A local player dreamt of going national with the idea of ‘Desi Chinese’ and a few products in hand. This week’s Brand Saga unravels Ching’s Secret advertising journey and how it went onto win millions of hearts with its dramatic tale.
A research conducted by AIMS several years ago had revealed that the demand for Chinese food in India grew phenomenally in the late 80s to an extent that in Mumbai alone there were around 10K roadside Chinese food stalls setups till 1990 from just 4-5 restaurants in 1987. The reason for the increasing fan base of Chinese cuisine cited was that it was affordable and adapted itself very well to various tastes, as stated in a report by Financial Express.
This very insight triggered Ajay Gupta (Managing Director, Capital Foods) to widen his horizons beyond just advertising and devising marketing tools for clients, to outsource products and kickstart the business of Chinese cuisine on Indian land. Financial Express quoted him saying, “Our search shocked us as we found that the most authentic of the Kolkata labels were literally produced next to the gutters at China Town. The decision to get into manufacturing followed and by the end of 1996, a manufacturing unit was set up in Nashik at the cost of Rs 2.5 crore. Chings Secret, the first organized Chinese brand was launched in the country along with a sizeable mass media campaign”.
Thus started the journey of Ching’s Secret to own the ‘Desi Chinese’ space in India under the Capital Foods banner.
Why ‘Desi Chinese’?
The concept of ‘Desi Chinese’ was introduced by Indians for Indians. The tale as per the brand’s website goes like this- When Chinese immigrants in India started incorporating Indian spices into their cooking, and when the locals adapted Chinese cooking techniques and seasoning to suit their tastes, they ended up creating a whole new cuisine in India- ‘Desi Chinese’.
Capital Foods- Ching’s Secret
In 1996, when Capital Foods spotted this culinary connection that most of the Indians shared. Ching’s Secret was born. The Indo-Chinese fusion was something that attracted Indians who steadily started giving the cuisine their own touch with a mix of local flavors.
Ching’s Secret with its varied range of products including instant noodles, instant soups, sauce mixes, shezwan chutney, Hakka noodles, masalas, and frozen meals caters to the Indian palate’s growing demand for desi Chinese. The brand claims that today, Ching’s Secret has become synonymous with desi Chinese in India and across the globe.
Marketing ‘Desi Chinese’ – Challenges
Although the brand did not witness any direct competition, there lied key challenges in the distribution networks and categories like noodles where giants like Nestle Maggi were enjoying a larger pie.
After not tasting much success by the debut mass media campaign for Ching’s Secret, Capital Foods realized that it was falling back in wrapping its brains around the Indian retail distribution network. Gupta, in an interview with Financial Express, stated that the company’s background in the distribution in the western markets made it take the Indian markets too much for granted and that they initially failed in identifying the intricacies of the distribution system back home.
It is very well said that ‘Failure leads to success’. Capital Foods followed the same mantra and marched ahead towards learning from its mistakes. Realizing the growing likability and acceptability of the Indo-Chinese cuisine across different regions of India, it started manufacturing products targeting product was made targeting all the region of the country.
Of advertising and branding ‘Ching’s Secret’
Capital Foods in the initial years started off with releasing 30 second TV commercials promoting Ching’s Instant Noodles with a tongue in cheek approach and taking a dig at Masala Noodles in the market.
The commercial reverberated- Discover life beyond mushy Masala noodles with Ching’s Instant Noodles that are non-sticky and addictively spice-a-licious! The communication was focussed on introducing the three and touted to be ‘irresistible’ flavors of instant noodles – Schezwan, Manchurian, and Hot Garlic with the tagline ‘Ching’s Khao, Baki Bhul Jao’.
Soon after, Ching’s realized that while other mainstream brands marketed themselves heavily on traditional mediums like TV, radio, and print, the local brand decided to take a different route and ventured on Facebook to launch its first-ever fan page.
Thus Ching’s Secret took community building online and went onto becoming India’s first branded community with 100K fans. The brand started its journey on the platform in the year 2013 onwards providing a mix of content to its followers on Facebook. Ching’s Secret cookery channel named ‘Ching’s Khao Baki Bhool Jaao’ was launched on YouTube and Facebook ads were employed to reach the exact audience with relevant targeted ads.
