No Parking Marketing: A Look at Marketing in India


This guest articles is written by Shashi Bellamkonda, Senior Director of Social Media at

Growing up in India I remember a time before television where advertisements on the radio and those shown before the Bollywood movies in theatres were very exciting. In the 70's and 80's, India was mesmerized by ads like the Liril Soap girl. And even though I never used Lifebuoy (another soap brand), the ad jingle was always on my mind. According to LifeBuoy's brand history book the brand made an entry into Asia through India in 1895 and have been advertising for centuries.

An entrepreneur Karsan Bhai Patel took on giant Hindustan Lever's Surf with Nirma in the early 80's with the ad jingle "Washing powder Nirma" which became very popular and memorable.

Of the other ads and brands that I remember which are Vicco Vajradanti (an ayurvedic toothpaste/beauty cream), Limca (a lemony soda with a fun jingle), Gold Spot (an orange soda), the Thums Up "Taste the Thunder" jingle seems to have survived even to today. The secret for the success of these evergreen ads, in my opinion are the catchy jingles often repeated.

Fast forward almost 30 years and in 2012 Indian advertising has a greater complement of channels for the messages-Billboards, TV ads, Facebook pages, Ads on cabs, restaurant table mats and buses make up for a lot of ad space.

In Hyderabad, one of the largest cities of India, I noticed a very unusual change. Gone are the posters that used to be plastered on every homeowners wall. Instead there are now boards tacked on the gates of every house asking people not to park in front of the house entrance gates. These boards are given to the homeowners for free and have a sponsored ad message predominantly displayed.

I think this works. Even though I am a short term visitor, I know now that HDFC (a large Indian Bank) gives loans against gold ornaments given the number of times I have seen a "No Parking" sign sponsored by HDFC.

I am also impressed by the use of social media by the Hyderabad Traffic Police who are using their Facebook presence to create awareness and engagement.

If you thought mobile phone companies in the US were bad, you haven't experienced AirTel. While Airtel's services are very good, they have also mastered the art of upsell marketing as well as to make the best use of "Bottom of the Pyramid" marketing. SIM cards are cheap. I got mine for 20 cents with cents of talktime and incoming calls free. No wonder there are over 900 Million mobile users in India.

As part of their marketing, Airtel sends you segments of a joke and you have to agree to pay a few rupees to hear the rest of the joke. I have been resisting the temptation to hear the rest of the joke so far.

Advertisers seeking to get attention from the 1.2 billion people in India have a challenge and are making the best of it and using every inch of space they can get.

Shashi Bellamkonda is Sr. Director, Social Media at and Adjunct Professor at Georgetown University. Shashi writes on marketing, small business, start-ups and technology for various sites and can be found at @shashib on Twitter.

by Steve Hall    Jul-16-12   Click to Comment   
Topic: Trends and Culture