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Humour has been key to Center Fresh's brand recall: Perfetti Van Melle's Rohit Kapoor

Rohit Kapoor talks about the nerve-tickling marketing journey of Center Fresh

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MUMBAI: The Dutch confectionery and gum manufacturer, Perfetti Van Melle had stepped into the Indian market 25 years back with a unique liquid-filled gum, Center Fresh, which eventually became the category leader in its segment.   One of the largest selling gum brands in India, Center Fresh not only tantalised the taste buds of millions of Indians but also gave memorable marketing campaigns and taglines that stay on the tip of the tongue; the most iconic being ‘Zubaan Pe Rakhe Lagaam

Perfetti Van Melle India director-marketing Rohit Kapoor, in an exclusive conversation with Indiantelevision.com, highlights the glorious marketing journey the brand has been on through these 25 years.

He starts by sharing the initial day story of the brand. Perfetti started the Indian operations in 1994 with the launch of Center Fresh, the first liquid-filled gum of the country. "Over the years we have kept the excitement going on the brand with new campaigns, innovative flavours, and new pack formats introduction to building the category. Center Fresh has managed to play the role of market creator and maintain leadership position in the segment over the years," he says.

During the launch phase, the objective was how to bring in differentiation and consumer-relevant innovation to the market. It was thus decided to launch the first-ever liquid-filled gum experience with a balanced fresh mint flavour. The brand was launched in a jar pack which provided a great tool to place the SKU front of the shop for visibility and also provided longer stability to the product. It also won the acceptance of mass audience.

Speaking about the role of marketing in this success, Kapoor quips, “Center Fresh is one of our power brands and there has been consistent marketing support for the brand to stay relevant with the consumers in the domain of fresh breath confidence. The campaigns ‘Zubaan Pe Rakhe Lagaam’ (better to chew than talk) and ‘Taazi Saans Rakho Paas’ (be fresh breath ready) have helped us a lot to garner consumers love for the brand.” Kapoor further mentions that Center Fresh’s association with the World Cup in 1996 had been one of the key disruption points for the brand.

Initially, the brand was riding the humour wave for its communications. The many ads launched under the ‘Zubaan Pe Rake Lagaam’ umbrella are still unforgettable.

Kapoor believes that humour is an important way to deliver clutter-breaking and memorable campaigns to drive top-of-mind brand recall. He notes, “Our category is an impulse category and it’s extremely important to keep the brand on top of the minds, which drives purchase decision in the market. Humour is an important way to deliver such campaigns, especially when your target group is the youth, who are being bombarded with enormous messages on a daily basis. A campaign with humour has to strike the right balance between the role of the product/insight in the campaign and entertainment in the storyline.”

However, in 2015, the brand moved to a new communication platform called ‘Taazi Saans Hamesha Rakho Paas’. Its newest ad film, celebrating its 25 years in the Indian market, also runs around the same message. Speaking about the change in communication module, Kapoor shares, “‘Zubaan Pe Rakhe lagaam’ as a platform, was a very successful campaign for the brand, started in 2007. But as brand custodian, we have to continue renewing the consumer stories and find ways to continue drive trials and building the category. ‘Taazi Saans Hamesha Rakho Paas’ essentially asks one to be fresh breath ready to impress the opposite gender in the first meeting (fresh breath confidence). The objective with the 25-year celebration film was to bring alive such moments of first meeting and bumping into each other in the college corridor is probably the most universal theme.”

The campaign has been created and conceptualised by Ogilvy & Mather, like most of its previous communications. Kapoor believes the agency has been a big support in making its marketing initiatives a success. He says, “Ogilvy has been a crucial and trusted partner to build many PVMI brands in the category. They have done memorable work on Center Fresh and many other Perfetti brands. They understand what works in the category to drive brand objectives and how to establish the connection with the consumer via compelling consumer stories. The recent 25 years campaign is another example where the Ogilvy team delivered really well on the brief.”

The brand is now looking forward to continuing building the ‘Fresh Breath Confidence’ platform for its other extensions as well. Kapoor highlights, “This journey started with the launch of Center Fresh Mints, our first non-gum offering, and the proposition along with communication has received an extremely positive response so far. So, the communication strategy on new introductions shall be to highlight the product benefit and moment of consumption, consistent with building the brand on fresh breath confidence platform.”

Not just for its flagship Center Fresh, Perfetti has been very creative with its marketing communications for other brands under its umbrella too. Talking about the same, Kapoor says, “The strategic intent is to develop the category, identify need gaps, renovate, innovate, and continue to delight the consumers. Also, superior quality products, ability to bring innovation at a faster pace, driving differentiation, memorable communication, and our robust distribution system have led to the popularity of the brands in the portfolio. Thus, the 7 power brands always get required support on identified demand moment via relevant innovations in the communication platforms.”

He concludes, “Social media and digital space are very important media for us to build brands and have been gaining share in marketing mix spends over the years. We regularly use the medium to improve our reach and drive consumer engagement.”

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