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Wakaw ya Pakaw? Yahoo coke

Wakaw! Just another of those wacky lines penned by a copywriter who's had a shot too many of you know what?

Just what is Wakaw or the Vanilla Coke (VC) campaign all about anyway. Is it retro? Not really. Is it path-breaking? Well, opinions are mixed. Is it ethnic? Hmmm, not clear. Is it western? No way. But…

Oh la la! Customer interaction at its hilt. A VC fan adorning the 'stuck in time' avatar

Has it made an impact? That for sure is a given.

Vanilla Coke, launched first in Delhi on 7 April this year is a continuation of the cola major's endeavour to offer new products to consumers, or so it has been stated. Coca-Cola's president and chief executive officer Sanjiv Gupta says, "Vanilla Coke has been very successful in the international market and the product has the potential to be a bestseller here in India too. And while still in its nascent stage, the impact on Coke itself seems to be very synergistic."

What was the strategic intent for the launch of VC?

April-May is a period of relatively heavier CSD (carbonated soft drink) consumption. This is also the period when consumers are most open to new offerings. The key challenge here was to leverage the current Thanda Matlab Coca-Cola equity and at the same time create a distinct positioning for Vanilla Coke. A fair amount of consumer understanding - market research, concept development and trends in the upper social economic classification (SEC) urban youth segment have been the fundamental premise in arriving at this particular positioning and creative route.

Wakaw! Aao twist karen

The integrated 360-degree marketing plan was derived from Coke's international learnings and covered all elements of consumer contact - whether above-the-line or below-the-line. This included TV, print, consumer activation events, roadshows, SMS promos, etc. They also retained the international graphics which the company states worked well for them. The detailed marketing launch plan in India was customised to suit the local environment in terms of tapping into the consumer trend towards retro.

Be it the television commercial (TVC), the radio branding, the optimum usage of the print media, the use of the Internet via Coca-Cola India's website or the two-phased promotional strategy, Wakaw's VC aimed to totally bedazzle the consumer with its campaign.

Funnily, the reference is to Wakaw's VC and not Coca-Cola's VC. Well that is the power, the term 'Wakaw' has stringed for itself. Essentially a nonce word, it traces its origin to a 70's Bollywood flick; the reference there also being gibberish. What's really most interesting in all this is the unique association that has been engendered in the public mind by the two words: Wakaw and Pakaw. They immediately connect with the brand. No other brand which has used sound mnemonics, has really managed to make such a strong connect coupled with its emphatic recall value.

Interestingly Pakaw, which of course was not an original but inspired from Mumbai lingo, made a sort of comeback in common usage with the entry of VC. Pakaw does not feature anywhere in the ad but the radio branding of Wakaw and Pakaw has made the latter indispensable to the campaign.

The ad, conceptualised by McCann Erickson and spearheaded by creative head Prasoon Joshi, tackled it with an essential differentiation as compared to it's mother brand Coke, although the new flavour extension has managed to keep its integral Thanda link with its tagline 'ice creamy thanda.'

Priced reasonably (200 ML VC retailed at Rs 5, the can priced at Rs 20 in Delhi) considering its niche market value, the target group (TG) is essentially the urban youth.

Moving on to the genesis of the ad, the brief to the agency was crisp:

Should stand out from the clutter. Multimedia approach is crucial. TG - Youth. Niche product. Create a 'Dhamaka'

Genesis of the creative process:

Elucidates Joshi, "There are three kinds of consumers:

1. The bold, innovative and adventurous

2. The Followers

3. The Laggards

This campaign essentially targets the third category and beckons them to try the product. Therefore the whole retro slant and the character being stuck in time. Also, when you have to launch a product like VC which is a new and foreign concept, you have to excite the consumer."

But why the focus on the laggards?

Joshi offers, "The adventurous will sample it anyway so there's no point in really concentrating on them. The laggards are the one's who are the toughest to impact. Also if you crack the toughest of the categories, then the rest is child's play. The ad looks at stimulating impulsive behaviour."

VC! Mein tera deewani. The celebrated 'Wakaw' icon

Why Vivek?

Says Gupta, "Well, Vivek Oberoi is a youth icon and our obvious choice. Also, Vivek took to the whole concept very well and hence him."

Speaking on the effort that went into the creation and execution of Vivek's retro look, Equinox's Ram Madhvani says, "Prasoon visualised the concept so clearly that my only problem was to ensure I didn't mess it up."

The production house put together a reference bank, wherein they collected whatever they got their hands on from the sixties and seventies era. Adds Madhavani, "I wanted to capture that era but at the same time not be totally true to it. Also, Vivek's image had to have exotic ethnicity. It had to be something like a foreign eye looking upon an Indian icon. The image was a parody and therefore there was a need for it to be sophisticated; as parodies have an affinity to turn into a kitschy affair."

So the key point of note here was to ensure that it is not completely viewed as Indian but also make it culture specific. A clear correlation with the TG was fundamental.

Madison Media, the brainchild behind the multimedia coverage, capitalised on the ads' unique selling proposition (USP) and its great hook called 'Wakaw.'

A Madison official gushes, "This ad had a number of elements a media guy can capitalise on. We played on the Wakaw platform on TV, radio, print and Internet. Secondly, a successful campaign is one which has the potential to be taken across multimedia."

The two-phased event, aimed at visibility and sampling of the brand was a 70-day campaign.

1) The world goes Wakaw

Dancers on Lambretta scooters with product cart in tow. Sampling activity taking place in the background. Followed by constant announcement of the product.

2) Aao Twist Karen

Wakaw dancers going to 10 cities in the country and involving consumers with classical and remixed numbers from the 70's, with gathered audience judges for the impromptu competition. The paraphernalia were cool, 'ice creamy thanda' accessories.

This revolutionary ad campaign designed to lure the youth, most definitely seems to have made a mark. How critics perceive this or how peer agencies mock it, is a different story altogether. The fact of the matter is that Coca - Cola has launched its first new flavour extension and has managed to create a hype that the Indian industry has not seen in a while.

On the consumer front, however, the scenario is not quite so rosy. Industry sources as well as retailers (who wished to remain anonymous) say that the vanilla flavour in Coke has not really caught on. The common reaction is "you can try it once." The novel concept has been appreciated but the usage definitely seems to be "let's have VC for a change".

Another interesting hurdle that VC faces is the margin it offers to retailers. The margin of Coke as compared to VC is a lot more. To be specific, Coke offers 40 paisa while VC offers only 25. Hence, the lack of incentive for the retailer could be a major obstacle in the distribution process. Another point to take note here is that Pepsi becomes a more viable product to store because of the profit margin. The 200 ml glass bottles and 500 ml pet bottles are more in demand currently.

Why such a huge campaign for such a niche product?

Any guesses? Anyway, the primary concern here is not VC but a feeling of excitement in the market about the company. Also to keep being innovative with end-users, to ensure the brand value in the minds of the consumer keeps growing and also the sustenance of the image. The VC campaign, apart from making the consumer aware that the drink is now in India, has had a major rub off in terms of tangibles, that is, sales towards the mother product Coke.

All in all, the final word will be the consumers' - whether they say 'Wakaw' or 'Pakaw.'

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