Does Tata Tea's Jaago Re need a wake-up call?

Into the thirteenth year, has the popular social campaign outlived its shelf life, or can it still be relevant with the emotional connect of its messaging?

Infographics By Pradeep Belhe
Published: Jun 28, 2021 09:47:24 AM IST
Updated: Jun 28, 2021 01:32:30 PM IST


Jaago Re's latest campaign urges people to help their support staff get vaccinated. 

In October 2007, there was a pressing need for a strong brew. Two months prior, Tata Tea had reportedly pipped rival Hindustan Unilever (HUL) to become the largest seller of tea in India by volume. Though the mood in Tata camp was upbeat, plans of celebration got tempered by a mushy issue. Tata Tea, which then had four brands—Tata Tea Premium, Tata Tea Gold, Tata Tea Agni and Tata Tea Life—was getting into multiple variants. The marketing challenge, recalls Puneet Das, president, packaged beverages (India & South Asia) at Tata Consumer Products, was to find out a way to support each of these varieties. The task was tough. There was a need for one voice, one heady messaging, and one strong brand proposition to keep it differentiated.

Enter Jaago Re. Tata Tea’s social messaging campaign killed two birds with one stone. First, in a market where brands were amplifying noise around functionality, Jaago Re brewed emotional connect and won the hearts of consumers. In one go, it stood apart and was miles ahead of the others. Second, the wake-up call made the brand don the mantle of social responsibility. In a country, where almost everybody is a self-proclaimed political pundit, the maiden campaign talked about the need to participate in voting. “It became a tea brand that wakes you up,” says Das.

The awakening continued over the next few years. From issues such as corruption, gender discrimination, citizen’s rights and responsibilities to pre-activism and spotting raw sporting talent, Jaago Re continued to engage and captivate viewers. What also helped the brand capture the nation’s imagination was one massive, but often neglected, fact: There was hardly any brand championing social cause and messaging at the time.

Fast forward to June 2021. Into its thirteenth year, Jaago Re rolls out a campaign urging people to help others—including support staff at home such as domestic helps, drivers, security guards and gardeners—get vaccinated. Titled ‘Is baar sabke liye Jaago Re,’ the campaign seems to be an extension of last year’s messaging around ‘Badon ke liye Jaago Re’, which talked about the need to take care of elderly who were most affected during the first wave of pandemic. The reason Jaago Re has lasted for 13 years, Das explains, is the fact that the brand has always identified the pulse of the nation. It picked up causes that resonated, reflected the mood of the nation and helped drive change. “That's why it has remained relevant,” he says.

Campaigns and shelf Life

Though the intent and messaging of Jaago Re have always been unsullied, the relevant question to ask now is: Has Jaago Re outlived its shelf life? Has it lost its mojo? Thirteen years and eleven campaigns later, is it time to brew something new? Branding experts reckon so. Reason: Change in the social context. 

Back in 2007, and over the next few years, the social messaging space largely remained explored. Jaago Re had the first-mover advantage, it churned out provocative and relevant themes and appealed to the masses. However, a decade down the line, every second brand, if not every brand, is either riding on social messaging, or is delivering direct or indirect communication around social, political and gender-related causes. The space is hyper cluttered; there is too much noise and the recipients—read viewers—are fed up with messages reminding them about their moral responsibilities.

In the frenzied race to look ‘sincere’ to millennials who care about brands championing such causes, most brands either parrot the same line or mimic each other. When one adds the first wave of relentless pandemic-related messaging by brands —wear masks, maintain distance, wash hands—to the second wave of communication evolving around vaccination, the messaging chaos only gets amplified.

Another crucial thing that has changed over the last decade: Prevalence and dominance of social media.

While talking about social causes remained confined to the brands over a good part of last decade, now every person on Facebook, Twitter or WhatsApp speaks up about micro and macro issues. From celebrities to digital influencers and bloggers, every social media user has an opinion about every issue.

For brands, this meant either reinventing themselves in terms of communication or picking up those issues that are not hotly contested or discussed. Devising a communication strategy around the pandemic, sadly, is not the best thing to do.

“The era of social messaging is over,” says Harish Bijoor, who runs an eponymous brand consulting firm. For long-running social messaging by brands, there’s a certain degree of boredom that sets in, he says. “Cause-related advertising has a life and expiry date,” he underlines, adding that over the last few years a bunch of brands created outstanding work, including Tata Tea’s Jaago Re and detergent Ariel’s two bucket water campaign. With the sway of social media today, brands’ social messages get muted. “Social media is the ultimate social messenger,” he says. No amount of advertising, Bijoor lets on, can that. “Passion of individuals or set of individuals can’t be bettered by brands,” he adds.

There is another inhibiting factor with Jaago Re’s latest campaign. “The execution comes across as condescending as it is limited to domestic staff,” says Jessie Paul, chief executive officer of Paul Writer, a B2B marketing agency. The campaign would have had wider appeal if it had addressed vaccine hesitancy and accessibility at a broader level, she says.

Change content to stay relevant

Paul, however, believes that there is enough life left in Jaago Re. As a brand that has chosen the route of not emphasising the core brand values of tea—taste, aroma, and colour—but talks of a concept of ‘waking you up,’ Jaago Re is a platform worth hanging on to. Since it is an established property with a history of associating with hard topics, people don’t view the messages as preachy. Like every Amul advertisement is not a hit, but people remember the good ones and they all add to the overall warm-and-fuzzy for the brand.

Shelf life of campaigns and properties depends on relevance. “It is possible to extend the shelf life by keeping the overarching theme the same but changing the content to be trendy,” Paul says. Take, for instance, the Olympics. Though it has existed for ages, the sports and production values keep changing with the times to keep it relevant to the audience. “[Like] Nike ‘Just Do It’, the execution varies, and [it] becomes edgier to stand out,” she adds.

Das, for his part, reckons that Jaago Re is not a campaign. “It is a social initiative,” he says. While conceding that there are other brands too talking about social causes, Tata Tea is the only one that walks the extra mile by doing things on the ground to facilitate change. Jaago Re, he stresses, is even more relevant today. Reason: Millennials and younger consumers have grown up in a world where they're asking every brand and organisation questions such as ‘What do you stand for?’ and ‘What are the value values that you echo?’ “Jaago Re has been sincere and authentic,” he asserts. “Andar se aawaz aani chahiye (It shouldn’t be forced, but genuine),” he says.

The awakening is relevant throughout the years. “It will remain relevant for many years to come,” he adds.

Though the message is loud from Tata Tea, the messaging has to be subtle and differentiated if Jaago Re needs to stay endearing, and enduring.


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