The popular image of inexpensive country-made liquor or tharra is greatly influenced by Bollywood, where the hero (or villain) swigs from a grimy bottle. A visit to a theka or liquor store in rural India, will show that this is not far from reality. On dark, poorly-lit shelves, nondescript bottles jostle for space and the theka owner rules supreme, as he pushes the highest-margin liquor to customers. These are challenging conditions in which to attempt brand-building, but that is exactly what Triveni Engineering & Industries is doing with the launch of six new brands in the North Indian market, starting with Uttar Pradesh.
Creative consultancy, Green Goose Design (GGD), worked with Triveni to name and design packaging for all six brands. The target audience for the products is a low-income male in a small town or village. Team GGD says the choice of names was based on an understanding of his dreams and drivers.
The target segment’s aspiration for progress and power is reflected in names like Topper, Major Sahab and Shahenshah. The other three brands – Jaaneman, Miss Rangili and Rasbhari – are of course, takes on romance and sex. It is important to look at this initiative in the context of the laws governing the packaging and sales of alcohol in India.
Given the wafer-thin margins, paper labels are the only feasible packaging options. A vast amount of statutory information must be carried on the label, leaving little room for branding. The minimum size of the font used for price, content and statutory warnings, is also specified by law. Alcohol cannot be advertised in India and most brands resort to ‘surrogate’ advertising. This means that the key brand visual recognised by customers, must extend seamlessly from label to poster or signage.
The Semiotics of Power & Romance
It is an established fact that consumers intuitively read and respond to the codes contained in brand communication, especially in packaging. Arjun Sawhney, Founder, GGD, says that the visuals for each brand incorporate carefully-considered semiotics: For example, the tiger and numeric ‘1’ for Topper are universally understood symbols for power and success. The kissing doves for Rasbhari are a metaphor that every Bollywood fan is familiar with. The kaleidoscope for Miss Rangili aims to evoke a village fair, with its exotic entertainers.
The brand names are written in custom Devanagari type that is deliberately crafted to include a cinematic influence – it helps that the shadows emphasise the brand on the cluttered label.GGD has employed a brightly-coloured, in-your-face approach that has a distinctive ‘kitsch’ quality.The colour palette moves from a military green for Major Sahab to an Indian pink for Miss Rangili.
Sawhney says that Team GGD worked closely with Triveni’s sales and distribution teams on the ground, tapping into their deep understanding of the audience and retail context. The interesting thing about the final brand visuals is that they would not be out-of-place on a vintage or street-art poster. While they appeal to the target audience, they are also carefully crafted – overturning the long standing and erroneous view that inexpensive products must look cheap!