The Man Who Created a Billion Dollar Brand, Marketing & Advertising News, ET BrandEquity

Ramesh Chauhan

“In 1977, when Coke came out of India, Campa Cola and Dukes entered the Cola segment. We were the last to enter. We were struggling with the name Thums Up, which although meaning ‘good’ in the West, in India, had a different connotation – it meant “so‘, which was a pejorative word.

“Credit for coming up with the name Thums Up goes to publicist Ravi Gupta of the advertising agency Trikaya. He was the guy responsible for the brand. With his conviction and drive, we moved forward with the brand name.

“Originally the name was ‘Thumbs Up’ but we found out it wasn’t registerable. Therefore, we had to drop the “b” and move forward with Thums Up as we know it.

“It tasted like a cough mixture”
“Before Thums Up, there was no logo concept. The Thums Up logo has become synonymous with success – with people like Sunil Gavaskar and Kapil Dev doing the thumbs up sign.

“As for the product, it was not inspired anywhere in the world. There was no product in the world like Thums Up, it was formulated and created here in India.

“The first trials of the product weren’t great. People said it tasted like cough mix, but we just persisted and carried on.

Bottle
“We struggled to find enough bottles for production at first because there was a shortage of glass. Glass bottle manufacturers controlled the supply of bottles of all brands.

“Limca, at that time, was more successful and Thums Up used to piggyback on Limca’s cast. There was also so much resistance in the trade to pay the glass bottle deposit. To initially place the product, we were forced to replace the old Coca-Cola bottles they had.

“However, there was an opportunity to fill the void in the cola market. The team was selling Limca and it was the same team that built Thums Up.

Happy days, thundering times
“Our first ad campaign ‘Happy Days are Here Again’ positioned Thums Up as the ‘Refreshing Cola’. I remember the first ad campaign cost us Rs. 2,000,000. At that time we only had not even sold a bottle.

“The campaign lasted four to five years and we made four 30-second commercials and a one-minute commercial for cinema screening. Campa Cola advertised on television at the time with slides. We also used a lot of truck brands.

“During this time, the West Indies cricket team approached us and we continued to sponsor them, with the likes of Viv Richards, Clive Lloyd and Michael Holding associated with the brand.

“After the ‘Happy Days’ campaign came the ‘Friends, Food and Thums Up’ campaign. We realized that Thums Up was not a good idea with food, especially ‘chaat’, as it cleansed the palate and consumers wanted the taste to linger.

“After Ravi Gupta, it was Ashok Kurien who took the brand forward and coined the slogan ‘Taste The Thunder.’Josh‘ in the mark.

“The brand has grown in popularity, especially with the association with cricket and collectibles like glitter books, mini signed cricket bats, bottle openers, etc. We have also done a lot of business with the schools.”

Billion dollar mark
“In 1993, when we sold the brand to Coca-Cola, it was natural that they wanted to promote their own brand. Thus, Thums Up advertising was halted for nearly five years, but the brand’s momentum continued.

“Also, there is no question that I will continue to follow the brand or that Thums Up will always be successful. Thums Up has become a part of Indian culture. It cannot be called my brand or the brand of Coca-Cola is the national brand.

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