Is Thums Up losing its Thunder?

03 Apr,2019


By Prabhakar Mundkur


When Coca-Cola launched Thums Up Charged with great fanfare two years ago, they might have consciously ignored what was happening to the cola market in general.  The signs of decline in colas has been a global phenomenon for some time now. An increasingly health conscious population, especially amongst the millennials, has meant that colas in general might not be the preferred beverage. Consumers are increasingly moving to juices and non-cola beverages and colas are no longer as ‘cool’ as they were even a decade ago.  The logic of therefore launching a extra fizzy Thums up Charged defied the logic of a cola market already under pressure. If fizz was unhealthy then extra fizz was likely to be even more unhealthy!


The government has also held the health banner to cola products by classifying them as ‘sin products’ and have taxed them heavily.  As with most other harmful products like tobacco, colas attract 28% GST and a 12% cess or ‘sin’ tax. It is unlikely that colas could have carried this new burden in addition to a shift in consumer attitudes to more healthy beverages.


So the prediction of $1 billion revenue announced with the launch of Thums Up Charged may have been a little premature.  The company has not yet announced if it met that target.


So, what happens when brands don’t do as well as they are expected to? Typically, they change agencies. After all advertising agencies are the easiest scapegoats for CMOs when they have to answer to their superiors.


What then might have taken the Thunder out of Thums Up?  Toofani Thanda or Taste the Thunder which evolved to Main Hoon Toofani,  Live the Thunder and Aaj Kuch toofani karten hain was a classic positioning that the brand has held for years and made it the leader in the market for the last few decades since it was first acquired by Coca Cola in 1993. Thanda in Hindi has been the generic label for all colas.


The Thums Up Masculinity Model

The earlier masculinity model projected by Thums Up represented pure machoism with Salman Khan. There was something raw about it.  In this, model men were expected to be muscular, drink a few gallons of alcohol without getting intoxicated and strong enough to be heavy smokers. Ian Fleming’s James Bond in his books represented this kind of raw masculinity. Typically, men projected toughness and independence and seemed invulnerable.  Brands and marketers projected this masculinity by finding appropriate role models and celebrities and for Thums Up it was Salman Khan. For other brands like Cinthol in the old days, it was Vinod Khanna that represented this kind of masculinity.


When Thums Up made the change from Salman Khan to Ranveer Singh, they made a conscious effort to change the original masculinity code of Thums Up.  The launch of Ranveer Singh with Main Hoon Toofani theme, had Ranveer in a feat where he helped schoolchildren out of a bus that was about to fall in to a gorge.  Heroic and a social do-gooder yes, but was it masculine enough? Probably not.  Earlier commercials for Thums Up had shown Salman go to any lengths to get his bottle of Thums Up and in the process overcome several hurdles.  In comparison the new Ranveer film did not have the same purpose. Also, variant advertising is not easy. How do you differentiate variants adequately in advertising so that the classic variant is different from the new variant?  Did the Ranveer commercial achieve this distinction of differentiating Thums Up Charged adequately from the classic Thums Up? I am not sure.  It was not clear what the emotional benefit the extra fizz resulted in for the Ranveer commercial.


Cutting to the latest commercial in November 2018 for Thums Up lacked both a theme and any substance.  Ranveer Singh seemed to be running away from thugs and finally escapes them with a swig of Thums Up before he jumps into some rapids.   Heroic again but not particularly masculine.


Contrast all this advertising with the Salman Khan advertising of yore.  Maybe it was time to bring the real Toofani back to Thums Up. Which might explain the change of agencies from Burnett to Lowe.



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