The story of how a family-owned jewellery brand in India decided to go for a counter-category narrative for the first time in its history, and why has it worked so well?
At the last count, Bhima Jewellery’s recently launched ‘Pure As Love’ campaign had over 8.4 lac views (840,000). Now that is a sizable metric for a brand campaign - even more so for a brand that is going to turn 100 in another four years.
Bhima’s brand campaign is a two minute-long film, conceptualised by the Delhi-based Indie agency Animal. It traces the journey of a trans-woman and how she gets accepted for who she is by her own family. Interestingly, it is part of the integrated brand campaign that the company has lined up for the year and is not an award-entry campaign only. The company plans include giving it a fully integrated spread once the ongoing pandemic eases a bit and the operations are resumed, she shares.
The almost utopian narrative of the easy acceptance of the protagonist by her family makes the film stand out with its positive treatment and has worked very well for the brand. The film has been buzzing for its different treatment, both in the story and the craft and the way it is trying to normalise acceptance.
Marrying the cause and the brand story
Tracing the genesis of the path-breaking campaign, an elated Navya Suhas, online operations head, Bhima Jewellery and also part of the family that owns the 96-year-old brand, says, “as a brand with such credibility, we wanted to lend our voice to causes that matter today.” With this campaign, “we want to push the message that whoever one chooses to be - man, woman, transgender, rich, poor – the brand is there to serve and empower, not judge”.
Sometimes, being a traditional player is almost used as a derogatory term in marketing and alludes to being stuck in their ways, afraid to change and just fighting to keep the status quo intact. Adds Sayantan Choudhury, creative head at Animal, the creative agency, “being a traditional brand also gives it a unique power and a reach that the new, non-traditional brands probably don’t have and when it uses that voice for a message like this, it makes for a far greater impact.”
We hope this campaign, catalyzes brands to become more inclusive and talking about causes that are relevant today, adds Suhas.
The roadblocks along the way
It is not easy to tackle, even less so for a family-run business in a category like jewellery. When asked if she had a tough time convincing the stakeholders about the theme and the treatment, she avers that there was apprehension, not just from her but from other family members as well.
A large portion of the company’s customer base is still from the age bracket of 35-40 years, so it could be a risk. “We have been pleasantly surprised by the overwhelmingly positive response, not just from the youth, but older age groups as well”, she shares. On a lighter note, she adds that convincing the board members was an easier task than convincing some of her family members, but they gave in eventually.
Celebrities? Not for this brand
The jewellery category, in India, has largely been built on the back of celebrity endorsements with most major players having multiple celebrity faces. A campaign like this, with no known faces and tackling a tough subject, can be a double-edged sword in such a backdrop.
Clarifies Suhas, “Bhima must possibly be one of the few brands that have never really approached celebrity stars as brand ambassadors for any of our advertisements.” A large part of Bhima’s success is owed to word of mouth and people’s trust in our products and services, and that is what should shine, she adds.
The brand is clear that it does not want celebrities to take the shine and importance away from the product, and the real star is the customer.
Navigating the double-edged sword of cause-led campaigns
Campaigns like this in today’s socially charged times can be a risky proposition. Choudhury agrees that the communication might actually be absolutely fine but still run into deep trouble and get engulfed in negativity and there have been enough instances of campaigns backfiring spectacularly.
In such cases, adds Choudhury, “all we can do is go in with our eyes open and our intentions right.” However, one thing that all of us wanted to avoid was at any cost was to alienate the LGBTQIA community in any way, as that would have defeated everything we have tried to do with the project, he adds.
Getting the craft right
It is not just the bold theme and the story but the film scores very well on craft. Shot in stunning locations at Fort Kochi in Kerala, the campaign did go through challenges shooting during the Covid situation.
"The shoot had to be pushed by a month since we wanted to shoot the film in Kerala, as the brand is based there", shares Choudhury.
Once the idea was approved and the agency started working towards production, it got on board the renowned filmmaker Bharat Sikka, who is known for his stunning visuals as well as infusing them with great depth and emotion. It helped that he has experience in working with the community, he adds.
Unique challenges of finding the face of the campaign
To find the right protagonist, Meera, Sikka scoured social media. The problem was that the role involved depicting the life of the person as a boy, as well as a girl, and that was something that very few of the trans people we reached out to wanted to do, he adds. This is understandably so, for the journey is usually quite trauma-ridden and depicting this role would involve reopening many wounds. Eventually, the lead was found in Meera who took on the role fearlessly. The rest, as they say, is history, this time in the making.