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  • Writer's pictureKanhaiya Maheshwary

How HUL's 'Kissanpur' took experiential marketing to another level

Let me start by asking you a simple question - what has been the best memory of your recent past? No matter what you answer, it is most likely to be categorized as an 'experience'. Experiences are something that we live first hand; they are moments that we undergo or encounter, and they leave us with various kinds of feelings. And these experiences form the strongest memories. It's been proven scientifically too - whenever you undergo an event which activates your emotions, your amygdala gets triggered. And this amygdala is a small almond shaped structure which is responsible for storing memories.

As I've said before, marketers are part-psychologists. A large part of marketing actually involves understanding consumer behavior, emotions, needs etc. So when marketers realized how powerful experiences can be, they started thinking of how to incorporate the same in marketing in order to improve brand recall and help create emotional associations between the brands and its users. Thus, was born experiential marketing.

Experiential Marketing refers to the idea of creating customer engagement by means of having them undergo an experience related to a brand of product, with the intention of building long term impressions.

Some of the earliest examples of experiential marketing can be traced back to 1893, at the Chicago World's Fair. Brands like Wrigley's and Cracker Jack personally sampled their products. Again, that's a very primitive definition of experiential marketing. Another notable example is from 1936, from Chicago only. Oscar Mayer's nephew took out a hot-dog shaped vehicle to promote the family's hot-dog business, and gave out whistles shaped like hot dogs. It can today be categorized under sales promotion gifting and sampling, but back in those days, it was an experience for the customers.

But experiential marketing has become even more important in today's digital age where we're being bombarded on an average with 5,000 ads a day and our attention spans officially are getting shorter than that of a goldfish.

Kissanpur - An Experiential Marketing Campaign

Back in 2012, Hindustan Unilever's Kissan tomato ketchup was facing several issues:

  1. The ketchup market in India was saturated, and Kissan was just one of the many brands available on the shelves;

  2. Due to lack of a differentiating USP, customers didn't really care much about which ketchup they were picking. Also, with every ketchup following a similar kind of packaging and color scheme, it didn't help the cause;

  3. In India, ketchup was, and in many cases is still perceived as a product that contains a lot of preservatives and isn't 100% fruit or vegetable based. However, Kissan ketchup is made purely out of fresh tomatoes but merely saying it on advertisement wasn't convincing mothers to buy it for their children;

  4. India is a land of pickles which contain natural preservatives like salt. Lunches and a lot of savory snacks are enjoyed with pickles and home made chutneys. As such, ketchup becomes a second preference.

HUL wanted to change this image and ketchup consumers know that their product was very different. Based on the above insights and some more consumer research, they figured out that the best way to convert non-believers into their consumers was by showing (experience), and not just telling (ads).

The Big Idea

As a part of this campaign, HUL packed tomato seeds under the cap of the ketchup bottle. The cap itself was shaped like a tomato, and on inverting it could serve as a pot for the tomato sapling.

The Execution

The team at Kissan was convinced that Indian mothers would be willing to take part in an activity which teaches their kids something. And growing a plant teaches a lot about the importance of nurturing, the solar cycle etc. Kissan also came up with a gamification concept by creating a fictional town of 'Kissanpur' and urged all the mothers to let their kids be a part of it. Kisan in Hindi stands for farmers (also the brand name), and pur is a common suffix for small towns or villages.

The rules of this fun competition were that all those kids who grow the best saplings would have their image featured on Kissan's ads and the product bottle. To facilitate this, Kissan put up a website called where mothers could upload the photos of the tomato saplings grown by their children, and keep updating them at various phases of growth. The response was tremendous. Children were growing tomatoes in their balconies, in their apartment gardens, parking lots, and even the windows of their rooms.

Towards the end, children and their moms were called at an event where all those tomatoes were turned into ketchup in front of their eyes, thereby giving out a message that Kissan ketchup is made from real tomatoes. But behind all this was an underlying message of togetherness. Families were doing this activity together, and creating a lifetime of joyous memories for their children. Kissan even ran a social media campaign called #RealTogetherness where it put out tweets regularly and also engaged with other brands.

The Results

The results of this campaign were for everyone to see:

  • Kissan's consumption outgrew the entire category by 2.5 times

  • In a brand image study by Millward Brown, it outscored the category leader in customers' perception of 'natural goodness';

  • Sales in key markets like Punjab, NCR, and Maharashtra grew by 230 BPS in value and 290 BPS in volume;

  • Sales grew by 14.6%, against the category's sales of 4.4%!

  • The campaign reached out to 8.5 million consumers and also generated a free PR worth INR 3.8 million.

Kissan's Kissanpur experiential campaign was a roaring success by every metric, both perception wise as well as revenue and sales wise. And while it this was 8 years ago and the world has since then seen some brilliant experiential marketing campaigns driven by AI and new age tech, Kissanpur manages to hold its own given the novelty of thought and execution.

Analyzing Kissanpur's Success

The results of the campaign are not really valuable unless we take some lessons out of it. After analyzing the campaign, here's my take on its success:

  1. Strong grasp of cultural behavior: In India, the biggest worry for moms that concerns their children is 'learning'. Being the 2nd most populous country in the world, the kids always have to be at their best in order to beat the countless competition. Moms are also worried that kids spend way too much time playing, thereby neglecting studies. But Kissanpur clubbed fun and learning together and ensured that moms would willingly let their children take part in it.

  2. Marrying consumer insights with brand challenges: Consumer insight should be the basis for any sales promotion or marketing campaign. Kissan ketchup was facing several challenges, with the biggest of them being the customer perception that ketchups are full of preservatives. The consumer insight was that for the consumers, 'real' meant something that was unadulterated, organic, and had a healthy experience behind it. Kissan's ad agency Lowe Lintas and media agency MindShare were able to put this all together to come up with this brilliant experiential marketing campaign.

  3. Gamification: Some of the key elements to keep this campaign going was to gamify the entire thing. And that's what Kissan did at various stages, right from distributing tomato shaped pots for planting the saplings to coming up with a website where moms could upload the photos of their kids' saplings and help them win the contest. Kissan even invited kids and their moms on horticulture tours where they were shown how tomatoes are grown organically.

Let's end with this brand video which carries the soul of this campaign -

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