While you revel in the downpour with a cup of chai in hand, we unfold the Bisleri advertising journey and explore the different facets of its marketing chapter.
This was the time when local players were emerging from different nukkads to make it big in the ‘Free India’. One of them was late Shri Jayantilal Chauhan who forayed into the soft drink category sowing the seeds for Parle Group in 1949. Inadvertently, this also placed the setting stone of Bisleri, which would enter India in times to come. Bisleri Advertising Journey would one day be phenomenal, but the founders were yet to know that.
Mumbai welcomes Italian Bisleri
When Bisleri was launched in Mumbai in 1965, Ramesh Chauhan saw an opportunity to build a category of its own and bought Bisleri Ltd in 1969, from an Italian entrepreneur, Signor Felice Bisleri. For the unknown, Bisleri originated in Italy from a spring called Angelica in a town called Nocera Umbra.
Chauhan introduced mineral water in India at a time when people didn’t believe there was a need for it. He went onto creating the need for a category that had no market. Buying water was unheard of and it was a challenging task to market it to people who religiously carried water from their homes while traveling.
“As leaders in carbonated drinks category with brands like Thumbs up, Gold spot and Limca, selling just plain water was not easy. But it was Mr. Chauhan’s vision that bottled mineral water should be a substitute for carrying those heavy water jugs and bottles, alighting at every railway station to refill. One could never be sure of the quality of tap water,” shares Anjana Ghosh, Director of Marketing and Business Development, Bisleri.
Bottled Mineral water was both convenient and healthy, hence a need for bottled water was created in India by Bisleri. There was a lot of brand building focused around healthy drinking water with added minerals to market the brand to the consumers and make them believe there was a need for it.
Beginning of Bisleri advertising journey
By 1990, Parle Bisleri became synonymous with mineral water, with a market share of about 70%. This was a time when would ask for a ‘Bisleri’ but be given any mineral water available. While being synonymous to the category was an achievement, it also became a bane for the brand Bisleri advertising journey played an integral role here.
The brand put out a message that ‘There is only one Bisleri’ – the focus was on marketing it as the pure and safe packaged drinking water.
To build distinct imagery and stand out amidst the rising competition, Parle rolled out a 360-degree brand campaign for Bisleri in the late 90s with the tagline ‘There is just one Bisleri’. Along with outdoor and print media, the company also explored television to communicate the product philosophy and reinforce the message that Bisleri was “pure and safe.”
The campaign was conceptualized and executed by Ambience D’Arcy where the objective was to highlight the tamper-proof seal and create doubt in the consumer’s mind of the purity of the other brands. That is, Bisleri is the only one that guarantees purity, as mentioned in one of the blogs by ICMR India. It further mentions that the entire focused on the safety provided by the “breakaway” seal, by illustrating the ease with which conventionally sealed bottles could be refilled and recycled.
In 1991, Bisleri 20 Litre was introduced as an economy pack for home and office. The move was a part of the growth strategy wherein Parle opted for trendy packaging and closely observed the supply-demand chain in the market. Looking at affordability and targeting the working population at hang out corners, later in 2000, Bisleri brought the 1.2-litre pack in the market priced at INR 12, adding to the five-pack sizes that it had (500 ml, one, two, five and 20 litres).
After establishing itself as the category leader, Bisleri decided to reinvent itself since others in the category also started pegging their product as ‘safe and pure’. Parle was quick to shift its focus to creating something new for its consumers. With an insight – While it was widely accepted that branded water quenched thirst, there was very little that branded water could do to provide a fun element, the company soon launched an ad campaign in September 2000 to break the clutter putting out a fun communication with a bold layout.
The print ad campaign which promoted ‘Play Safe’ (we couldn’t get our hands on it online) showed bikini-clad woman soaking up the sun.
A part of the lady’s body is shielded by a bottle of Bisleri with the message: Play Safe on the bottle.
It was followed by the rollout of a set of television commercials – the first displayed an outright sensuous scenario between a couple on a beachside. What follows later is rather fun and surprising.
According to ICMR India, the campaign targeted the youth and aimed at communicating a social message: young people need to make sure they are safe even when they are having fun.
The agency behind the campaign, Ambience D’Arcy, asserted in the blog that the shift had been necessitated by the fact that every new entrant in the mineral water market adopted the purity and quoted Chauhan stating, “Our observation is that people consume mineral water not for the minerals, but for safety. Hence the word “safe” is critical.”
In 2004, the Bisleri breakaway seal innovation was advertised on a greater level with the launch of TVCs and print advertisements.
