Brand Saga: Saffola Cooking Oil, advocating healthy living before it became cool

Saffola oil advertising journey

If learning and adapting to the evolving times had to be characterized, the Saffola Oil advertising journey has epitomized the philosophy. We take a detailed look at the brand journey that vowed to take care of millions of hearts.

Walking through the Saffola oil advertising journey, we dive into its unfazed spirit of evolving with the modern world while staying true to its age-old philosophies.

The ‘Saffola’ Start– A brand ahead of its time

Bombay Oil Industries (BOIL), in the 1960s, looked to organize the ‘disorganized’ edible oil market dominated by the loose oil available at the kirana store. It forayed into the category with ‘Saffola’ and kickstarted the mode revolution in order to curb the sale of loose oil in India and grab a share of the consumer for its ‘healthy Saffola cooking oil’.

In the year 1990, Marico Industries Limited entered into a Registered Users Agreement with BOIL for the use of the brands “Parachute” and “Saffola” for an initial period of 3 years and 1993 onwards along with Parachute Coconut Oil, Saffola, and Sweekar (Marico’s refined oil) began manufacturing in the company’s factories.

Finally, in 1999, Marico Industries (Marico) and The Bombay Oil Industries (BOIL) signed a pact leading to a complete handover of, Parachute and Saffola to Marico.

Marico pegged Saffola as India’s first oil product which is good for the heart and set its advertising mission to fulfill the objectives of what the brand stands for- encouraging a healthy lifestyle with a good heart. Until 2019, reportedly, Marico maintained market leadership with Saffola in the super-premium refined edible oil segment, with a market share of 73%.

While Saffola’s portfolio has expanded three fourth to absorb more products like masala oats, instant noodles, rice, salt, ayurveda inspired Saffola Arogyam Chyawan Amrut Awaleha, the brand has become synonymous with the refined oil category.

Saffola Oil Advertising Journey

Saffola is marketed essentially as blended refined edible oil under the names of New Saffola, Tasty, Active, Gold and Total at present. All of them contain blended vegetable oils in various ratios.

The brand communication has witnessed massive shifts year-on-year, presenting new takes supported by varied insights, always centered around a ‘healthy heart’ and ways to integrate the practice of using curative cooking oils like Saffola which is now the flagship brand in the edible oils category for Marico.

Earlier the ads struck a chord owing to their utter dramatic representation wherein ambulance sirens, stretcher, and an ailing man’s heart took the centre stage in the TVCs of the 90s and early 2000s. Consumers were worried about their food choices and therefore started looking at oil options that offered health benefits. Thus kickstarted the Saffola oil advertising journey.  

Saffola’s ‘Panic-ing’  Stance

Under the BOIL regime, the company joined hands with Clarion Advertising to advertise its products on mediums like television, print, and radio. The early ads, as mentioned above, adopted a ‘scaring’ formula to make consumers believe that if they don’t opt for healthy cooking oil like Saffola, the probability of them being prone to an heart ailment is high.

The TV commercial displaying a tensed nurse, distressed wife, the husband on the stretcher, and heart rate monitors, positioned Saffola as the ‘Life Insurance’ that everyone needs.

With this, Saffola became among the first brands to talk about health and raise concerns over an active heart through its communication, occupying hoardings and print advertisements with the message that food cooked in Saffola oil could save your life.

Saffola had an upper hand when no one was talking about the ‘health quotient’ in the premium refined oil category and also had an early mover advantage.

From ‘Prevention’ to ‘Cure’

Although the advertising peg worked in Saffola’s favour, there came a time when the brand felt the heat of the competition as sales took a hit. Grey took over Saffola’s creative mandate and the 2000s witnessed a revamped communication plan for Saffola cooking oil.