From posting various recipes to announcing product launches with #Ching’s Khao Baki Bhool Jaao, Ching’s Secret was quick to amass a huge fan base on social media including Twitter. The strategy was simple- Speak in the language of your consumer and be where they are.
The result of this approach was 70 million + Pageviews, 100,00+ strong community on Facebook, ‘Ching’s Khao Baki Bhool jao’ became the most popular Indian Cookery channel with a significant increase in customer engagement.
Enter ‘My Name Is Ranveer Ching’
Going by its savory and rich masala spruced product line up, Ching’s Secret wanted to add some spiciness into its advertising. The brand also faced a few challenges and aimed at creating buzz whose solution it found in Bollywood. The Hindi Cinema industry majorly contributes towards the mass entertainment in India and Ching’s Secret found their calling in one of its rising stars- Ranveer Singh.
They were quite early days for Singh and had only one brand endorsement in his kitty- Durex. But his love for acting and quirky attitude made the brand sign him as its brand ambassador in 2014.
Ditching the traditional agency model and reached out to Yash Raj Films with a brief to create something entertaining that can make enough noise for the brand across. One of the blogs online mentions that the production house bought onboard a talented bunch of creative minds to create communication that celebrated the brand. Shaad Ali to direct, Gulzar for lyrics, Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy for music, Ganesh Acharya to choreograph, and Yash Raj Films digital to distribute among others. The team embedded the brand seamlessly into the content offering brand value and full-on entertainment to the viewers in the form of ‘My Name Is Ranveer Ching’.
Yash Raj and the creative team devised a thumping and high-on-energy music video titled ‘My Name is Ranveer Ching’ and released the song across the country. Singh’s social media handles were switched to ‘Ranveer Ching’ as part of the promotion plan while the music video was developed like a movie promo. First came the teaser in different languages, first look posters, teasers, and song promos on different digital platforms. Singh went all out showing his exuberance and unparalleled enthusiasm in the music video dancing to the tunes of ‘Manchow Rap’.
In one of the interviews, Gupta shared that the song was had 8 million views and was downloaded as ringtones by millions worldwide. The blog also mentions that after the successful campaign launch, product distribution reach jumped 4x from 70K stores in Aug 2014 to 280K stores by Dec 2015. The newly launched Rs. 10 soup range took off like a rocket, and made Knorr launched ‘Buy 2, Get 1 Free’ on-pack promotion! Ching’s soup became No. #1 in Maharashtra and Gujarat. And most importantly, gained ‘Massive share in mind’.
Time for ‘Ranveer Ching Returns’
An idea for the sequel to ‘My Name is Ranveer Ching’ was brewing in the mind of Ajay Gupta in January 2016 with an aim to give a ‘blockbuster’ campaign video this time. The brand joined hands with director Rohit Shetty known for giving superhits in the Btown, to create yet another masterpiece and go beyond just a music video.
The brief to Shetty was on the lines of- to create a Rohit Shetty blockbuster commercial film. The brand wanted a Mad Max spoof with Rohit Shetty elements added in the film. And the result was a five and a half minute ad film which was yet again launched in a series of pattern earlier. Teaser posters, trailers, and then the high voltage launch in Mumbai’s Chandan Cinema.
Touted as an ad shot like the trailer of a Bollywood action flick where Ranveer Ching appears as a savior in a dystopian world. The film was a Desi-Chinese collaboration being released in multiple languages, including dubs in several South Indian languages. Owing to his advertising background, Singh himself participated in the making of the ad campaign, and to add the ‘Maa’ factor was his idea. Gulzar wrote the lyrics; Milap Zaveri penned down the dialogues; Ganesh Acharya was retained to choreograph the song.
The ad promos were shown on Sony Entertainment, followed by the world television premiere of the ad film rolled over from the ‘Kapil Sharma Show’.
The official video has garnered 22 million views till today on Youtube.
Captain Ching Rises
In 2018, Captain Ching saved a spaceship from an asteroid by becoming a rocket after taking a sip of Ching’s Schezwan Chutney. Induced with irrationality and bizarreness, the almost three-minute-long film backed by Yash Raj was directed by Ali Abbas Zafar and has amassed 1.3 million views to date.
