Full Frontal


The title of the post is courtesy trendwatching.com – One of their top trends for 2013.

Read that day before yesterday and interestingly there was discussion on NDTV last night. Point of discussion… the Indian Food Regulatory authority has sent notice to 38 brands for making various claims in their communication. Claims about helping lose weight, making the kid smarter, taller and intelligent. So Horlicks, Complan, Kellog’s are under scanner.

Now there could be truth in the claims made by the brands but again there maybe lot of obscure studies backing the claims. Unfortunately, in our country there is no independent body for authenticating these claims. And truth be told, I have not yet heard anyone saying that these products have worked. Health, losing weight, kids becoming smarter or taller is a function of many things and brands bank on these to deliver result. Typically as a parent, I know that when my kids pays attention their studies, religiously practice and work hard, they will be smarter and intelligent. Similarly, active life (every evening intense physical activity in the park) will make them healthy and taller (by the way, my kids don’t have Horlicks or Complan… they have Bournvita and they are doing just fine). And of course as a parent, if I have subliminally or overtly bought into the claims made by the brands, I am ensuring that they have two glasses of milk a day with the additives so the result is that these brands become part of the process of growing up ( a process that is a natural process. All they do is play on the guilt of the parents to enter the house. Long back when I was at JWT, I had heard often enough that South India was a very large market for Horlicks because culturally there is a lot of pressure on kids over there to be Einsteins and Horlicks on a regular basis tapped into that pressure.

Take a look at all the junk foods that have got into the habit of saying how they are healthy. Chips are now baked so they are healthy. Butter is fat-free etc. Or Kellog’s has a variant which tells women that they can become slimmer (helps them charge a premium for that particular variant). Would love to know if any woman has actually become slimmer by consuming Kellog’s.

Full frontal is about brands coming clean on all their claims. Opening themselves to scrutiny. And they are being driven in the West to do so by the consumers. Consumers, tough regulators and the fear of billion dollar law suits.

Will it ever happen in India? Will Complan share every finding (not studies commissioned by them but independent studies over a long period) that proves their claims? I guess not. Because there is no pressure on them to do so. Even this notice that has been sent by the regulator will amount to a fine of some INR 10L (about US$ 20,000) if the claim is doubtful.

Consumerism in India needs to become extremely powerful and active for these brands to feel the pressure.

And it is not just this category. But many other categories. Skin care, health care.. As Nidhi so rightly mentioned in the program yesterday. Does the fairness cream really work?

Even in automobiles. How long are we going to believe the mileage claims *under standard test conditions. Given the roads we drive on, we will never ever be driving in the standard test condition.   So how about.. an automobile brand tells me that we will put a litre of petrol in the car and go with me on my normal day drive and see how much mileage I get. Any negative deviance from their claimed mileage.. for every one km deviance they will knock of an amount off their price. Don’t think they will do that.

So till we get active about our rights as consumers, lets give our children all the health drinks, pamper our skins and hair and believe that the car does give 21kms/litre…

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2 thoughts on “Full Frontal

  1. I think this largely portrays our culture for figuring out quick and cheap fixes, and moving on until the quick fix gives in – your example of obscure market research.
    Also we can partly blame the culture of unquestionable submission to numbers/standards/claims which i believe is more a global phenomenon and partly human nature. Whether it is the developed economies or the money markets, the story is largely the same. Case in point is the number fudging capability of auditors and rating agencies which were a part of financial crisis in 2008. They were trying to sell the credibility of a financial giant by playing with numbers worth a few trillion.
    The more fascinating part specially about brand communication is the quick fix becoming norm – your example of ‘standard driving conditions’. Unfortunately no one has until now come out in open to say “I make a car that can give 10kms a litre on rural roads OR 21 kms on conditions similar to a jam free expressway”. You go to a dealership, the sales guy will whisper the real milage almost in an unofficial capacity.

    Therefore we don’t question out of our social need to adhere or for that quintessential quick fix that we all are forever looking for.

    1. Abhishek, the sad part is that we are not even making an attempt to change. You would have in your professional life come across many situation when a great idea which you just knew would work for the brand, never saw the light because client wanted numbers to back the idea. Numbers given by research agencies which pretty much work on a template rather than actually trying to understand consumers.

      Numbers are our safety strategy. Our security blanket (a la Linus).

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