Brand Saga: CEAT Tyres – An advertising story of creating a ‘Tough’ brand

CEAT Tyres advertising journey

Italy-origin CEAT stepped foot in India in 1958 and since then has become one of our own. The CEAT Tyres advertising journey has played an integral role in not only Indianizing the brand but creating a strong recall.

Vehicular ‘tyres’ have been considered a dull category with not much scope for innovation. How do you communicate how great a tyre is without being technical? CEAT found a way. This Thursday, we revisit the brand’s six decades of marketing saga while revisiting the CEAT Tyres advertising journey.

CEAT Comes To India

In Italy’s Turin in around 1924, Virginio Bruni Tedeschi founded the company named Cavi Elettrici e Affini Torino (Electrical Cables and Allied Products of Turin). That’s also from where CEAT was coined.

In March 1958, the company came to India and was incorporated as CEAT Tyres. Headquartered in Mumbai’s Worli area, CEAT Tyres collaborated with Tata Group in 1972, post which it set up a research and development unit at Bhandup.

The RPG Group acquired the company in 1982, and in 1990, the company was rechristened as CEAT.

CEAT Tyres Advertising Journey

With taglines such as ‘Born Tough’, It Helps, CEAT Tyres! For the game called roads – CEAT, since the beginning managed to strike a chord with its strategic advertising gameplay, staying true to the brand purpose.

Offering a wide range of tyres for two-wheelers, four-wheelers, buses, trucks, LCVs, tractors, CEAT has adopted a challenger attitude in its communication.

It’s observed that CEAT Tyres has kept the product price ranges comparatively cheaper than the competition without any compromise on the “quality” aspect, which ultimately gave it a competitive edge in the market led by MRF, Apollo, JK, and others.

After exploring print and radio as the earlier traditional mediums for advertising, CEAT went big on TV and outdoor while also announcing strategic tie-ups and partnerships for business growth.

From highlighting its Born Tough imagery across magazines and brochures to endorsing the quality led tyres to survival in the toughest situations, CEAT Tyres’ communication was devised in a simple manner and subtle outlook.

According to CEAT, it watches for the emotions on the viewer’s face and relies less on quantitative feedback. CEAT’s communication mood has been tongue in cheek and quirky in some instances. If you take the logo in the campaign of 2008-09 period, it created this character called ‘Change’, who had a queer look but seemed confident in doing whatever he was doing. ‘There is nothing wrong with change’ was the message.

The CEAT Shoppe campaign of the late 90s was a counterintuitive campaign – trying to sell a tyre-buying foray as an enjoyable family outing!

In truly filmy style, one of the TVCs featured Lara Dutta and Sudhanshu Pandey wherein the latter with the support of CEAT’s Born Tough tyres saves Dutta from a grave fall. The one-minute-long commercial was directed by Kunal Kapoor and conceptualised by FCB Ulka.

A New CEAT Is Born

One of the brand’s key campaigns was the one where it unveiled the new CEAT logo in 2008, after doing away with the iconic ‘Born Tough’ tagline and the ‘galloping Rhino’ mascot. The communication was about subtly bringing in a mindset change about ‘change’.


This was one campaign where consumers hit the brakes on the remote and watched CEAT’s hard-hitting ads. The communication was based on India’s dangerous driving habits, featuring slice-of-life challenges that citizens face on the road daily, and how CEAT’s safety-based sharp grip helps avoid mishaps.


The campaign was designed to inculcate a sense of responsibility amongst the citizens to be safe while travelling on the roads.

In 2014, the brand roped in late actor Irrfan Khan as the ambassador. ‘The Superior Grip’ SUV Tyres ads urged India to replace their blind superstitions like using ‘nimbu mirchi’ in the vehicle for protection, with a more reliable solution of using safe, sturdy CEAT tyres for journeys, especially on rough terrains. This was one bold campaign where it was about directly challenging the age-old beliefs of the Indian consumer, without playing it ‘safe’.

CEAT has partnered with celebrities over the decades. It had Kimi Katkar in scooter tyre film, Shraddha Reddy in the CEAT Shoppe film, Lara Dutta and Kiran Juneja in the passenger car tyre film. Aamir Khan is the current celebrity with whom CEAT is associated. Each of them has contributed to the development of the brand; in particular, one thing stands out – the brand is the hero in all communications.

Also Read: Brand Saga: Redefining ‘old is gold’ the Air India way…

In 2017-18, using satire as the communication route, the campaign took a dig at the typical jaywalkers (and cows). The ads portrayed the serious challenges faced by the Indian riders at the hands of the ‘Usain Bolts’ and ‘Haath Dikhao’ – type pedestrians who pose a threat to road safety. The idea was to highlight the importance of good tyres that help keep the riders safe for the game called roads.