The ‘preventive’ dialogue had taken a backseat as consumers were more than ready to take care of their hearts. Data suggested that the number of patients reporting heart issues was shrinking rapidly. Saffola cooking oil under Grey’s creative umbrella transformed from being a brand that made consumers aware to ‘caring’ about their healthy lifestyle with – Saffola Swasth Parivaar Ke Dil Ki Dhadkan.

With the above thought process, the campaigns featured a family set up with people donning different roles -of a mother, father, grandparents, and kids, each of them exerting themselves in various activities. Here, Saffola oil’s underlying message was that the brand cares about you and makes for a healthy family.

Very few oil brands were talking about rising cholesterol levels in the working-class. Hence, Saffola’s messages through advertising were taken seriously by those who feared heartaches but there also laid a challenge- to create a niche among the rising number of the health-conscious modern consumer.

The ‘Sehat se jeena hai’ commercial urged everyone to adapt to a healthier lifestyle with zero worries and focused on the health of the entire family. When the new insight of ‘family-driven conversation’ did not translate in expected ROI, Saffola decided to round back to the old age formula of ‘heart care’.

Now, Saffola tried to shrug off its older brand perception and associated it itself on an emotional level adhering to keywords like care, insurance, and happiness. With intense competition and more talks around ‘healthy living’, Saffola aimed to be the flag-bearer of happy and active hearts and presented more optimistic imagery of the brand which until now was considered a bit authoritarian.

In 2004, Saffola launched a fresh advertising campaign after a hiatus of two years. Conceptualized by Grey Worldwide and directed by Ram Madhwani of Equinox came the brand’s new tagline- ‘Aaj se jeene ka andaaz sudhariye (Improve your lifestyle today). The ad film urged every Indian to take up a healthy lifestyle. The protagonist in this ad is a little girl who goes to various groups of people to pass on the message of heart care and deliver hope to the viewer. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get our hands on the said ad film, however, if you have access to it write to us with the video or the link on [email protected]

The entire campaign was based on the research findings by the Saffola Healthy Heart Foundation that almost 25 percent of the country’s population is at the risk of a heart-related ailment. And the majority of them are not aware of the risks related to a heart problem.

In the same year, Marico Industries announced the launch of ‘Saffola Gold, a blend of Ricebran and Kardi oils in a 70:30 ratio, consisting of dual benefits of lowering cholesterol and enabling food cooked in it to absorb lesser oil. The creative duties were shifted from Grey to a new team of McCann Erickson in 2004 which then devised exemplary creative communication for the brand and gave a boost to the Saffola oil advertising journey.

It was complemented by the roll out of a TVC with the tagline ‘Abhi toh yeh jawaan hai’.

The campaign was supported by a melodious cinematic track and was targeted at wives. (i.e. the decision-maker for cooking products in the households). The ‘Kal se re’ commercial (2019) with a similar insight – Men are reluctant health enthusiasts’, who shy away from taking the first steps towards a healthy lifestyle by putting it off till tomorrow – revived the popular ‘Dil Se’ soundtrack to communicate the core message.

In 2005, Saffola started an initiative called Saffolalife.com, a service focused on the health and nutrition aspects of preventive healthcare. It sought to impart accurate, credible, and expert-led information that promoted heart health checks. Simultaneously, the McCann Erikson’s team was spinning creative innovations combined with evergreen vintage Hindi songs like ‘Babu Samjho Ishare’ complemented with an interesting take on healthy living.

While Saffola’s creative concepts and communication became trendy, the brand’s media partner Madison Media was mandated to launch a clutter-breaking campaign in September 2009 on the occasion of World Heart Day. The campaign had 30 minutes of regular programming being stopped on six radio stations, and the music playlist was exchanged for a monotonous sound of a beating heart to create an astounding and appropriate effect.

However, the brand’s certain efforts in the past are considered to have gone wrong when its #ProtectHerHeart campaign in 2014 was termed as biased and misleading.

As part of the campaign, SaffolaLife claimed that research shows 2 out of 4 women are at risk of heart disease because of increasing weight and also urged everyone to walk for 30 minutes every day to minimizes the risk. Meanwhile, research on the subject of heart disease, however, painted a different picture.

