the market,” Kamlesh Pandey, former head of creative, recollected. “Every soft drink has to focus on a specific age group. Our job was to find a recognisable face that could work among the young audience, especially the teenagers. Our target was not on adults even though they drink Gold Spot.”
Under Pandey, two to three teams executed the creative duties. They decided to run a series of commercials and six were conceptualised. Surendra Rao, the creative group head in one of the teams, not only wrote the scripts of the ads, which were purely lyrical in nature, but also coined the tagline: ‘The Zing Thing.’
“At Rediffusion, for any major campaign, there were different creative groups, and they would ask more than one group to pitch in. One of the groups came up with ‘Go for Gold’ for the brand’s campaign. Since the focus was on teenagers, I hit upon the idea of crafting the ads in the jingle format,” Rao told Storyboard18.
With the stress on the zeal and zest of teenagers and the growing popularity of Western music, the creative team agreed to stay with the trend, and Rao based the jingles on rock and roll music.
Was Parle receptive to this idea?
“It is never easy for any client to accept anything new or different that they have not been used to,” Pandey said. “The agency’s responsibility is to help them change their mindset to help them look at a concept, which is fresh.”
Rao took the lyrics to film composer, singer, keyboardist and record producer Louis Banks, who immediately expressed his delight. Banks did the scratch recording to present to the client.
Ashok Kurien, former founder-partner of Ambience Advertising (now Publicis Ambience), was the servicing person on the account. When the recording was presented to the client, Kurien mentioned to Rao that the client was dancing to the tune and was thrilled.
But, the client did raise the question, “What about in Hindi?”
Pandey then penned the lyrics in Hindi. What he found challenging here was translating the theme line ‘The Zing Thing’ in the widely spoken language. ‘The Zing Thing’ went on to be called ‘Deewano ka mazaa.’
Kakkar, who had worked very closely with Pandey and Rediffusion in the past, was called in once again to shoot the campaign in Mumbai.
The commercials were rolled out on national TV broadcaster Doordarshan in both Hindi and English. Though all of them were shot at the same time, they were released in a sequential manner every week. This was because Rediffusion first wanted to assess the response of the audience to the ads. When the response matched their expectations, they released the other commercials.
The 1985 campaign was immensely popular and became one of the most successful for soft drinks by Rediffusion, according to Pandey.
Rasna’s focus was on children, and Campa’s audience was adults. Gold Spot’s target was the teenage group. The campaign helped Gold Spot make a grand comeback and restore its lost position in the market.
Banking on a strong script
A notable aspect of the series of commercials was that none of them featured celebrities. Pandey marked this out as the highlight of the campaign. His view was that if the theme of the ad was not captivating, no film star or sportsperson could save it. Also, more than the brand, the audience would remember the personality and associate the commercial with him or her.
“The same celebrity also endorses smokeless tobacco called ‘gutka’ – how much validity is then left in his or her words? Why should they be paid a hefty amount just to promote a brand?” he asked.
Nostalgia: Is it a strong marketing factor?
With liberalisation, foreign entities including Coca-Cola re-entered the Indian market in 1993. Coca-Cola had deep pockets and the means to invest in advertising and marketing. Eventually, Coca-Cola bought Gold Spot along with Limca, Thums Up and Maaza.
However, Gold Spot was withdrawn because Coca-Cola wanted to create space and focus on Fanta.
Now that Campa has returned, the question is whether nostalgia can be a determining factor if Gold Spot was to be re-introduced in the Indian markets? The opinions are mixed.
Kakkar and Pandey said it would be very difficult to create space in the minds of the audience if the brand was re-introduced. Further, Pandey is of the opinion that nostalgia does not always work in favour of brands.
“Nostalgia works among the age group who have vivid recollections about the brand,” Pandey said. “Today, the audience for soft drinks is the youth. If a brand tries to highlight to them about their popularity during a particular period, there are very less chances that it would strike a chord.”
Pandey said if Gold Spot came up with varied flavours or experimented with flavours, it could stand a chance of survival.
KGOC Global’s Kaur recalled how the cap of Gold Spot’s glass bottles would have collectibles that were very popular among children and added that the brand should tap the nostalgia factor and connect with the target audience that grew up when it became popular. From here, the brand can slowly move towards targeting children.
She said the ‘The Zing Thing’ jingle can be redone with different faces and by roping in Bollywood celebrities Alia Bhatt, Vicky Kaushal or Ranveer Singh.
Pandey, who was the scriptwriter for the critically acclaimed Hindi film Tezaab, shared a story on how Gold Spot missed a brand placement opportunity.
The hit song Ek do teen, which featured Madhuri Dixit, was being shot at Mehboob Studio. Pandey told the film producer about the brand he was handling and asked if the Gold Spot logo could be placed as a backdrop in the song.
“The reply came, ‘No problem. But, I will charge money,’” he said.
The producer demanded Rs 5 lakh. However, Parle did not agree, Pandey said. There was no way to know how popular the film and the song would turn out to be. Tezaab went on to garner appreciation for its story, screenplay, dialogues, performances and soundtrack. Ek do teen became a chartbuster and can still get one to groove to its tune.
If Parle had agreed to the brand placement, one can only imagine the connection that Gold Spot would have enjoyed with the audience, regardless of which generation they belonged to.