Sunday, May 30, 2010

Juicing it up!

It's when I start making big plans for my blog that I falter. Summers are at their peak in Karachi and it's hot, hot, HOT! But summers bring mangoes also so we can't complain too much I guess. For the sports lover, this summer is all about the football world cup, kicking off on June 11th 2010. And for the music lovers, the new season of Coke Studio which starts from today.(
What finally woke me out of my slumber today and got me writing this blog was a very surprising discovery at our local grocery store. Since teaching brand management, I have developed the habit of checking out brands at stores for so called 'discoveries'. Changing in packaging, price, new promotion schemes etc keep me updated for class. So although I'm not in the mainstream branding scenario (read: jobless), I do have a fair idea of happenings in the brand town.
Before I mention the discovery, I must mention some mysterious happenings around the store since the past two days. All of a sudden, Nestlé Fruita Vitals had put up big posters (and I mean BIG) on the store windows (or whatever little was available of the window) and branded the counter area also. I found this a little strange but didn't pay much attention towards it. It was only today, when I crossed the milk aisle, that I saw why. There was a new juice brand occupying the shelf- Olfrute.
The name was quite descriptive; O indicative of the fact that it was from the house of Olper's (although there is an Olper's logo at the top right hand corner, just in case of any confusion) and frute = fruit.
So, here we have, yet another fruit juice in the market. Olfrute, by Olper's, which is 'For a Fruitastic Life'. What I didn't understand is why they have 'fruit' written in their tagline but 'frute' as their name? Does that make the name funky? Maybe it does because they are using a generic word as a brand name but by spelling it differently, they have managed to create a new brand, just like in the case of Owsum (awesome) flavoured milk. But I like the tagline. For a fantastic Fruitastic life? Good one!
Now, for the taste's good! I am a big fan of Nestlé orange juice but this one is equally, if not better, good. It's smooth, and doesn't leave any aftertaste (although it did smell a little like the juice which is served in airplanes) which Nestlé does. Hubby dear, on the other hand, has been won over by Olfrute and he is quite pleased with his glass of juice.
The packaging, though, is very disappointing. In the packaging department, no one has come close to Nestlé. Fruita Vitals has the most amazing packaging; the most glamorous being that of the apple juice (I still remember the ad of Umair Butt!).
Olper's did give Nestlé a lot of competition in the milk category. Whether it does so in the juice category, we are yet to see. In the meanwhile, you check it out and let me know what you think while I go and finish up my juice before hubby dear gets his hands on it!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Sunday sizzles!

The one word that best describes Karachi these days is hot. But the heat can't actually stop us from having fun so hubby dear and myself went around here, there and almost everywhere on Sunday. Better sense did prevail, though, and we agreed not to make our monthly pilgrimage to Sunday bazaar.

The day started off with a scrumptious breakfast of halwa, puri and cholay (all homemade) at my parents' house. I think my friend Sabera might have the perfect explanation and recipe of the three items on her blog ( It was a desi (local) breakfast and a much needed change from the everyday jam toast!

It wasn't just the weather in Karachi which was sizzling on Sunday. The Arts Council auditorium was also afire with an interesting contemporary dance drama, 'Conversations'. This 60min performance was an interesting fusion of dance and monologues. The performances revolved around the theme of freedom - man's desire to be free and break out of his caged existence.

The show had promised to be an emotional roller coaster ride but it fell short, by a large margin. It did, though, provide a new perspective on some things. The four letter word that always comes to our mind is f*@k or love. But there is also another - free. Are we really free? Aren't we not captive in our own bodies? These bodies which make us feel proud, happy, worried, and finally, helpless? And then, at times, we become prisoners of our mind. Our mind which just keeps thinking and thinking and thinking, making us frustrated, confused, and at times, vicious.

These messages were delivered through monologues by Joshinder Chaggar and Sunil Shankar who enacted the role of the bird and the earthworm (and no, the former didn't eat the latter!). Even though Conversations was a good effort, it sort of dragged in the end. There was not enough drama even though the theme selected was very strong (man's desire to be free) and the whole show felt a little incomplete. Almost all performers were good, some more than others (Joshinder, Sunil, Shezy Khan). What was not good was the late start, the show was supposed to start at 8pm but things got moving 20mins late. Again, a reason for much frustration!

