• Kanhaiya Maheshwary

How Cadbury's Dairy Milk won Indian hearts - of Chocolate, Culture, & Communications!

Updated: Oct 1, 2020

Just go to any neighborhood shop in India and ask for a chocolate. Chances are that you will be handed a Dairy Milk. Even if you ask for a Cadbury (parent company), you will be handed a Dairy Milk (the product). The fact that a Product (Dairy Milk) can define not only its parent company but an entire category of products (chocolates) shows the dominance it has created in the hearts and minds of people across the country. But this phenomena did not happen overnight. It was a part of a long and winding journey, laid down carefully by Piyush Pandey, the current Chief Creative Officer of Ogilvy Worldwide.


Cadbury's brought Dairy Milk to the Indian market right after Independence, around 1948. Back then, it was considered a premium brand because the chocolate was manufactured abroad and imported into India. Besides, in a country known for its rich tradition of cultural sweets, Dairy Milk not just competing with other chocolates but also with sweets. And it was in for a tough challenge.



Also, the way it was initially projected and advertised didn't help either. Initial ads showed a father getting Dairy Milk for the kids while coming back home from work. With this, the brand ended up creating a few traps for itself. Because it started being associated as a kids' chocolate, parents would often eat it alone in hiding to avoid embarrassment. This cut out a huge chunk of potential audience - the adults! Thing weren't looking too well, and in the 1980s, Cadbury Dairy Milk's sales started dipping. It was much more expensive in relation to the other chocolates, and India's middle class still wasn't ready for such luxuries on a daily basis.


Dairy Milk's early ad, showcasing an upper class family. Features an English song in the background, and a voice over in a thick English accent.


As the sales started dipping, Cadbury had a few problems at hand, mostly to do with the brand image. They roped in Ogilvy & Mather (O&M) India, with a young upcoming advertising genius Piyush Pandey at the helm of the project. In Pandey, Cadbury found the right person who could change their fortunes and in Cadbury, Pandey found a client who not only trusted his team but offered complete creative freedom to run with some groundbreaking communications ideas.


Cadbury's Marketing Communications Game

Cadbury employed marketing communications to reach out to different audience segments, carry out repositioning, and capture different market segments. It started with their first campaign under Piyush Pandey in 1993.


Reaching out to the Youth & Young Adults - Kya Swaad Hai Zindagi Ka

Since Dairy Milk had started getting associated with just kids, Ogilvy & Mather's first idea was to open up the image to let it reach a wider audience base, starting with young adults. This was achieved through the campaign 'Kya Swaad Hai Zindagi Ka'. These iconic lines remain a favorite jingle of the 90s generation.



The advert showed a young woman running onto the pitch to celebrate her partner's victory in a cricket game. It not only associated Dairy Milk with the intended target audience, but also broke traditional notions of the demure feminine behavior. It gave a subconscious message that no longer do people have to feel embarrassed to eat Dairy Milk.


Increasing the frequency of consumption - Khane Walon Ko Khane Ka Bahana Chahiye

After going behind a wider target base, Cadbury Dairy Milk's next step was to increase the frequency of purchase and consumption. Till now, Dairy Milk was viewed an expensive, occasional affair. But Cadbury came up with a campaign which literally said you can eat it for whatever reason you please. 'Khane walo ko khane ka bahana chahiye' was another extremely popular jingle which was peppy, catchy, and matched with an equally enjoyable visual imagery showing Cyrus Broacha distributing Dairy Milk bars to various people from a police officer to an elderly couple. Everyone's spelling out their own reasons for consuming it. The ad ends with the famous line from their previous ad, 'kya swaad hai zindagi mein'.



Association with Days for Top of the Mind Recall

Moving on, Cadbury's Dairy Milk started associating itself with certain days in order to get Dairy Milk as the top of the mind recall brand during those particular days. For example, it cleverly devised these two campaigns -

  1. Aaj Pehli Tareekh Hai: This punchline roughly translates to "Today is the 1st of the month". This campaign tried to associate eating Dairy Milk just because it is the 1st of a month, and hence a good, auspicious start to whatever the month holds.

  2. Pappu Pass Ho Gaya: In India, passing academic exams and scoring well usually calls for a cause of celebration. Cadbury tried to make Dairy Milk a vital part of the result day through this campaign. It changed the psyche of Indians who now started gifting each other Dairy Milk on the day of results.


Substituting Sweets in favor of Dairy Milk

Cadbury tried to increase the sale and consumption of Dairy Milk by pitching it as an alternative to the traditional Indian sweets. By doing campaigns like 'Meethe mein kuch meetha ho jaaye' (Let's have something sweet for the desserts), it created an image that Dairy Milk was the everyday sweet that you needed, regardless of the festival or occasion.


Dairy Milk started doing special event based packing of its products, such as a Rakhsha Bandhan or Diwali special under the name of Celebrations. By offering convenient and classy looking packaging, and price points that mirrored those of other sweets, it was able to claim a very strong stake in the Indian festival circuit. And once you are seen as a substitute for sweets, your reasons of consumption increase manifolds.


A Raksha Bandhan special packaging


There have been many more campaigns of Dairy Milk that kept breaking records. One of the most successful ones that carried forward the sentiments initially built by some of these other campaigns was 'Shubharambh'. It played on the cultural belief of 'auspicious starts' by introducing Dairy Milk as a sweet of choice during those good, happy beginnings.


Over time, due to strong market communications, strategic targeting of segments, events, and more, Cadbury was able to establish a 70% market share in the chocolate industry in India, driven by Dairy Milk with an overall contribution of over 30%! But it was a long journey, and through careful execution and decision making, Piyush Pandey's team at Ogilvy & Mather and Cadbury were able to ingrain Dairy Milk into the very cultural fabric of India.

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