The ‘Happy Roads’ communication was about CEAT’s attempt to counter the dangers posed by potholes caused by monsoons. To help make commuting safer for the citizens, the brand innovated a solution wherein vehicle drivers could donate their old tyres to help repair the potholes, thus making the roads happier once again.

Cut to 2020, with its trademark tongue-in-cheek approach, their communication highlighted the importance of being smart and prudent to use and CEAT SecuraDrive range of car tyres. The ads were featured during IPL 2020 and made quite an impact.

Also Read: CEAT to empower auto drivers with new campaign

The company claims that in terms of its brand personality, CEAT acts as a friend/elder brother – always there to help, and hence the tagline, CEAT – It helps. It is not there to preach but be your friend, philosopher, and guide.

CEAT has also created a strong association with the common man’s game – Cricket. For instance, its latest “CEAT Strategic Timeout” property in IPL was well executed.

In 2021, CEAT Tyres signed Rana Duggabati as a brand ambassador for promoting the ‘Puncture Safe’ bike tyres across all five southern states. The idea was to propagate the initiative – Puncture Safe Tyres that lead to safe, worry-free rides.

CEAT & O&M

Ogilvy has been CEAT’s creative partner ever since the brand changed its identity. The first product, the agency helped them launch was their two-wheeler tyre called ‘Gripp’. This was positioned on the singular brand promise of the ‘best road grip’, a key benefit sought by all tyre consumers. However, not many players spoke of it. 

The creative leap was when Ogilvy introduced a fresh perspective in tyre advertising – the perspective of the rider, who is always abused and blamed. “We turned the tables to show that the biker/driver is not entirely at fault while riding on the roads,” a brand spokesperson said.

There is no other place in India where one needs sharper survival instincts (and equipment) than on a senseless road. This was easily relatable to every driver who encounters total insanity on the roads in the form of jaywalkers, errant drivers, etc who pose huge risks for others.

The creative team coined a name for the erring, insane people – they were termed as ‘idiots’. Though it was simple, it stuck and the ‘Idiots’ campaign became the benchmark for the category. As a result, the brand recall and sales shot up.

The campaign also positioned the brand as one that poses a POV to get society thinking. Hence for the next product, which was the four-wheeler (SUV) tyres, the agency highlighted the fact that people rely more on superstition than on proper road equipment and tyres for their safety while driving or riding. With this insight in mind, they created the nimbu mirchi campaign by roping Irrfan Khan as the protagonist.

In 2017, CEAT took a strategic leap in its positioning and communication with the ‘it helps’ campaign that romanced the ‘mahapurush‘ on the road with a tinge of sarcasm for the errant jaywalkers.

While ATL focussed on sharing the product message, digital helped implement the ‘it helps’ campaign widely. For instance, the bra launched the CEAT bobblehead for speeding fathers, the scooter pepper spray for women riders, and repaired potholed roads with their old tyres, ensuring that roads become safer for riders and drivers in India.

 

CEAT Tyres’ Digital Play

Apart from the various digital advertising avenues, CEAT invests a lot in SEO, Content (through the blog section), and Hyperlocal visibility through Google My business. The brand also uses Social Media Marketing to seamlessly integrate the messages to a larger audience set.


Since 99% of its audience is male, the brand has collaborated with Sports related content platforms like
Hotstar to leverage cricket, especially for larger events like the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019.

CEAT believes in the power of social media to massively influence businesses. “However, social media marketing is not easy for a low-involvement category like tyres. You do not see people sharing happy post-purchase pictures of tyres on social media as it is often considered a grudge purchase,” adds the spokesperson.

CEAT adopted the following strategy to engage its audiences on Social Media – Know your audience, Quality over quantity, Consistency.

Since the audience is majorly males, between the age group 25 to 45 years, the brand leveraged its association with Cricket.

The company leverages moment marketing to draw a better connect and relevance with the TG  and actively looks out for topical events to create engaging content and garner more visibility and engagement.

CEAT is active across major social media channels and believes that each platform has its own USP and the brand leverages that through a differentiated content strategy for each. Youngsters are more active on Instagram where the behaviour is majorly casual, and content is more visual than copy-led.

Facebook is for comparatively more evolved, less casual users. Twitter is majorly used as a service platform to ensure the redressal of complaints and the resolution of queries. Video platforms like YouTube are used for consumer education and during media amplification to target relevant in-market audiences and increase brand reach.

The brand’s key differentiator has been that it always stood for safety and it is the consistency in communication around ‘Safety’, and in its commitment to providing safe and smart mobility to Indians. The CEAT Tyres advertising journey is led by this mission and that is reflective in all its marketing campaigns.

With inputs from Arnab Banerjee, COO, CEAT Ltd. & Amit Tolani, CMO, CEAT Ltd.



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