Bra ads out in the open

18 Dec,2014


By Mukta Lad


R​emember Asha Parekh crooning ‘O mera sona re, sona re’ to a visibly upset Shammi Kapoor in Teesri Manzil? Or Rekha playing a courtesan in Umrao Jaan? In fact, think of any movie from the 60s to the 80s particularly, with a special glance at the female leads’ costumes.


Ranging from the modest salwar kameez to a sari and the occasional dress, there are aspects of the actresses’ figures that would have lingerie brands in a tizzy, today. With unnaturally conical breasts and largerthan-life behinds, today’s actresses would be laughed right back into their vanity vans if they dared appear on camera like their counterparts of yesteryears.


Although we are nowhere close to buying the $2 million bra that Victoria’s Secret’s Angels unveiled in their recently concluded fashion show, Indian women are now open to experimenting with their lingerie.


The approximately Rs 10000-15000 crore lingerie category in India (about two-thirds of which is unorganised) has seen much upheaval over the last few years. But blame that on the urban Indian woman, who has rapidly evolved, forcing brands to keep pace. She earns more than she ever did, is independent, outgoing, loves to dress up, and most importantly, doesn’t treat lingerie as something to be spoken about in whispers.


Of course she is going to spend Rs 2500 on that mauve lacy bra if she wants to, and we’d like to see you stop her. “A few years ago, the Indian woman wasn’t even comfortable wearing western wear. But she is now fashionable and confidently carries off all kinds of looks with panache. With such evolving fashion needs, she needs lingerie that can support her multi-facetedness,” says Smita Murarka, head – marketing and e-commerce, MAS Brands, the company retailing Amanté.


Rama Bijapurkar, independent market strategy consultant adds, “Indian sexuality has come out of the home closet as various sexual behaviour surveys tell us. Media discussion, too, on this subject is far more open than ever before. Add to this, women are now coming into their own and breaking prescribed taboos on how they are supposed to behave and dress.”


Even the humble saree blouse has transformed, with tailors and designers educating women about fashion and the latest trends forcing w o m e n t o upgrade their lingerie. Obviously, the advertising has evolved by miles, too.


Run a YouTube search for older Indian lingerie brands and watch TVCs for the likes of Sona Lingerie, which tries capturing the important moments of a woman’s life (don’t miss how the model dons the North Indian married women’s chooda the minute the script moves to ‘Intimate Moments’).


Or the VIP Feelings bra ad featuring a classy, saree-clad Kitu Gidwani, and a much younger lad who wants to ask her out to lunch. But while sensuality may have been an attribute staring at a woman from the sidelines of the commercial, lingerie was always portrayed to have a more functional role in a woman’s life. And guess what? Even with all the changes, Indian lingerie brands are still giving in-your-face sexuality a wide berth.


Let’s just say you are unlikely to see campaigns like Calvin Klein’s ‘X Marks the Spot’, Penelope Cruz’s directorial debut for Agent Provocateur’s Autumn Winter campaign, Triumph’s ‘Zero to Sexy’ TV commercial or Marks & Spencers outdoor campaign for the ‘Autograph’ range that was banned in the UK. It is time to ask the difficult question. Does sex really sell?


Enamor’s positioning ‘Fabulous As I Am’ is derived from how women look forward to everything that life has to offer — from jobs, occasions to family time. “We believe women find it demeaning to look at the typical lingerie ads one sees in magazines. We wanted to show them having a good time, being themselves and celebrating their fabulousness while staying in the fashion space,” says Sandra Daniels, VP – marketing, Enamor India.


Amante’s latest campaign, positioning itself on ‘Dare To Be’, urges women to embrace different personalities whether a serious executive by day or an enchantress by night. Online player’s ‘Explore Yourself ‘ ad shows women from various walks of life expressing what they want from their lingerie, steadily breaking stereotypes while at it.


And then there’s the fit: something that most western campaigns seem to take for granted. With women spending so much time on their toes at work, a great fitting, comfortable bra is a primary need. “80 per cent of women wear the wrong bra and do not get fitted by professionals,” Murarka says. Amanté even went as far as releasing a print campaign for fit awareness in 2012 – Break Up With The Wrong Bra.


Kartik Iyer, CEO and co-founder, Happy, the agency behind the campaign, is completely against over-sexualising the category. He argues — why must it always be presented as a sensual, candy box packaging for sex with perfect bodies showing a titillating amount of cleavage?


“We didn’t show any lingerie in the ads at all. The fact that most women wear ill-fitted bras jumped out at us, and we decided to address this important problem first,” he says. “Whether you’re at home or at work or at a party, women need to wear the lingerie and forget about it without being uncomfortable,” adds MC Cariappa, vice president, sales and marketing, Jockey India, ascertaining that comfort and fit are the priorities for all brands.


But mainline advertising only goes so far in solving problems like fit and size education. Enter experiential marketing, an area brands are investing in heavily. Brands like Jockey have five exclusive outlets for the Jockey Women range, while Amanté, too, is all set to launch their own stores next year.


For now, brands have trained staff to guide and fit women shoppers. It is evident that brands take the multi-pronged approach — with brand messaging and core propositions entrusted to mainline advertising and relying heavily on experiential marketing to educate customers. Even brands with no offline presence are working hard to crack this.


Richa Kar, co-founder and CEO at Zivame says that the size and fit factor has never really been a problem. “We have a simple, effective calculator on our website, an all-woman call centre and a direct IVR facility, a fit specialist and a new physical fitting salon with specialists in our office,” she enumerates.


Bijapurkar sums up the traditional advertising versus experiential marketing effectiveness argument best. “It’s never an ‘either or’ situation. One creates awareness of what is available or even the ‘why buy me’, the products walk that talk, while the trials and privacy close purchases and the sales expertise in the shop builds brand trust and cements its relationship with customers.


Amanté and Enamor are bullish. They only see the dynamic market as an opportunity, not a challenge, what with the constantly changing wardrobe a woman has today, the rise of consumerism and the fact that the urban Indian woman is beginning to look forward to dressing better under her clothes.


Maybe sooner, rather than later, owning Victoria’s Secret’s $2 million bra might become a bucket list item, rather than just be a shocking piece of news. Who’s to say, really?


Source:The Economic Times

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