When it comes to awareness and loyalty, one brand that stands out is Hamdard’s Rooh Afza. Available in Pakistan since Independence, for many years Rooh Afza enjoyed the privilege of being the market leader in the laal sherbet category, until their contender Qarshi’s Jam-e-Shirin came into the picture in the early eighties.
A brand war ensued with both Rooh Afza and Jam-e-Shirin vying for market share. Following the trail of their advertising campaigns, one notices how their advertising messages have become more strategic and focused in order to strengthen their positioning, especially during Ramzan, which remains a primary time for consumption.
Perhaps as a result of this ongoing competition, there has been a shift in Rooh Afza’s communications. In the early years, their advertising focused on functionality, taste, colour and being ‘the drink of the East’, and relied on their popular jingle Rahat-e-Jaan. In the last five years or so, Hamdard have shifted their positioning by centering on concepts such as Pakistan Mubarak, Sardi Mubarak, Ramzan Mubarak and, more recently, Zindagi Mubarak and repositioned as a contemporary brand for the young and a drink for all seasons.
The first Zindagi Mubarak campaign, rolled out in 2017, focused on sentimental relationships between family members and an attachment to the brand that grows stronger every year, depicting how ‘zindagi’ (life) becomes a joy with Rooh Afza. However, even then, the emphasis was on emotional appeal.
This year, the new Zindagi Mubarak Ho campaign (executed by Blitz Advertising, which is currently on air) told a different story altogether. Without emotional overdosing, the campaign is about celebrating life’s joyous moments with loved ones. With subtle hints about the importance of good deeds and enjoying moments with friends and family, the idea was to link life’s beautiful moments with Rooh Afza (which literally means ‘refresh the soul’).
According to the team at Blitz, “until recently, Rooh Afza’s campaigns either centred on Ramzan or relationships between parents and their children.” To change this, in addition to older people, the campaign shows children, young people and a couple expecting their first child enjoying Rooh Afza. The TVC is complemented by a song titled Zindagi Mubarak Ho by up-and-coming musician Komail Anam, who is especially popular among young people.
According to Hamdard, the most challenging part of rolling out the campaign in a 360 format was registering the song’s message across all media. For print and OOH, additional copy was incorporated to complete the message, while for digital (which has been used more frequently to target young people), the tagline was used to deliver Ramzan specific messages.
According to Hamdard, “the primary objective was to strengthen the brand’s connection with younger audiences – the household heads of the future.” Having said this, they state that Rooh Afza is a brand that has a wide appeal in Pakistan and has a wide ranging customer base across SECs A, B and C, hence the ad shows different age groups and backgrounds enjoying the drink.
The TVC ends by highlighting the brand’s presence in international markets by depicting people of various nationalities singing Zindagi Mubarak Ho in their own language. The reason for this according to Blitz is because “we wanted to show that our Pakistani diaspora is so proud of this drink that they have been able to make many foreigners loyal customers abroad.”
Ultimately, the campaign attempts to evolve the identity of Rooh Afza from just a beverage to becoming a catalyst for joy.
Although the latest campaign was launched earlier this year, Hamdard say it is too early to speak about the extent to which their objectives have been met and that they are “looking at more than just sales numbers. Although we are the market leader in terms of brand equity, this is not how we measure our success. Our focus is maintaining quality, and keeping our customers loyal to the brand.” Given that Jam-e-Shirin have also changed their positioning, and are also showcasing people from different age groups in their latest campaign, ‘Sub Peetay Hain’, it is safe to set that the laal sharbat war is not going to end anytime soon.