This week’s Brand Saga unravels Titan Watch’s advertising journey, the brand that personified sophistication.
Back in the late nineties, the memories of my parents not leaving the house without wearing that very ‘Titan’ watch refuse to fade away. The practice is still into practice.
Such is the saga of a brand which has not only proven its mettle in the category that it shares almost 60% of, but has also etched its place in people’s hearts and minds even for thirty plus long years.
Titan Watches – Made in India
Titan Industries was established in 1984 as a joint venture between the Tata Group and Tamil Nadu Industrial Development Corporation (TIDCO). Soon after, the company set up its watch manufacturing facility in Tamil Nadu’s Hosur.
In three decades of its existence, Titan has claimed to be a resounding success and brand that the renowned adman Piyush Pandey likes to call a ‘restless’ one.
Lt. Xerxes Desai, a Tata veteran and the Founder of Titan Co. Ltd ventured into the production of wrist watches when India’s watch market was way behind the rest of the world during the pre-liberalization phase. According to Livemint, Desai played a key role in introducing India to its first quartz and luxury watches in the late 80s after enduring years of resistance from state-owned and now defunct HMT Watches. With his enhanced sense of style and taste the world’s fifth largest manufacturer of watches.
The Story behind Titan’s Signature Tune and First TVC
Vinay Kamath’s book titled ‘Titan- Inside India’s Most Successful Consumer Brand’ spills the beans behind the iconic signature tune of Titan without which Titan’s TV commercials were incomplete. The book mentions that Titan’s a story of innovation, out-of-the-box thinking, and fortitude and narrates how the Tatas launched the quintessential Indian brand against all odds. Titan’s founding managing director, the late Xerxes Desai, had worked with ad agency Ogilvy & Mather (then OBM) to select the signature tune for the brand’s television commercials, which was a piece of Western classical music.
Desai, who loved western classical and jazz teamed up with Suresh Mullick (the brain behind Mile Sur Mera Tumhara, “Sometimes Cadbury’s can say it better than words and many more) to go on a hunt to get a distinct audio appeal for its advertising on TV.
Eventually, the duo decided upon a piece of Western classical music with mass appeal. Mullick zoomed in on Mozart’s 25th Symphony, and picked the track from the 1984 award-winning movie, Amadeus, on Mozart’s life.
According to The Hindu, the first television ad showed a series of watches one after another. As the second hand ticked, the watch face changed. The ad conveyed the message that you didn’t have to go abroad to buy a quartz watch anymore; you could buy it in India.
The author also shared that Desai felt the music gave the brand a world-class feel and this television campaign was a seminal achievement that defined Titan for the next 30 years.
According to one of media archives, adman Piyush Pandey who also created a large chunk of Titan’s advertisements reminisced that decades ago, a watch used to be synonymous with HMT. Into that market comes a premium watch with great design and now it is Titan and not HMT which is synonymous with watches. “It’s been 27 years but the music track selected by Suresh Mullick has still not been changed. He must be hearing it from somewhere up above us and feeling good about what he created”.
The Hindu article also mentions that in the mid-1980s for a brand to use Western classical music aimed at an audience little exposed to that genre of music was a risky business, although the trick worked for Titan and struck the right chords for a mass audience. Later the company experimented with variations fo the symphony for its advertising including Indian musical instruments.
The 90s – Rediscover the ‘Joy of Giving’
The watch market in India was witnessing new entries in the late nineties and Titan had to up its marketing game.
The advertising, this time around was focused on festivals, special occasions, ceremonies, and gifting- as the main proponent. With a subtle messaging and classier approach, Titan redefined style and luxury in its communication for the urban elites and simultaneously also kept its pricing low to meet the needs of the middle-class man.
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Titan and Ogilvy together weaved some everlasting bonds portraying every aspect of joy and relationships with our loved and dear ones. One of the company’s marketing themes has been to focus on the Joy of Gifting that can be seen in Rajiv Menon helmed vintage TVCs were a father and sister team up to gift the bride her share of happiness on her D Day with a Titan watch.
Right from Durga Pooja to Diwali to Onam, Titan celebrated every festival and culture imbibing in its advertising communication panning across Print, Television, and Radio in its early days.
One of these commercials also starred the former Miss Universe and leading actress Aishwarya Rai. Titan was also among the first of brands who realized the power of celebrity endorsement and how can one leverage it to rake in consumer trust.
It would also not be wrong to say that the brand also primarily looked after the budding romance between young couples and teenagers college lives where also stood the maximum chances of gifting – no better than a watch.