The brand ensured to amp up the rate of curiosity among audiences? From the actors uploading their picture on Instagram in the costumes during the shoot days to logo reveal, Ching’s executed the campaign well, although the storyline yet again remains bizarre with a tagline that screamed, “Chutney nahi, rocket hai rocket!”
Presenting the cool Mom- Sridevi
In 2017, Ching’s Secret roped in late actress Sridevi was roped in as the face of Ching’s Snacky Oats. Staying true to its Desi Chinese roots, the brand launched three flavors Schezwan, Manchow, and Singapore Curry available in the category.
After her portrayal of a humble and caring mother in ‘English Vinglish’, Sridevi added a cool spunk to Ching’s Secret commercials for Snacky Oats. The brand followed its popular pattern of advertising by rolling out a music ad film featuring the late actress showing off her classical moves and donning the role of a new age ‘cool mom’.
Later she was seen essaying a double role for promoting the brand’s fried rice masala range in a typical housewife avatar. The tagline ‘Sabe easy khaana, desi chinese hai banana’ conveyed how to turn last night’s leftover rice into delicious Ching’s Schezwan Fried Rice within minutes.
The recipe for Paneer Chilli masala keeping Sridevi’s double role intact followed and the video went onto garner views in millions online.
Talking to the young and old
The brand roped in veteran actress Neena Gupta and Marathi film star Priya Bapat with a mission to help Indians cook Desi Chinese at home in 2019. The campaign featuring four commercials was directed by the National Award-winning producer, Maneesh Sharma of Dum Laga Ke Haisha, and the director of Band Baaja Baaraat, Shuddh Desi Romance, and Fan.
Maneesh had also helmed the legendary Sridevi’s ‘cool mom’ music video and campaign for masalas.
To engage with regional consumers, Neena Gupta appeared in three different avatars – as practical, no-nonsense housewives from Haryana, Bihar, and Punjab, while Priya Bapat featured as a cheerful housewife from Maharashtra.
Though Desi Chinese is the second largest cuisine in India, most people still fear to make it at home. The campaign intended to dispel these fears by telling mothers that, ‘Jab bhi kare dil… Desi Chinese nahin mushkil!’
With Saqib Saleem also on board with the brand promoting their instant soup and masala ranges and showing his atrangi side in various commercials like ‘Mission Hunger Ki Bajao’ and ‘Rock The Group With Mazzedar Soup’, it is evident that Ching’s Secret is paving its way into the hearts of all age groups catering to the evolving demand for ‘Desi Chinese’.
Commenting on Ching’s advertising journey so far and his fond memories with the brand, Naresh Gupta, CSO, Managing Partner, Bang In The Middle shares, “Ching’s Secret for me is that old line said a colloquial supposedly Chinese way “chings khao…” This was the earliest brand that looked like could have been an alternate to Maggi. Over a period of time, they have moved away from the “Noodles Banao” promise and made themselves Desi Chinese. They have a diverse portfolio and some of their products like Schezwan Chutney have become very popular. They are outrageous in your face brand”.
He adds “It does work sometimes for them, and sometimes it just falls flat. As the brand matures, I would expect them to remain irreverent but would like to see a more structured approach to brand building. They have many disconnected pieces of communication, maybe they would protect the tonality, and do more cumulative work. It’s a homegrown brand, and I would like to see it become far more successful than it is. Personally, their Schezwan Chutney is always in my refrigerator.”
‘Desi Chinese’ on Digital
Debuting quite early on social media with a Facebook page and building a brand community of its own, Ching’s Secret has been super active on the platform with recipes by its products and all things brand.
The Facebook and Youtube page of the brand boasts of yummy and spicy recipe videos of Manchurian noodles, instant soups, veg paneer chilly recipes, and a lot more masala filled dishes in association with celebrity chefs such as Ranveer Brar.
Meanwhile Ching’s Secret Instagram harps on topicals, moment marketing, and a mix of recipe videos with special cooking tips.
“Bhatinda Ho Ya Beijing Desi Chinese Ka Ek Hi King – Ching’s!” reads the brand’s Facebook page story where the brand takes pride in making people salivate, sniff, and smile – all at the same time- with its saucy, spicy, sweet, sour, and crunchilicious journey.