The power Of Occasion-based Positioning

In an earlier blog, I talked about how
occasions offer a powerful marketing tool for Foods brand marketers. Here, we llok at how "Occasion Based Positioning" (OBP) can be used as a strategic frame to link brands inextricably to occasions and build memory structure over the long term. This is in contrast to "Occasion Based Selling" (OBS). This is more
tactical, designed to attract & influence consumers on the spur of the
moment, often leading to instant gratification. Coke is a wonderful example of
this and has successfully used this for decades.

One company that has used OBP to
outstanding effect in India is Cadbury. A trip down memory lane with this brand
reveals that they have not just used the power of OBP to link chocolates to
celebration occasions targeting adults, but have gone one step ahead & used
a sequence of celebration occasions as advertising levers to build emotional

the Money

Until 1994, chocolates were largely seen as
occasional treats for kids. Consequently the category remained very small &
largely irrelevant to most consumers. In a liberalizing India, Cadbury realized
that adult consumers could represent a large market, and started to position
the brand as ‘the real taste of life’, representing spontaneous and unabashed
celebration. The advertising surprised a very conservative and reserved Indian adult population who were not naturally given to such
spontaneity. This was followed by a series of ads over the next few years on
exactly the same theme.

gears to ‘Sell More Stuff’

Cadbury started to see strong traction to
this strategy, and next looked at associating the brand with a multitude of
‘invented occasions’, urging the Indian masses to snatch little moments
of celebration from everyday’s mundane existence, Roping in India’s biggest icon
Amitabh Bacchan, ads exhorted consumers to find any excuse to
celebrate, such as this one about a boy passing his exams.


By now, the brand was fast getting
established as an adult celebration brand. The strategy of linking to an
occasion was working for brand & business, as it was giving consumers more
reasons to buy Cadbury. But success was largely advertising/image driven and
Cadbury was still looking for ways to sustain this strategy while keeping the
brand fresh & interesting.

The breakthrough came when the Cadbury
brand team identified traditional Indian sweets as the largest source of
business for the brand. Indians have a sweet tooth & tend to eat sweets
across several occasions. These were often not just ‘time occasions’ (e.g.
after a meal, religious festivals) but also ‘emotional occasions’ (e.g. before
starting something auspicious, after completing a big task etc.). The brand
team figured that if they could credibly position Cadbury as an alternate to
traditional sweets, it could multiply sales dramatically.

The brand looked at an interesting approach
to leverage occasions over the longer run even as they kept communication fresh
& sparky. While retaining the Brand Idea constant (see figure below), they
kept changing the Advertising Idea, each time an occasion. Each Advertising
Idea stretched over 3-4 years, brought to life by between 5-6 different
Execution Ideas (individual ads). And each ad brought in ‘fresh consistency’,
stretching the positioning over time. The chart below illustrates the approach, with the advertising idea "Have a sweet after food", followed by "Auspicious Beginning"

Screen Shot 2013-11-04 at 11.03.36 

is King

To Cadbury’s credit, they executed this
strategy to perfection. Each ad tugged an emotional heartstring like few others did. And the brand team has the conviction to invest for the longer term. Each
Advertising Idea (series of 3-6 films) was produced in one go, shot by one film
director, even though some individual ads were seen only 3-4 years later! This
ensured that the treatment is of a uniformly high standard and emotions are
captured with great consistency. And the team only works with the very best
directors in business.


Brand: Cadbury invariably comes us as the
#1 example of great advertising in any marketing forums. And they have won a
host of awards including the prestigious Effies for advertising that build
sales effectively.

Business: Sales have typically doubled
every 2years for the last 7-8 years. While other factors like distribution have
played their part, OBP has played a central role in this outstanding success.

In conclusion, Cadbury's is a great example of how to use occasions not just as a tactical tool, but a strategic framework for positioning a brand and growing the core.