Titan Redefines Style
In 2004, Titan shifted a little attention towards making watches a fashion statement and an accessory that redefines style. With ‘What’s Your Style’ campaign, also making it the brand tagline, Titan roped in Aamir Khan as its brand ambassador. With the repositioning campaign, Titan aimed at increasing watch consumption per person by suggesting the use of different watches for different occasion.
When we earlier stated that Piyush Pandey likely called ‘Titan’ as the restless brand, that is because Titan has continuously attempted to change according to the consumer needs and their evolving taste. In 2008, yet again the company underwent rebranding with a logo change invested around Rs 15 cr into its brand of watches. Which was heavily promoted through mass media advertising, below-the-line advertising, and online marketing.
It introduced ‘Be More’ as its new tagline and rolled out a campaign featuring Aamir Khan under the supervision of Pandey at Ogilvy. The company aimed at reinventing itself through new designs, retail strategy, and advertising.
In one of the official releases for the campaign, Pandey shared, “Titan has been a restless brand, be it in design or its advertising. The challenging part for us is to capture everything that the brand represents and show it in a way that is easily understood, engaging and entertaining.”
Harish Bhat, Former COO – Watches, Titan Industries Ltd had revealed to Hindu Business Line that Aamir Khan is busy endorsing Titan, which delivers the maximum in terms of value sales for the company, of Rs 1,000 crore.
Titan’s comeback with ‘Joy Of Gifting’ & the Digital touch
Being synonymous with gifting for years, Titan revived it’s signature tune while also bringing back the joy of gifting proposition. The one-minute long ad film conceptualized by Ogilvy India explored deep human emotions associated with gifting.
It showcased a classroom where the students recreate the magic of the signature melody to bid farewell to their professor.
“Titan ads were always Mozart Symphony 25. It was so well entrenched in my teen mind that I could hear it even when I flipped the pages of The Illustrated Weekly to a Titan full-page,” shared Porus Jose, Creative Head, IdeateLabs. “Everything was very classy and stylish about it; but it was a brand desperately fighting the ‘imported’ labels of Citizen, Sieko and Swiss watches in the 80s. Frankly, besides the music memorability, it didn’t have much impact on me.”
Titan and The Star Power
BTown and Advertising have walked hand in hand since celebrity endorsement became a big thing. Titan wasn’t far behind. While Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Aamir Khan, and Tara Sharma were the early reach outs, the new –Katrina Kaif, Rajkumar Rao, Kriti Sanon, and Kalki Kanmani are the appear in Titan watches’ commercials making them a star-studded affair.
Jose added here that over the years Titan matured, slowly but surely, to become a brand with substance. “Communication became meaningful, social and insightful. Some of the favourites starred Rajkumar, Nimrat, Amir, Kalki, Kriti, Katrina; through heart-warming campaigns of ‘Khudse Naya Rishta’, ‘Be more’ and to the more recent ‘flaunt your flaw’. Titan: it’s been a fighter’s journey”.
Titan storms into the Digi-Verse
The digital bug bit the ad world almost five years back and Titan was one of the early ones to adapt to the social world and spends around 15-25% of its marketing budget on digital.
Storytelling packed with good narrative and execution were the campaign essentials adopted by the brand with its verticals like Titan Raga breaking stereotypes.
Titan Raga is known for celebrating the spirit of an emancipated young Indian woman. From ‘Break the bias’ to ‘#HerLifeHerChoices’ to ‘Mom By Choice’ to ‘Khudse Naya Rishta’, the commercials have spun different aspects of a young woman playing multiple roles in her life and balancing the acts with style and dignity.
In 2016, Sonata launched the first safety watch for women which came with a built-in app-enabled panic button which women could press if in distress to alert her family. The company claimed that users responded well to the initiative as it valued their lives. Same was conveyed through an ad film rolled out during the same time when the country spoke big about women’ safety.
It is also not far behind getting on board a strong influencer like fashion designer Masaba Gupta to change the perception of Titan raga worn only for special occasions.
The social saga of Titan is not limited to only this but spans across topical posts, occasion-based marketing and balancing its communication across demographics it serves.
Titan produces watches under the brand name Titan, Fastrack, Sonata, Nebula, RAGA, Regalia Octane & Xylys and also export them to about 32 countries around the world.
We can vouch for this that Titan is one of the most loved brands in India and has been a part of everyone’s life and so have their campaigns.