Just recently, Rahul Bajaj, the dean of the eponymous group of companies, has moved on to the next life, rightly leading to tributes from all corners of the industry. Understandably, much of the discussion focused on the iconic Hamara Bajaj 1989 ad campaign, which charmingly captured the sentiments of pre-liberalization India.
riding on emotions
Bajaj Chetak has firmly established himself as a beacon of accessible aspiration for the inclusive Indian; the camouflaged destination while traveling. He represented the values we always hold dear: an unquestionable allegiance to family and a sincere respect for hard-earned savings. Ads used emotion as the adhesive lead, yet another pattern breaker, while engineering reputation acted as the credibility manager. Just like ‘Mile Sur Mera Tumhara‘, it became a surrogate motive for unification, effortless mobility being a virtue we could all identify with.
On mobility, we must dwell more because private transport was a luxury reserved for a few elected officials in this period of suffocation. The rational barriers were affordability and of course availability (production quotas), but more significantly a chronic defensive mindset, attracted by stoic fiscal bandages. Whole generations have learned to save for the impending apocalypse; indulgence, especially for oneself, was deeply censured. Rather brilliantly, the ad made the family the hero and positioned Bajaj Chetak as an extension of breadwinner responsibility, designed to give wings to those closest to you.
In 2022, then-India is virtually unrecognizable without the social dramas of Amol Palekar, and the new symbol of accessible aspiration – and indeed mobility – is the smartphone. This is mainly because the definition of mobility is now as much virtual as it is physical, and the entire universe is reachable at the touch of a screen. Like the Bajaj Chetak of old, the smartphone is also a unifying mark in multiple ways, connecting millions of citizens and not just multiple destinations. However, what has changed most is the mindset of the Indian customer – admirably dynamic, yet alarmingly divisive – and the proof is in the streets.
A lesson for marketers
So what I’m concretely suggesting is that brand leaders in the smartphone space learn a lesson or two from the Hamara Bajaj campaign, including being a positive, unifying force aligned with society. First, in terms of communication, navigating the conversation away from solo indulgence or personal space towards collective gratification. Which means we see a lot more family, friends and wider communities unifying their mindset and attitude due to shared stimuli, in this case virtual and not real. Second, to add a powerful dose of grassroots emotion at every stage, where the technology is presented transparently in human terms, not just as a feature with performance criteria.
Marketers today have the advantage of using the digital realm, which means driving mapped customer engagement throughout their consumer journey, unlike TV or one-sided print. It would be wonderful to see the entire machinery of influence working as a force for good, inspiring every citizen to find reasons to unify and productively eliminate the forces of division. Hamara Bajaj very cleverly created a national program where every sensible citizen has found the middle ground of peace and prosperity, which in the current environment can be solidly complemented by opportunity and creativity.
As we pay homage to Bajaj for an exceptionally sailed life, the greatest show of respect would be the lessons of an evolutionary unification. If a scooter could do the job in 1989, then surely the much-vaunted Metaverse-era smartphone can do so much more.
The author is MD, Inexgro Brand Advisory
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