In 2007, the result of a survey made the executives at Parle Products jump in joy. “There was a study done on the ‘most recognised logos in India’. On an informal note, they shared with us the top 3 logos in terms of familiarity and awareness in India. First was the hand of Indian National Congress (INC). Second was the ISI (Indian Standards Institution) mark. And the third was the Parle-G baby,” revealed Mayank Shah, senior category head, Parle Products. He chuckled and added, “When you keep receiving information like this, changing the mascot would be the last thing the brand would think of.”
The creation of the Parle-G mascot dates back to the early 1960s. One fine day, the marketing department from Parle-G approached the servicing team at Everest Brand Solutions, an advertising agency. The creative head of the agency then was Maganlal Dahiya. ‘The mascot should position and establish the biscuit among children’, this was the brief given. Under the leadership of Dahiya, there were 2-3 illustrators who worked on the symbol. The illustration of the ‘baby’ that we see on the pack today, is a work of painting. Parle Products, then was headed by Narottam Chauhan.
For Parle Products, kids were an integral part of their communication, especially in the 1960s. “For a larger part of Indian society, when one spoke about biscuits, the first thing that came from the housewives was, ‘We buy biscuits for our children’. The primary reason biscuits are purchased is for kids. Then it leads to consumption across the family,” explained Shah.
Since television was not a big medium then, communication revolved around the press. Before the illustration was designed, photographs of children were used for mass communication of the brand’s key products (biscuits). The question that arose among the executives was, ‘Why don’t we place the illustration of a child on the pack as well?’ “Speaking of the 1960s, a large part of India was not educated. So, creating the illustration of a baby to create a wider connection made sense. And kids as well as parents relate better with children, in general,” highlighted Shah.
According to Shah, when the mascot was launched, the advertising strategy was to communicate to parents as well as kids that Parle Gluco is a good snack to feast upon. Then, the communication spoke about taste and today, it speaks more about how Parle-G is a staple snack. Whenever discussions on the Parle-G mascot took place, there used to be a kind of a reinforcement from outside quarters. Here, the brand was asked to not touch the illustration even if they desired to.
Shah reminisced about an incident that happened either in the 1970s or the 1980s. After the mascot was introduced, the illustration gained quick prominence. In the next 5-10 years, it further gained popularity whereby anyone, who had a glucose biscuit in their hand would put a baby on their back. They would also imitate the colour scheme and pass off their products as Parle Gluco. Back in the 1980s and 1990s, when the brand had a full-fledged legal team, they came across smaller companies who used to duplicate the biscuits and pass it off as Parle-G. “So, a big challenge ahead of the brand was not really genuine competition, but competition coming in from imitation products,” explained Shah.
For almost 30 years, the brand had to deal with the antics of the look-a-like products. The other reason why Parle Products never changed Parle-G’s mascot was also that in most parts of the country, the literacy rate was low. And consumers recognised Parle-G because of the baby. Here also, the mascot was not spared from replication. “If any person imitated the mascot, the consumers would be able to easily make out the difference between the two illustrations and tell which one was the original product. This eased the issue to some extent,” added Shah.
Shah exclaimed that the mascot was one of the most cherished symbols for the phenomenal love it garnered over the years. Over a period, the consumers began appreciating the childlike innocence of the brand which they experienced through the mascot. The biscuit was sold as Parle Gluco until the 1980s. Despite the move, some people started using the word, Gluco. It is here, the brand began thinking of coming up with a name that had a contemporary touch to it and would be appreciated by all. In 1982, Parle Gluco was changed to Parle-G and below it was written ‘Original Gluco Biscuits’. To announce the recent change of name for the brand, Parle Products launched an advertising campaign known as ‘Dadaji’ campaign in the 1980s.
Currently, yoas it runs high on nostalgia. Speaking about the present advertising strategies adopted by the brand, he explained that there were two ways they went by. The latest campaign of Parle-G, ‘Genius Wahi Jo Auron Ki Khushi Me Paaye Apni Khushi,’ highlighted the joy of finding one’s happiness in others’ happiness. So, the brand roped in kids who gave away the message. Secondly, they did not want to actively use the mascot lest it become preachy. Also, they wanted to avoid fiddling around with it.
Shah added, “The innocence and humbleness of the mascot will go away once it gets actively involved in the brand’s communication strategies.” Parle Products had received several suggestions in the past to add a contemporary feel to the mascot. “The kind of nostalgic value that this mascot has, or it generates is something that is unparalleled. And that is the reason why we have not touched it for we intend to keep the way it is,” concluded Shah.