Thursday, October 09, 2008

Definitely Male : A structuralist approach to understanding brand identity

A bit of a background, Bajaj Automobiles is one of India's industrial powerhouses. In the 1980 and the 1990's their flagship product was a scooter.Their advertisements were targeted at the general Indian public and were only showing a scooter. Till this time I am sure hardly people in India would have known that the scooter was associated with a female following and that it stood for what we read in the Barnard book and also seen in this ad.

This is the ad that appeared in 1989 and aired for a few years.
Instead of focusing on the usage of the metaphor of a feminism with scooters, Bajaj here was trying to capture the attention of a nation with something more important to people in this lifeworlds. So they promote the issue of Indianism and being a proud Indian and how that a Bajaj scooter defines being Indian. The signifiers that is used in this ad above were that which were very traditional. So we have the person meditating, the family values, the emphasing on social interactions, the pride in owing a scooter, the worshiping of the vehicle and the rural roads that signified that the scooter was all about being proud Indian. It signified that the scooter was ruggid, was able to resist to harsh conditions and still be a loving commodity in the lives of the people.

In 1984, the Hero Group, then the world’s largest manufacturers of bicycles, entered into a joint venture with Honda Motors of Japan to create Hero Honda Motors Ltd, which has gone on to become the world’s largest manufacturer of two wheelers. In the 1990s Hero Honda starting to eat the scooter market. There was a strong emphasis on fuel efficiency and mileage. Bajaj Motors too entered this segment, in partership with Japanese giant Kawasaki. Hero Honda with its focus on the middle class became the household name for motorcycles in India. There was no mention about the bike being a male dominated commodity or otherwise.

Come to Bajaj Pulsar in 2001. This was perhaps one of India's most successful campaigns. Notice the emphasis on "Definitely Male".

What's more surprising is that the campaign was done by a Tokyo based firm called O&M. Which I think were trying to understand the lifeworlds of Indians, which were culturally so different than that of the Japanese.
According to agencyfaqs, the birth of the "Definitely Male " campaign is interesting. The creative honchos found the new product from Bajaj distinctly different. It was Bajaj's first bike without Kawasaki label. The new bike was an R&D and design marvel.Pulsar was designed by the renowned design house Tokyo R&D. O&M knew that the communication of this brand should also be different.Starting with lot of ideas, O&M stuck upon the Big Idea of India's He-Bike. Although lot of bike take the persona of Macho bikes it was more oriented towards being "sexy". The Big Idea was to position the bike as World's first bike endowed with a Sex ( Gender).Thus born the classic campaign of all times " Definitely Male".
(this part is an excerpt from this post


Note this ad till 0:55 timeline mark.
So here we se how the signifiers for the same brand was changed. Here we have more of a flirtatious nature of the ad with the Bike signifying the male population. The approach to target the audience to the youth in particular is also interesting. This is a time where globalization is making big in India and the youth is all about western attributes and modernization.
And now with the bike having captured a decent market share, the "definitely male" campaign has been dropped and others taken their place.

What is interesting to note is how the brand has built itself from being associated with scooters to motorcyles. The journey from what one may call as being Feminine to Definitely Male.


vinay speaks said...

a nice analysis. I didn't know about lambretta and its female connection.
It is very interesting how companies try to sell products by tapping on the emotions of consumers. Instead of talking directly about the product and its features, advertisers associate a product with human characteristics and needs.

~ ॐ ~ said...

Sahi baat hai... Bajaj has for sure come a very long way with the product !! and its not reaching anywhere close to finish !!!

Even the SX4 was launched on a similar thought (Men are back)!

good post Bro !

Kshitiz Anand said...

Thanks Vinay!
Thanks Om.

calvin said...

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Arunima said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
सतीश पंचम said...

बढ़िया पोस्ट है।