Flite breaks the category marketing code wonderfully

I have always looked at ads from chappal brands with a lot of interest. I say ‘chappal’ because I don’t want to call it ‘footwear’ and include all kinds of footwear. Chappal is a category, based on pricing and socio-economic target audience defined by that price range/affordability.

Earlier, the one brand I always stumbled upon was Paragon. Then brands like VKC, Relaxo, and Walkmate popped on my radar. The two things that connected almost all these chappal brands were,

  1. they primarily advertised poly-vinyl (PV) chappals, and
  2. they almost always led their advertising with film or sports stars!

Walkmate had a wide range of stars – Southern actor Nayantara, Telugu actor Ravi Teja, Kannada actor Upendra, cricketer Ravichandran Ashwin.

Paragon had a famous association with Telugu actor Mahesh Babu and Samantha.

Relaxo still uses Salman Khan. Relaxo’s other sub-brands like Flite have used Ranveer Singh and Sonakshi Sinha, and Sparx uses Akshay Kumar.

VCK has used Ajay Devgn. VCK’s other sub-brand, Walkaroo used Aamir Khan.

And then there is Bata, of course, which had roped in Kriti Sanon and Sushant Singh Rajput as brand ambassadors.

Crux: chappal category marketing is filled with stars of all kinds, to target both men and women.

Now, these PV-based chappals are different from hawai chappals that have earned a different kind of ‘cool’ among city dwellers too. It is flaunt-worthy to buy/wear hawai chappals that cost Rs. 1,000 and more from the more upmarket brands like Puma, Nike, or Adidas, while Paragon, VKC or Relaxo sell hawai chappals at price ranges of Rs. 100-200! Brand value in action!

But, given how this category is so obsessed with stars-based marketing, I wondered what the reason could be considering it seems unlikely that these stars, with their global exposure and wealth, may prefer the upmarket brands in real life.

One obvious reason could simply be visibility. The stars break the attention in any media and if these brands want to attract buyers from tier-2/3/4 cities, assuming they look up to the stars in an aspirational, starry-eyed way, all the more reason to assume that a Ranveer would attract their attention effortlessly.

But increasingly, that incongruity between what the stars may actually buy vs. what they advertise could pop up because the stars themselves offer controlled life access via social media platforms. So, as we do with movies, the target audience for the chappals may be watching chappal ads featuring stars with a sense of disbelief and cynicism and simply go with the entertainment. For instance, most of the chappal ads featuring stars are made like mini-movies – Salman saves a damsel as a lifeguard, Ajay Devgn plays an inspector and utters a dialog from Singham, while Ranveer extends his Gully Boy character.

It’s all a fun movie extension and breaks attention when people are consuming some other content – so, advertising 101.

So, given all this background, I find it really fantastic that a chappal brand has chosen to not only give up on the stars-led narrative but also do it with a truly wonderful narrative device – the innate sense of confidence of their target audience!

Flite (from the house of Relaxo) has a new ad film by the agency L&K Saatchi & Saatchi that seems real, believable, and most importantly, something that you can root for, no matter what socioeconomic category you/marketers think you belong to.

The film (the agency cut is 1 minute 30 seconds, while the more advertised film is a 40-seconds cut) features a young, confident girl from Ghaziabad. She fights her way through the decision-makers in her family (usually older men) and reaches an interview in what seems like a big city. She does not speak good English and continues to respond in Hindi, to her interviewees.

Then she’s pointed asked, “You know English, right?”.

She says, “Ji! Hum thoda bahut English bol lete hain!”

That brings a mocking counter-question: “Thoda? Ya bahut?”.

She looks at her Flite chappals (well-deserved product context) and you may now wonder if she’s going to show off her English. But, in a heartwarming move, she instead says something that is truly the money-shot in the ad. Brilliant scripting and superb dialog.

The simple story also makes a strong point that language is merely a mode of communication, not a marker for intelligence. She could eventually learn English, and unless she is applying for a position where she has to tech English, she could do perfectly well in her chosen area of expertise.

The best part is that the ad not only showcases its target audience appropriately but also does it with a lot of respect and dignity. They may be economically (relatively) weaker, but that does not mean they have to be treated in a way as if they would respond only to silver screen stars and make purchase decisions for chappals. You could appeal to their sense of confidence too, as this Flite does so very well.


Shorter cut:

PS: My current pair of chappals, from Bata.



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