Editor's Take

Social Experiment Course–A Rigmarole of Marketing Desperation

For brands, this is an incredible piece of information, and many are capitalizing on it by creating a real-life mawkish situation through social experiments.

Ever since the advent of social networks, companies of all sizes are capering on the ethical bandwagon, aligning themselves with societal stumbling blocks. There are studies that show how emotions determine decisions rather than cognitive thinking does. However, people presume – choices they make result from rational analysis of available alternatives. For brands, this is an incredible piece of information, and many are capitalizing on it by creating a real-life mawkish situation through social experiments. Sometimes the most effective brands will start from a place of genuine social action, but stumble when the idea captures execution. More often, when I see brands on all sorts of media channels making no sense of cohesiveness, consistency, or even clarity while putting out the narration through the actions of common man, this makes me feel they are desperate to reach the audience regardless of knowing the real essence of the experiment they themselves are conducting.

What Makes A Brand Appear Desperate?

Ponds cold cream’s latest social experiment ad – Jhappi Van Campaign, tried to convey that in a world of constant virtual connectedness, the physical connections are lost with those we love. However, while watching the video there were few aspects that crossed my mind. Firstly, the experiment with ‘real life people’ in the video, didn’t astound me even for a nano second. The predisposition I inherited while watching the video raised a sense of languor, so-much-so that it almost validated my view on this clip. Secondly, the actions of the people looked extremely theatrical (strictly, a personal take). And above all, the thought delivery attempt seemed highly imposed. All of these trials to me were superficially drawn to drive a consumer’s attention. The unwanted need to do the obtruded gesture like hug didn’t give me any warmth in the first place. There was no visible/invisible connect between ‘catching up with parents’ and ‘skin care’. I believe the internal sense of desperation can possibly stem from a few things like brand positioning, value proposition, and personas that may not be fully understood by the marketing department or the company itself.

In tandem with our opinion, Saurabh Parmar, Ex founder – Brandlogist Communications  & Cupidly says, “Advertising is about using the emotional approach to woo customer. The challenge isn’t that. The challenge is, this comes across something which is untrue to the brand and doesn’t connect to the brand soul. Ponds is a brand which is about self care and beauty. And as shown in the video, the characters are asked to hug their parents. Hugging somebody else is a very forced emotion. That’s where brands are going wrong. They are trying to connect with customers by being something that they are not. The other challenge here is that the execution is extremely artificial specially how the characters are behaving. Nevertheless, Ponds could have done a lot using its true brand image. In this social experiment, they have just come across as soulless.”

However, Sonam Shah, Founder and CEO, Treize Communications has a different take. She asserts, “FMCG brands using emotions and feelings to connect with consumers is not something new. We have seen a lot of brands using ‘emotional marketing’ before, and capitalising the most around festivals, case being Cadbury around Raksha Bandhan or Kurkure and Tanishq around Diwali. As the consumer base is shifting towards younger and digital audience, who have high disposable income and spending power, brands will have to use this approach smartly. Newer occasions like Valentine’s Day, Chocolate Day, Friendships Day etc, which are celebrated by the youth, will see more and more brands lauching digital films and campaigns.”

“Ponds has touched upon a sensitive bond of hugging your closed ones or giving them a ‘Jhappi’ as giving a hug to someone is something which is not culturally imbibed in India. It is a nice emotional campaign which makes one realize the importance of hugging your loved ones and since a lot of young people stay away from their family, it will strike a chord with them. Also, since they had a ‘Jhappi Van’, which also was an experiential marketing activity, it makes this a good initiative of BTL and Digital.”

“Since the brand has already done campaigns earlier around ‘Jhappi’, it would have been nice to see a connection between the old and new one. It would have highlighted the brand proposition and that they strive to maintain it,” Shah adds.

Here Are Few Other Brands That Joined The ‘Wannabe’ Social Experiment Trend

Brooke Bond



Ambi Pur


Marie Gold

If You Are Desperate – How Can You Change?

I often hear marketing execs talk about advertising as a mirror of society despite its omnipresent impact. But it’s certainly not enough to just always be the teller and not the solution provider. In the aforementioned social experiments, no concrete conclusions are given. Advertising through social experiments is a great idea but many who chose this form of advertising ends up preying on people’s insecurities and egoism. Besides, the experiments shouldn’t look scripted. Most of the Indian social experiment ads look scripted and poorly done with bad camera job. Also, it seems the making of the videos is a wannabe attempt.

Saurabh Uboweja, International Brand Expert and CEO, Brands of Desire says,“Brands like Ponds, Renault India, and Brooke Bond are few of the oldest and ubiquitous brand. Speaking specifically about Ponds I would say, it is also one of the most challenged brands in terms of single unified brand identity across the world. Given that the definition of beauty is quite distinct from nation to nation, the brand ends up creating disunited tactical campaigns primarily with the aim of being visible and top of mind. Their campaigns rarely associate a defined brand meaning to them. This campaign in India seems like an attempt to associate an emotional meaning to the brand, but it may also be very tactical in nature and may not be carried forward for too long.”

Abhivandan Lodha, Director – Marketing, Chandresh Cable Ltd speaks,Honestly speaking, scripted social experiments are a terrible way to promote a product. Sometimes, the entire so-called experience has no linkage to the product, brand, or what it symbolises. Before delivering any social message, it has to be carefully examined, if it actually strikes a chord with any individual. The brands sometimes fail to stir any emotions.”

And, it is necessary to make a bridge called connection between the product and the campaign like greatly done in the following social experiment advertising:

P&G Always #LikeAGirl

Dove Real Beauty Sketches



We need to ask different questions, if we want different solutions…

Of course, we need to ask different questions, if we urge to seek different answers. And I believe we can create much of a change needed by changing one essential piece of the puzzle: the brief. Rather than just elaborating on sales goals and brand awareness, force yourself to ask a different question: What’s the true impact of the social experiment? Is it measurable? Is it more bad than good? Is it just an infusion of aesthetic visual and weak message? Together as industry, develop on such grounds that can act as a foundation for a new type of craft that weights and measures the societal impact.