Objectification is an issue only when the other person in the conversation has a problem: Ninad Umargekar, JG Hosiery

JG Hosiery’s chief marketing strategist talks about the remake of Macho Sporto's campaign, the plagiarism case against Lux Cozi, objectification, and more...

Oct 19, 2021 02:45:00 AM | Article | Eularie Saldanha Share - Share to Facebook

Macho Sporto has been in the talks for more reasons than one. The brand has had its share of tribulation about its ‘plagiarism’ case against Lux Cozi, which it lost last month. 
However, letting bygones be bygones, the brand has once again made head turns, with its recent Yeh toh bada Toing hai’ ad, featuring actors Rashmika Mandanna and Vicky Kaushal. 
We caught up with Ninad Umargekar, chief marketing strategist, J.G.Hosiery to learn more about the film which got a mixed reaction. He also takes us through the sentiments behind the case, challenges in the category and the brand’s way forward. 
Umargekar also points out that the brand has consolidated its portfolio by merging Macho and Sporto to focus its marketing budgets better. He also reveals that the brand dropped the name Amul Macho and has only one product with the name Amul, which is Comfy, and plays in the economy segment. 
Edited excerpts:
What was the insight behind the last campaign rolled out?
Throughout the last few years, we have worked on a lot of campaigns, but none of them got us any good traction. Whoever met us, talked about the 'Yeh toh bada Toing hai' campaign. While we were in the boardroom, we wondered if we should bring it back. However, even bringing it back had its risks, due to its controversial nature. So, we started to think of how we could modernise the idea. In today's day, the woman is in charge of the narrative, be it sexual preferences, or life, career and everything else. We wanted to showcase that whatever the woman does, the man has to be comfortable with it. 
The response seems to be mixed. Some like it, while others believe that there is a clear objectification of men in the campaign. What are your views on the latter?
Any kind of objectification is an issue only when the other person in the conversation has a problem. The ones with a problem are looking only at the first half of the narrative, where the girl is gazing at the man. However, they have conveniently ignored the second half of the narrative, where the man is smiling back and playing along with her. This doesn't qualify as objectification, but simply as two consensual adults flirting with each other. 
Exploring one's sexuality and talking about it openly - especially for women - is still not quite welcome in India. Did you have any inhibition before rolling out the campaign?
We were very clear that we wanted to do this, but wanted to hold the reins as far as the sleaze quotient is concerned. That became a big part of our brief to all the agencies. We didn't work with any of our existing agencies on this campaign, but called a pitch for it. We wrote an articulate brief on this and  chose the agency that managed to crack it best. We also stated in our brief, that we wanted the woman to be in charge. The starting point of the campaign and the idea of bringing 'Yeh toh bada Toing hai' back, was ours and was brought to life by the creative agency. 
Lux Cozi had won the plagiarism case against Macho last month. Has this impacted the sales or the brand love for the latter, in any way?
We believe in originality. Lux Cozi might have won the case, but if you look at their ad and our previous ad done 15 years ago, there are so many themes and executions that are similar. Of course, the idea might not be the same, but we were a bit taken aback that somebody could blatantly plagiarise at least parts of our ad. However, this situation doesn't bother us much because in the long run what matters is how you choose to engage consumers. All our competitors are big guys with great setups. However, that is not enough to make great products. If you look at the entire category, whether it's Lux, Dollar or Rupa, none of them have a point of view about the culture or society that we're living in. 
Do you feel that the ruling was fair? If not, what about it do you think was biased towards Macho?
Of course it wasn't fair. But, our job was to ensure that our complaint reaches the right people. If you see certain sections of the ad, even the colour of the underwear that the woman holds up, is the same. They could've been a bit original with that. For us, the complaint was just a way of telling them that if they go down this road again, we will take action. 
What is the right thing for a renowned brand to do, when it loses an official argument with a rival brand?
The right thing to do would be to focus on yourself and ensure that you have a point of view that reaches people. Right now, our communication is far more important than that of our rival brand's. They have chosen to venture into the sleaze territory, but we want to focus on the narrative that we want to build. We've never tried to put anyone down and only vocalised ourselves when needed. We're all building the industry together, but our only request to brands would be to stick to original work. 
Are there any limitations to the creative freedom for an innerwear brand? 
There are no limitations to any category. This category has cultural boundaries, but that give brands a chance to be more creative. Creativity flourishes when there are boundaries and if you open all the boundaries, there is no scope for creativity. I remember Anand Mahindra once saying, that even drug peddlers are the most creative due to their boundaries, since that's how they figure out the most creative ways to sell drugs and smuggle them. We are not worried about boundaries for creativity. 
What are the biggest marketing challenges you've faced in this category?
Our biggest marketing challenge is premiumisation. If you look at this segment, nothing is really premiumised as compared to women's innerwear. For men, 99% of the market for the per product price is below Rs 400. Even from the marketing perspective, women's lingerie has been positioned as a tool for her to validate herself and entice her partner and so she is ready to spend, making offerings go up consistently. Whereas, for men, most of the category purely talks about comfort. Within comfort, how much more will you be willing to pay? So, our biggest challenge is to get men to buy more sophisticated offerings. That's going to be the next phase of growth not just for us, but the industry as a whole. 
What is the way forward for JG Hosiery? 
We are going to be the leaders in premiumisation. We studied a lot of consumers in the country and realised that we are slightly above our four other competitors in the mid-premium segment. The idea is to improve the gap between us and them, premiumise and keep understanding the ever-changing consumer. We also want to make big waves in the athleisure market with our Sporto brand, since athleisure is no longer an occasional wear. The formal culture is dying down. 


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