As a part of the Bisleri advertising journey, Bisleri changed its blue label to green in 2006. The change to aqua green color was recommended to set Bisleri apart from other bottled water brands available in the blue package. It was also in line with the increasing global interest in ecology and green earth concepts. Bisleri knew that the small, local players would easily change to green but global brands will not.
“The sentiment behind every innovation, every advertising, and the digital campaign has been to establish our efforts towards providing safety and convenience to the consumers, and even before they have realized the need for it Bisleri has provided them with solutions,” says Ghosh.
Bisleri has had many firsts to its credit. The brand was the first to introduce a Breakaway seal in the country in 1997 and first in the category to launch the 500 ML pack size for the convenience factor.
From ‘Play Safe’ to ‘Stay Protected’
After a two-year-long sabbatical from aggressive advertising, Bisleri came back in September 2011, this time to harp on the ‘Stay Protected’ positioning. The brand launched a campaign donning a new look with an objective to reinforce the values of safe and pure of the brand and ‘help the sales team’.
While the brand wanted to retain its core values ‘pure and safe’, it wanted to do something different and the transition from ‘Play Safe’ to ‘Stay Protected’ saw the birth of a new animated brand mascot ‘Bissi’ with the messaging ‘Protect the ones you love’, across malls in Mumbai, Delhi, and Bangalore.
Bisleri had roped in Pentagon Activations to come up with an interactive consumer engagement that would help build a deep and direct connection with the consumer. For the on-ground aspect, Bisleri zones were created wherein consumers had to make a pledge for a person or cause that they would like to protect. They were also asked questions that aimed to generate awareness about the brand and its new campaign. The interactive videos were later uploaded on the brand’s YouTube page.
Leveraging other digital avenues, the photographs taken with consumers and Bissi were shared on Bisleri’s Facebook page, which aimed to generate awareness about the page and amplify the on-ground campaign.
In 2012, the second phase of the ‘Bissi’ and ‘Stay Protected’ campaign was supported by a set of TV commercials keeping the animation and VFX bit intact with live characters and scenic visuals. The company had spent about INR 30 crore for the campaign activation in two phases. Bisleri advertising journey was flourishing.
“The first campaign we did for Bisleri was for the launch of the Bisleri 500 ml was ‘Kiss To Drink’ in 2013,” recalls Anuraag Khandelwal, ECD, and Creative Head, Mumbai – 82.5 Communications. Soho Square (now 82.5 Communications) was appointed as the ad agency by Parle Bisleri.
The idea was based on the insight that people don’t really like to drink someone else’s “jhoota” water. The agency coined “Kiss to Drink” as a playful and intriguing hint to specify that the Bisleri 500 ml is a perfect bottle for individual consumption.
Sharing some BTS memories of the ad shoot, Khandelwal shares, “We shot one of the films in the spicy heartland of Mumbai – Mirchi Galli, Lalbaug, Dadar. It was a singularly bizarre experience! We were shooting a French actor masquerading as a caped superhero flying through the chawls of Mirchi Galli. The crowd that had gathered to take selfies with this superhero was super big and super crazy.”
He informs further that the actor was tied to a crane, acting like he’s flying, his cape looking all majestic. Every time there was a cut, he was lowered down and the crowd just rushed in! People in their pyjamas, nighties, lungis, shorts, ganjis, kids in their school uniforms, riskshaw drivers, bus conductors, paanwalas, kiranawalas, the whole shebang! Everyone wanted a picture with him!
“Most of these shots didn’t make it to the 30-sec edit. But we all got some fine memories to last a lifetime!” he exclaims.
In 2017, Bisleri went local with 14 different languages. The brand launched labels in regional languages across India, reportedly the first in this category to do so. The move aimed to connect with the local people in different markets and help them to identify and relate to the brand in languages they understand. It would also help consumers to recognize the genuine Bisleri bottle and avoid buying counterfeit products or products which spell differently but look the same (Hyperlocal products like Biloori, Biseri & Bilseri have flooded the market time & again).
Labels were released in several local languages like Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati, Punjabi, Tamil, Telugu, Assamese, Malayalam, Kannada, Bengali, and Oriya across different SKUs.
The development was followed by the roll-out of ‘One Nation. One Water’ ad film on the occasion of Republic Day in 2018. Khandelwal adds here that this was an idea that got the fastest approval ever.
She notes “We presented it at 11 AM and got approval at 11.10 AM. Superfast! Anjana Ghosh just loved the simplicity of the thought and we ran with it. Bisleri was the first brand in India to print its label in 14 languages.”
