#BrandSaga: Cadbury Dairy Milk: Giving us reasons to buy chocolates one ad at a time….

Cadbury Dairy Milk advertising journey

Melting our hearts for 70 years now is the epic saga called the Cadbury Dairy Milk advertising journey that reinvented itself at every stage and spread happiness.

Once upon a time, there lived a brand to tell the tale. The story we all have been a part of; the saga that continues and promises to stay with us to eternity. This brand has been adding the dash of much-required sweetness when we craved for it, ‘jiski mithaas laati hazaar muskurahatein’! 

‘Kuch Shubh Kaam Karne Se Pehle Meetha Kha Lena Chahiye’, even before my mother could impart these words, it was Cadbury Dairy Milk who did it. From introducing us to the real taste through ‘Asli Swad Zindagi Ka’ to celebrating the auspicious ‘Shubh Aarambh’ to now ‘Kuch Acha Ho Jaaye’, summing up this journey falls short of words. The brand, sans doubt, has stood the test of time (for 70 years now), witnessing failure and rising to glory with an indomitable spirit defines our very own Cadbury, which is there ALWAYS!

“Cadbury’s journey has been phenomenal!” exclaimed Mandeep Malhotra, Founding Partner & CEO, The Social Street. He further observed that it is constantly evolving and re-inventing its brand line with product innovations like the pop-out heart, the introduction of flavours and variants like Silk Oreo, Bubbly and Marvellous Creations. “This makes the shelf life of the brand amazing.”

Shubh Aarambh Ho Jaye

Cadbury, the British multinational confectionery company, wholly owned by Mondelez International now, was established in England in 1824. It was only in 1948, a year after India attained freedom, that Cadbury commenced its operations in the country. Mumbai’s Peddar Road houses the monumental Cadbury House as the company’s Head Office since its inception.

While it operates in various categories like chocolate confectionary, biscuits, gums etc, the company’s flagship brand Cadbury Dairy Milk has been winning hearts since day one, any doubts? (If yes, the writer completely disowns you).

Cadbury’s is like the Sholay of the Indian ad world

manesh swamy According to Manesh Swamy, Creative Director, Humgama Creative Services, Cadbury’s is like the Sholay of the Indian ad world. Every film they did evoked amazing reactions from the end consumer.

He added, “For most of us, Cadbury’s like the generic word for chocolates which speaks volumes of how the brand was built. Cadbury’s Dairy milk, five star, silk, and celebrations stood out in their portfolio and are top of mind for most of the Indian audience.”

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And Cadbury Dairy Milk reaches every household

While the print industry flourished in the early 60s and 70s, most of Dairy Milk’s advertising was focussed heavily in newspapers that reached thousands of Indian households. 

cadbury print

In the 1980s, Cadbury Dairy Milk put out a messaging of significance to stay together, rolling out its television campaign, Better Than Words. The ad then featured an Indian family supported by an English soundtrack.

During that time, brands relied extensively on kids-centric communication for their products – Rasna Girl, Complan Boy, and so on. Then, Indians associated Dairy Milk as a product meant for kids and to change this, Cadbury came up with a series of campaigns to target the adult TG, encouraging people to bring out the child in them.

In 1994, Cadbury Dairy Milk did a breakthrough ad, banking on the thought process ‘Asli Swad Zindagi Ka’ to bring the whole country’s interest together. This time, the brand took a break from the ‘family brand’ imagery and went the cricket route only to hit a six! From kids to adults, the ad targeted every generation with ‘cricket wave’ to communicate it’s messaging of ‘Kuch Khaas hai hum sabhi mein’.

Sharing behind the scenes of the ad, in an interview with LiveMint, veteran ad man and one of the key members of the creative team at Ogilvy behind the Cadbury ads, Piyush Pandey, revealed that the lyrics of the background score were first written in English by him.

“I wrote the lyrics and then went and recorded it with jazzman Louis Banks. He created the tune and then something funny happened. I was in a bit of a hurry and had written the song in English on the plane on my way back from Hawaii. After I finished recording it with Louis, I suddenly asked myself why the f*** I had done this in English. And so I sat down and used the same score to write a Hindi version and it worked 10 times better.”

Pandey always believed that while people would understand English in India, the same thing told in Hindi would truly get the message across. While casting for the ad, the team bought on board a girl who could not dance but could dance from her heart to make it more relatable. 

The advertisement made Cadbury’s India as more rooted reflecting and standing for all things worth celebrating, the narrative, the brand evolved over the next 20 years, mentioned Mumbrella Asia. It also went onto win “The Campaign Of The Century” at the Advertising Club Bombay’s Abby Awards. 

Cadbury Dairy Milk? Anytime, No Bahana!

After establishing itself as a brand barring any age group, the next focal point was to increase product consumption. As an extension to it’s an earlier campaign, the ‘Real Taste’ was promoted through a series of ads. The famous family ad featured ace comedian Cyrus Broacha. “The country got hooked to a new song “kuch haas hai zindagi main…’sung by Shankar Mahadevan,” shares Swamy. 

