Unity in diversity- a matter of pride which possibly every Indian loves to flaunt. So what builds this unity amongst so many people divided by regions, languages, traditions and customs as one- that’s a difficult one? But what if I ask; if all of them had to be bonded by an adhesive, what would you use? The answer to that question in almost 99% of the occasions will be just one- Fevicol. As long as good quality wood and wooden furniture is the choice if Indians, Fevicol will be a brand which will rule the ranks.
Fevicol as a brand owned by Pidilite Industries and started off in 1959. Though wood as a choice of material for furniture has been in India for centuries (thanks to the rain forests in India and Myanmar), the traditional adhesive of choice was ‘saresh’. This is a natural polymer of animal origin and was usually heated to form a jelly which solidifies on cooling. Considering the numbers of Indian livestock, it was cheap and available abundantly across the country.
Fevicol as a product had the advantage of a ready to use, air drying synthetic adhesive with no contents of animal origin; something which would appeal inherently to Indians. But there was a major challenge to enter a market which was driven on a very strong by traditional practices, carpenters as a community than a profession and a consumer driven by personal relations rather than quality and workmanship. A consumer was concerned with the wood used and the final look of the final product but the quality of metal accessories, adhesives and polish used was not even a consideration- a typical low involvement category product.
Fevicol has emerged as the best example in India of a product which has overcome this challenge of moving into the considerations set from the oblivion and standing its ground where consumers and carpenters both use it as a mark of quality and trustworthy workmanship.
The key feature that people look for in an adhesive is its strength. The most common personification of strength in India was an elephant. This along with an inspired approach from the 17th century Magdeburg hemispheres experiment become the foundation of the brand association. Two elephants trying to pull apart the hemispheres became the prime part of the logo for Fevicol. A white adhesive in a HDPE jar with a blue top and the elephants on the side as a symbol of its strength became the identity of modern adhesive for Indians.
The difficult part of changing the traditional habits has been achieved over years of continuous efforts towards building affinity and preference of the white synthetic adhesive as well as the brand. This is actually a very tricky scenario; an ill-informed consumer will never pay a premium over a local product alternative and there will always be reluctance from the carpenters to work with a new product which works and performs different to what they have previously used.
This has been achieved by a steady stream of mainline advertising targeted towards the end consumer highlighting the long lasting strength of the adhesive. The initial ads have also used the elephant and the analogy to the Magdeburg experiment to showcase strength. This actually has built a super recall for the brand each time anyone says, ‘…zor lagake…’(push/pull with all your strength) On the parallel, Fevicol has run programmes for the carpenters to build the equity and faith amongst the users and help them endorse the brand as a mark of their own quality of work. Over the years, Fevicol has built both; end consumer demand and user preference for its products.
The position of Fevicol over the years has been so dominant, it has replaced any other form of glue in every possible place with sub-brands. Fevicol has two variants: Fevicol MR for domestic use and Fevicol SH for professional applications. There are also fast setting and a water resistant marine adhesive also available. It is therefore not surprising to see a tube of Fevicol present in a stationery shop to a hardware shop. It can be seen on the desk of a kid in an art class, office desk as often as in the hand of a carpenter in his workshop.
The success of Fevicol has been in a smart use of media channels and marketing efforts directed for a long a persistent fashion to build this success over the years. In fact the prefix ‘Fevi’ has become the ground for a host of other products launched by Pidilite over the years. There is a Fevistick as a domestic glue stick, Fevi-bond as a rubber adhesive and Fevikwick instant adhesive. Fevicryl is a brand for poster and fabric colours. Hobby Ideas is a retail presence it has today not just for selling art and craft material but also have art workshops to attract the next generation to the brand.
Today, the brand is so well recognised, that a ‘majboot jod’ (strong bond) and Fevicol has become synonymous. It has also found its way into Bollywood songs. In the last 25 odd years, Fevicol ads have been a benchmark of creativity in the Indian ad industry. The brand association is so strong that the campaigns run as the full ad for a fortnight in high frequency and once the ad registers, it becomes a 10 sec snippet. So how strong is the ad recall… Prime Minister Modi described Indo-Japan relations as a bond stronger than Fevicol. (Ye Fevicol se bhi majboot jod hai…) In the words of the man who Piyush Pandey of Ogilvy, the agency that has been creating communication for Fevicol for over 30 years, “This is bigger than a Cannes Grand Prix”.
The true asset of a brand is the equity it builds along the way and later can encash on its assets to develop the market. Taking the category to the next level is also what is left for a leader to champion. Their close association with carpenters made Fevicol realise that India had no furniture catalogues. In 1989, they came out with the first Fevicol Furniture Books; a book of furniture concepts which to date has run 50 editions and sold over 11 million copies. With the rise of the digital world, Fevicol now has a site called ‘Design Ideas’, which is a digital exchange site for architects, designers and contractors to showcase their ideas and also a channel for prospective customers to reach.
Brand studies normally focus on flashy and glamorous products which are eye catching. Fevicol is an example of a brand from a low involvement products basket which has gone to attain an iconic stature of owning a category by its name through its marketing practices, advertising and foresight as a market leader. Not to mention, binding India like never before.