Update on October 1, 2018: Strepsils Stereo won a Bronze Spike in the Music Category at the Spikes Asia 2018 Awards Ceremony which took place on September 28, 2018 at Marina Bay Sands Theatre, Singapore.
Strepsils Pakistan, a Reckitt Benckiser (RB) brand, in an effort to create brand recall and promote Pakistani musicians has launched an initiative called Strepsils Stereo.
The launch coincided both with the August 14th Independence Day celebrations as well as, tangentially, with the approach of the autumn-winter season, which typically sees an increases in throat-related ailments and consequently in the demand for products such as Stepsils.
Strepsils Stereo is basically A capella – a musical composition which relies entirely on the voice (solo or multiple), providing all the sound without any instrumental support – by Ali Noor, and the first song is based on a cover of Khayal Rakhna, originally performed by Alamgir.
According to Fahad Ashraf, Director Marketing, Reckitt Benkiser: “the primary purpose of Strepsils is to enable a clear throat and clarity of voice. We had been thinking of exploring music as a platform, and the idea of Strepsils Stereo with its focus on A capella fit like a glove with the brand.”
Elaborating further, Ashraf says it was a rather organic process. Getting Ali Noor on-board was an easy decision as RB had already collaborated with Noor on a project for Veet Pakistan (another RB brand). The question was how to stand out on a platform that had already been co-opted by Coke, Nescafé and Pepsi. The answer came from Noor who suggested the A capella route. “It was taken up instantly; we were all super excited and on the same page!”
As Noor says, A capella had never been done before in Pakistan, at least not on a large, commercial level and: “it was unbelievably challenging. There was no precedent to draw from and selecting the right vocalists with the right chemistry with each other was both extremely challenging and tedious, especially as it involved recording every sound and beat and then using editing software to align and synchronise the sound clips so that the end result was a beautiful and harmonious song.”
According to Noor, although Khayal Rakhna was a cover, all forthcoming songs will be originals, as “our music industry desperately needs original work to sustain its sense of independence and freedom that it enjoyed in earlier decades.”
Ashraf further clarifies that RB opted for a cover in order to test whether the concept of A capella would actually work – and clearly using a well-loved musical rendition was the way to do it.
Along with Noor, the vocalists in this A capella were Ahsan Pervaiz, Rachel Viccaji, Sara Haider and Zoe Viccaji.
“I have worked with Zoe, Rachel and Sara often, so I knew how harmonised they are with each other and bringing them on-board was an easy decision,” says Noor. However, he adds,
“Ahsan was a discovery. He had assisted me on various technical post-production projects and when I told him about this project, he did a version of this song in his own voice and edited it so expertly that I knew he had to be a part of this venture.”
"The Pakistani audience has become very reactive to the monotony that cliché music brings and Strepsils Stereo will not go down that road."
When asked about the commercial and creative impact of brands adopting music as a communication platform, Noor says brand patronage rather than brand sponsorship is what needs to be encouraged.
“With brand sponsorship, it is the brand that dictates what to do, when to do it and how to do it and that stifles creativity.” On the other hand, he says when a brand helps develop a musician’s original idea, believes in it and supports the creative mission, “that is when a truly win-win situation takes place between the musician, the brand and the audience.”
The initiative is being promoted on digital and there are no plans to take it to TV.
According to Farzana Abdullah, Associate Director, Adcom ZenithOptimedia (Strepsils' media agency), “digital doesn’t require the huge budgets that ATL does, yet it delivers immense engagement, focused reach and shareability value.”
Abdullah adds that although only two weeks have passed since the launch, the KPIs achieved so far have “completely surpassed the KPIs originally set” – target video views were set at 350,000 and 1.8 million views have been achieved.
Given that the initiative did develop organically, the next steps have yet to be determined in terms of whether Strepsils Stereo will, in future, take the format of entire seasons with episodes, or simply as single songs – all this and more has to be planned.
“The only decided thing is there will be no covers and only originals from now on. The Pakistani audience has become very reactive to the monotony that cliché music brings and Strepsils Stereo will not go down that road,” concludes Noor.