Happiness is in the air

Cadbury Dairy Milk had etched a mark in people’s heart so far. It was now the time to associate itself with real ‘Happiness’ and give consumers reason for some self-pampering.

Apt Marketing drives Sales

Going head-on with competitors like Nestle and Parle, Cadbury (India) leveraged on its marketing strengths and product range mentions Hindu Business Line. In the 2000s, sales revenues rose 20 percent to Rs. 139.34 crores compared to the corresponding previous period. Operating margins declined marginally from 16.4 percent to 15.7 percent leading the chocolate segment and flooding the market with new launches, with Five Star and Dairy Milk driving more sales followed by Perk and Picnic.

The Advertising blackout- The Journey of ‘de-worming’ the brand

Stepping into October 2003, a few days to Diwali, Cadbury Dairy Milk faced a huge backlash after consumers in Mumbai complained about worms in it. The Maharashtra Food and Drug Administration seized the chocolate stocks manufactured at Cadbury’s Pune plant.  Rediff mentions that for the first time. Cadbury’s advertising went off air for a month and a half after Diwali, following the controversy

To retain consumer confidence and loyalty, the company invested heavily in advertising and CSR activities like Vishwas. Spending a whopping Rs 15 crore (Rs 150 million) on imported machinery, Cadbury’s revamped the packaging of Dairy Milk with the metallic poly-flow.

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Enter – Big B 

In 2004, Cadbury Dairy Milk rolled it’s sleeves to strengthen it’s positioning by roping in the superstar Amitabh Bachchan, becoming Cadbury’s first celebrity ambassador.

“After repackaging the product and a team member came up with the idea of roping in Amitabh Bachchan as the brand ambassador. Why Bachchan, Puri questioned? To which the team told him that the country is likely to listen to only two people – Big B and Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the then Prime Minister of India,” said Bharat Puri, the then Managing Director, Cadbury Plc. 

The major brief to him was to promote Dairy Milk as a substitute to traditional Indian sweets during festivities, which was a challenge in itself. 

“Even today, with various brands in the market, Cadbury is still synonymous with chocolate. Dairy Milk’s tagline ‘Kuch Meetha Ho Jaaye’ became an iconic catchphrase and still relates to the Indian tradition of celebrating occasions with something sweet,” Malhotra noted.

Soon after, for the first time that Cadbury targeted the rural population by introducing them to the world of ‘Miss Palampur’. And how can we forget that finally ‘Pappu Paas Ho Gaya’. 

Shubh Aaarambh combined with ‘Meethe mein kuch meetha ho jaye’

‘Kuch Shubh Kaam Karne Se Pehle Meetha Kha Lena Chahiye’, because ‘Maa Kehti Hai’, the mantra we all have been living with for all these years. The sacred ‘dahi’ got replaced with Cadbury Dairy Milk before embarking onto new endeavors.

Two strangers and the bus stop, remember? “Shubh aarambh” reflected the change in the Indian progressive mind-set,” informs Swamy

Remember, Pawan Malhotra’s film where he is sharing Dairy Milk with his daughter who wants to elope or the conversation between a senior couple, where the wife is wearing jeans for the first time and is sceptical about what will people say?

Since then, be it ‘Milkar Match Dekhne Ka Bahana’ or Time for T20 with soundtrack where Sure Wadkar lent his voice for, Cadbury Dairy Milk advertising journey has only evolved.

Later with launch of new products and their variants the advertising strategy was revived while keeping a few commercials product-centric. Also, with Dairy Milk Silk, while also celebrating the festivities, the brand simultaneously latched onto occasions like Friendship Day and Valentines Day with #RealDosti, Badhti Dosti Ke Naam, #PopYourHeartOut.


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Kuch Acha Ho Jaye

Cadbury Dairy Milk celebrated its 70th anniversary in 2018 by launching an integrated campaign, Conceptualized by Ogilvy India, ‘Kuch Acha Ho Jaye, Kuch Meetha Ho Jaaye’ to strengthen human relationships, thereby changing it’s brand proposition to ‘generosity’.

D for Digital

The brand has also managed to keep itself up to date in the Digital age too. With 100k followers on Twitter, 47.2 k on Instagram, 3 million YouTube subscribers and 16 million fans on Facebook, Cadbury Dairy Milk is a hero on digital too posting regular updates and social media contests .

Summing up the brand journey, Swamy thinks it has been an amazing one. “These ads have given us amazing characters and stories like the Girl struggling to eat Cadbury while her hands are full of mehndi, Miss Palampur the world-famous cow, the cute love birds at the bus stop. These characters became household names. Cadbury ads gave us some amazing jingles which are very rare nowadays. How can one forget Kishore Kumar’s reprise version “khush hai zamaana Aaj pehli tareek hai” celebrating salary day and making it part of everyday lingo.”

Meanwhile, Reminiscing the good old Cadbury days, Malhotra quipped, “The fondest and oldest memories of Cadbury Dairy Milk, was when I first proposed to a girl. It was with a bar of Cadbury and an Archies card. Simple and sweet, absolutely true to my love story.”