The campaign is also one of Ghosh’s favorites and close to her heart. The idea of introducing packaging labels in regional languages was an emotional innovation. The company wanted the consumers to feel connected to Bisleri at a local as well as at a national level. The campaign video showcased the Republic Day parade highlighting different Indian states and how Bisleri as a brand binds people from diverse cultures together.
Adding to the list of surprises is when Bisleri roped in unconventional brand ambassadors for its campaign ‘Har Paani Ki Bottle Bisleri Nahi’ – Camels in the same year. Bisleri was sailing through as a trusted bottled water brand. But it had also become a generic name for the category. Lots of spurious companies came into the fray.
“We decided to tackle this issue,” Khandelwal points out. “The thought was to do something that would resonate with the masses and be instantly loved. After 4-5 months of ideating and plenty of debates, the camels’ campaign was approved.”
The agency had decided to shoot the campaign in January in Rajasthan, but things got a bit delayed and it finally was shot in May.
“So, we were shooting in the desert heat in May for a water campaign. To this day I don’t know how we shot it in that heat but we did, and the rest is history. The camels were trained for two months, Rajiv Rao wielded his wizardry and we shot for four straight days. A group of amazing persons gave their voices to bring the camels to life – Ilaji, Piyush Pandey, Ranvir Shorey, Rajpal Yadav,” he quips.
The campaign was an instant hit. With more than 250M views, sales went through the roof! It won a lot of accolades and awards on the way, including the Star ReImagine Award, Kyoorius, and the most coveted Black Effie. But more importantly, the camels won the hearts of billions.
In 2019, the camels were back yet again in a new avatar reminding viewers to choose the safest packaged drinking water, by choosing Bisleri and not just any bottled water. The second phase conveyed the story of a mother and her baby camel, where the mother insists her baby drinks only Bisleri and does not settle for any other source of water.
Summing up the Bisleri advertising journey so far, Ghosh reiterates, “For the last 51 years, the messaging around safety and purity has been at the core of all our Print, TVC, digital, radio, and on-ground campaigns. Whether it is our first Print ad, or ‘Kiss to Drink’ campaign, or ‘Samajdar Jaante Hai Har Paani Ki Bottle Bisleri Nahin’, we have maintained the reassurance of providing the safest drinking mineral water and our relentless commitment to quality & health of our consumers.”
Sumanto Chattopadhyay, Chairman & Chief Creative Officer – 82.5 Communications comments, “We at 82.5 are privileged to be Bisleri International’s partners in helping take the Bisleri brand from strength to strength. The mutual respect with which the client and agency work together is a case study in how to create outstanding brand communication. May this wonderfully collaborative relationship continue long into the future.”
Creating Bisleri Zone on Digital
While bIsleri has been making its presence felt on digital from a few years now, the real transition has happened in the face of the current crisis where the brand is reaching out to consumers and servicing Direct-to-home orders for them.
“To meet the Direct at home demand for vital services like safe drinking water Bisleri has activated its web and mobile platforms to support its distribution network, and to streamline our distribution and service our consumers in the current situation, we have enabled [email protected], an ecom portal to ensure delivery service encouraging consumers to stay at home and order directly through the progressive app,” Ghosh highlights.
Apart from associating with NGOs and helping hands to serve the needy in times of crisis, Bisleri is also putting out video clips of heroic deeds by frontline workers and the preventive measures taken by the company at the manufacturing plants.
Also, riding the quarantined theme wave, Bisleri posts content around enjoying home-cooked food accompanied by a bottle fo Bisleri to add a twitch of a colour element other than its usual green and white across social media platforms.
Occasion posts, leveraging topical moments, and spreading relevant information when needed is one the key tactics adopted by the brand to remain timeless on the new medium.
Do not forget to take note of the ‘Meme Fiesta’ initiated by the brand leveraging their unconventional brand ambsaadors- camels- on various occasions.
Also Read: What do I communicate with my consumer every time? Water is water after all: Anjana Ghosh, Bisleri
Innovation has been at the core of Bisleri’s business. Ghosh shares, “We innovate as per the consumer’s changing requirement, their feedback and identify opportunities to develop the designs and product. Over the years Bisleri has connected and engaged with our consumers at a personal level, prioritizing their needs and becoming a part of their journey by addressing any gaps between the expectations and services provided. I think that has resonated well with them and gained their trust for the brand over time.” And the Bisleri Advertising Journey is a testimony to this insight.