Our day ended with a fun dinner at my cousin's place where we had pizza, icecream and talked about horror movies and ghosts. Quite an end to a sizzling day!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

A dedication to Supermoms

A big shout out to all the amazing moms on Mother's Day - especially to my amazing Ami and my wonderful Amijaan (mother and mom-in-law). To my grandmothers (Nano and Dadi Amma), my aunts (Phuppo Jani, Riffi Phuppo, Nunni phuppo, Fari Chachi, Taijani, Huma Chachi, Mami, and Khala), my sister-in-laws (Shazi Baji, Tashi and Aimen), my cousins & bhabis (Shabana Baji, Sherbano, Sadaf, Afsheen & Sumaira bhabi), my friends (Mahvish, Maliha, Safia, Nida, Rubab, Saleha, Mariam, Mayra, Noor). You gals are doing a great job! Happy Mother's Day!!!

Photograph: Google Images

Friday, May 7, 2010

Marketing Moms

Moms are amazing. They bring us into this world, feed us, help us when we take our first steps, buy us stuff, put plastic covers on our school books (and write our names on them), cook delicious food, help us make posters for class, scold us, hug us, and as we grow older; they step on the sides (in most cases!) and watch us survive on our own in the real world (using many of the things we've learnt from them).

Can we ever really repay our moms for all that they do for us? Well, not really. Moms don't want repayment (again, this might not apply to all moms). Their love for us is unconditional and they are the only beings in the world who are capable of loving this way. That, of course, does not mean that we should not show our appreciation for all that they do. And to help us heap lots of appreciation on our mom we have, very conveniently, 'Mother's Day'.

An American lady called Anna Jarvis, in the memory of her own beloved mother, endeavored to make Mother's Day a recognized holiday, which she succeeded in doing in 1914. But by the 1920s, she was soured by the 'commercialization' of it. Embittered by the way this day was celebrated she said, ' A printed card means nothing except that you are too lazy to write to the woman who has done more for you than anyone in the world. And candy! You take a box to Mother - and then eat most of it yourself. A pretty sentiment'. (source: Wikipedia).

I think Ms. Jarvis was upset because she never got a box of candy for her mom or maybe she did and her mom didn't let her eat the candy! Jokes aside, Mother's Day is one of the best things to have happened for most brands. Although our brands caught up a little late (but then, we had our own set of problems during the 1920s in the subcontinent and brands didn't feature in our lives much back then), they have done well and now Mother's Day features BIG in their marketing calendars.

One of the brands which is most related with mothers in Pakistan is Dalda. 'Jahan mamta, wahan Dalda' is a phrase we have practically grown up with. It's a very strong positioning and one that is recognized, and most importantly, understood by its consumers. Dalda cooking oil is one of the oldest brands of Pakistan and it has always talked about 'mamta' (motherhood). In doing so it has associated itself with one of the most important relationship in the life of its consumers. Over the years, the mothers in their ads have undergone changes but the essence remains the same - mothers and their love for their children which is manifested in (among other things) providing the very best food cooked in, of course, Dalda cooking oil.

Dalda's association with Mother's Day has emerged strongly in the past few years and they have incorporated it very well with their overall brand identity. Their big event, to celebrate this day, is the 'Dalda Expert Mom Award'. The interesting thing about these awards is that it is the children who nominate their moms by sending in a story to Dalda about them (Sheer brilliance, don't you think? Children are not the influencers nor the decision-makers when it comes to buy cooking oil brands. But they will one day. And Dalda is training the kids well for that day). After screening of these stories and a rigorous process of interviews conducted by Dalda experts, moms are shortlisted as nominees for one of six award categories (for details

So what does this do for the brand? It gets to refresh its brand message through a brand extension (Expert Mom Award) which is very interactive. The entire household becomes involved in the process; kids sending the application, mothers going for interview with the Dalda experts and fathers/husbands keeping the morale high (while hoping, in some cases, for a monetary reward also besides the plaque). Interacting with the brand in such a manner leads to the development of a very strong bond with the brand. And what better way to celebrate Mother's Day then to tell the whole of Pakistan that 'my mom is the best in the whole country and she has this award from Dalda to prove it'. Another generation of kids getting ready to become future Dalda consumers!