Since Indian women prioritize families and neglect their own health, Saffolalife brought men, the “head of the family”, to pledge their commitment to protecting their wives’ hearts. Nevertheless, the brand’s intention towards launching the campaign was claimed to be pure and beneficial towards its target audience and organized an initiative where several Mumbai couples along with Shilpa Shetty Kundra & Raj Kundra participated in a morning walk together.

Through the study, a 100-couple walk led by a Bollywood celebrity couple, and online engagement, the project achieved 45,000 online heart fitness tests on the campaign website.

As years passed by, the Saffola advertising journey reiterated the brand’s promise of ‘Healthy Oil for Healthy heart’ combined with the launches of Saffola Activ and Saffola Total which came with different functional benefits.

In 2016, Saffola Activ found its place in Arjun Kapoor’s kitchen as a branded integration for the movie ‘Ki and Ka’ where both, Arjun and Kareena Kapoor Khan talked about the ‘less fat absorbing’ benefit s of the product and why they strongly recommend it for cooking.

Further, set to an adaptation of yesteryear Hindi movie hit ‘Uthe sabke kadam tara ram pam pam…’, the ad film by SaffolaLife urged viewers to take small steps every day towards a healthy lifestyle with the lyrics, ‘Chhote chhote kadam, tara ram pam pam, roz roz uthaya karo’.

Also Read: #BrandSaga: Dhara Cooking Oil – The Anokhi Shuruat of a dynamic journey

Conceptualised by McCann Worldgroup, the TVC sought to create a ‘Heart Healthy India’ by education and inspiration ad motivated people to take small steps towards a healthier heart. 

In 2018, on the back of its commitment to create a ‘Heart Healthy India’, Saffola launched yet another campaign on World Heart Day titled ‘Dil ki haalat, pet se pakad’ which aimed to build awareness and educate people on the impact of belly fat on heart health.

The campaign kicked off with a digital film conceptualized by McCann Mumbai. The video was launched across social media platforms – YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and OTT platforms like VOOT and HotStar complemented with print releases and on-ground activities to amplify the message ‘pet pakad mein aaye, toh karo dil ka khayal shuru.’

The brand also heavily promoted Saffola Gold’s 2-in-1 – benefit of two oils, its cholesterol educing superpower, and less absorption in food with the high–end Losorb technology.

The brand has since its inception stuck to portray how the female gender has been at the forefront of championing healthy options while dealing with the pressure felt by the opposite gender.

With the #HeartKaExam campaign in 2019,  the brand looked at educating people about lifestyle habits that may have a significant impact on heart health.

Conceptualised by Mullen Lintas, the campaign was rolled out with a set of two digital films which portrayed very common lifestyle facets and depict them in a simple yet alerting manner.

The 2020’s #CareForHerHeart version yet again raised awareness for the cause of women’s heart health. The idea behind the campaign was to acknowledge the stress women go through which often goes unnoticed and its effect on their heart.

Saffola’s Digital Play

While Saffola’s touted to be a traditional brand evolving through time and adapting to the modern means of communication, it has also experimented with digital-first marketing along with other channels. The brand has dedicated different pages for its varied range of produts on social media. Saffola Life social media pages primarily cater to communicating the functional benefits of the cooking oil range.

From conducting seminars with health experts to extending festival greetings to partnering with celebrity chef like Kunal Kapoor for Saffola Life Snackathon encouraging consumers to eat healthy, Saffola Life has been utilizing its social media to talk everything about the ‘Healthy Oil for healthy Hearts’.

A brand ahead of its time, Saffola absorbed consumer sentiments in its product positioning and communication when ‘healthy living’ was far off from catching Indian consumer’s eyesight. The Saffola oil advertising journey is a true reflection of its brand purpose to raise awareness around ‘healthy living’ and bring effective change.


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