Of course, then there are so many other brands who want to join the Mother's Day band(brand)wagon. Nido, a powdered milk brand of Nestlé, has come up with a new advertising campaign to pay homage to mothers. This campaign, unlike Dalda, is mostly limited to out door hoardings and print ads (there might be a TV ad also which I haven't seen as yet) with the message - ' Thank you mom, for helping me get up!'. Nido associates strongly with mothers and its positioning also revolves around the mother-child relationship. It has its own brand based show, Nido Ye Taare Hamaray- The Nido Young Stars Show which celebrates Nido's heritage of nurturing and good parenting (

No brand, though, has such a big ownership of motherhood and, now, of Mother's Day as Dalda Cooking Oil has. You might ask that there are many other brands which feature mother-child relationships in their ads; Surf Excel, Dettol soap, Safeguard, Lifebuoy, and Nestlé Milkpak but they don't celebrate Mother's Day in a big way. Primarily, these brands do not position themselves on the motherhood platform. Surf Excel has a simple message of 'Dirt is clean' which is rooted in the philosophy of modern parenting/child upbringing. Safeguard, Dettol and Lifebuoy are anti-bacterial soaps, primarily, which use the concept of family health and protection from germs in their positioning (generally speaking). Similarly, Nestlé Milkpak speaks about 'Mazboot Gharana' (strong household) which includes both parents. Their focus is not on the mother alone and therefore, Mother's Day is not a priority.

It is brands and television channels (especially morning shows) which have created greater awareness among the consumers (read: YOU) about Mother's Day. It doesn't matter whether you are users or non-users of that particular brand, you join the cycle of purchases which leads you towards buying a host of other brands. Greeting cards, flowers, cakes and candies are all part of the celebrations which make up this day. We are compelled to celebrate this day lest our moms feel left out. All the mothers of the world are being made to feel special so why should our mom not be?

So, is Mother's day commercialized, much to Ms. Jarvis's disgust? Yes, it is. But then, so is everything else in our lives. We have fallen into the brand trap; hook, line and sinker, whether we like it or not. Thus, you might find yourself ordering a special Mother's Day cake from Pie in the Sky, flowers from your nearby flower vendor (which may include fancy imported flowers), Hallmark greeting cards, special chocolate goodie baskets from LAL's or Butler's Chocolate, a brunch at your exclusive club (or maybe dinner at some fancy restaurant) and maybe even book a very exclusive treat for mom, a manicure/pedicure session at a good parlour (I think Bina Khan Salon had a special offer on Mother's Day last year). Happy (branded) Mother's Day!

But whether you cook your food in Dalda cooking oil, wash your hands with Safeguard or clean your dirty clothes with Surf Excel; you need to tell your mom she's special, and don't limit yourself to one day of the year only, no matter what the brands say.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Post 15/15/15

Now that the 15/15/15 project is over, I am sort of missing it. It may sound kind of crazy but I put in a lot of thought while selecting my 15 books. Well, actually, most of the thought went into choosing books which were 230 pages (max) or less. I even managed to read a book by Zola and Dostoyevsky. I discovered some new authors and re-discovered some old ones.

To actually select a favorite would be difficult. I fell in love with 'Gabriel's Gift' (Hanif Kureishi), adored 'Going Solo' (Roald Dahl), was deeply moved by 'On Chesil Beach' (Ian McEwan) and was greatly amused by 'Carry on, Jeeves' (P.G. Wodehouse). My least favorite's would probably be 'Another Gulmohar Tree' ( Aamer Hussein) and 'To Have and Have Not' (Ernest Hemingway).

Hubby dear was a great support throughout this project and I if it wasn't for his constant reminders, I might not have finished the books each day! My sis-in-law and mother kept a track of my progress; encouraging me to finish the project. There were friends (Saleha especially) who made me believe in myself when I got a little tired of all that reading. And of course, the community of readers who were involved in this project; thanks guys!

There is one thing I learned from this project - if one sets out to accomplish a goal (no matter how crazy it might be) one can achieve it provided one believes in it. I believed and I did it!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Book # 15 - The Village of Stepanchikovo

Although it was a crazy attempt, I was determined to end the 15/15/15 project with a book of the great (and one of my most favourite author) Fyodor Dostoyevsky. And thus my last book was 'The Village of Stepanchikovo'.

What made this book an easy read (as compared to other works of Dostoyevsky) and enjoyable was its comic nature. That he actually wrote a novel which almost borders on being humorous does sound astounding. And he's done a brilliant job! The plot, the characters and the suspense makes the book so much fun to read that I was glad I took it on.

It is the history behind this book which is even more fascinating than the book itself. Dostoyevsky started writing this book while he was serving his term of exile as a common soldier in a remote garrison town in Western Siberia. This book was written in a spirit of fun and its main aim was to amuse and entertain. Dostoyevsky was going through a very tough time in his personal life while writing this and this book might just be his need for escapism. And what an amazingly funny comedy he escapes into! A must read for all Dostoyevsky fans!

Photograph: Google Images