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  • Writer's pictureShweta Singh

How Top 5 Brands of India Advertise: 20 Years of Successful Advertising Simplified

Advertising is the muscle that helps any brand/company to move. Especially moving with intent. Each advertisement, whether it's print, TVC or a good ol’ internet meme lies the need to tell and sell.

Tell a story and sell the product.

India’s top 5 companies namely Bajaj, Cadbury, Coca Cola, Zomato and CRED in their own creative and brand-specific ways follow this framework. While it may sound simple, this rather straightforward agenda has over the years become a lot more complex in its content and a lot simpler in its medium of communication.

Elements such as branding, cultural research, digital presence have become quintessential for a successful advertising campaign. So how has advertising changed? Instead of a theoretical approach, in this blog, we will look at specific case studies of the above-mentioned brands and trace their advertising trajectory since their foundational years.

Bajaj Auto

Founded in the year 1945, Bajaj Auto is one of India’s oldest and most renowned companies. Be it the Pulsar or the Chetak, Bajaj has held a household presence in most Indian families. Furthering its domestic identity, Bajaj’s advertising campaign mainly revolved around the sentiments of nationality and patriotism.

Hamara Bajaj (1989)

With a series of ads, Bajaj served up gentle reminders to audiences to take pride in indigenous Indian products.

Chetak (1990s)

With the launch of a new product, this time targeted more towards the domestic sphere (specifically Indian men who made up their main TG) the advertisements focused more on establishing Chetak as a symbol of the true Indian man — honest, righteous, and charming.

Bajaj V Invincible Indians (2016)

Extending its tone of nationalism and patriotic fervour, Bajaj introduced its new model V, which is made with metal from INS Vikrant, India’s famed aircraft carrier. As a part of the campaign, Leo Burnett made a series featuring stories of ordinary Indians with extraordinary lives — The Invincible Indians. Ten digital films (released on Bajaj V’s Youtube channel) were made for this campaign: Happy Uncle, The Bridgeman, Medicine Baba, The Iceman, Didi, Ambulance Dada, Aagun Pakhi, Guru, Pothole Dada and Postcards of Pride.

The World’s Favourite Indian (2019)

A lot can change within two decades. Technology. Culture. Belief systems. Bajaj felt that the ‘Indian’ appeal to its product needed a transition; this time to widen its definition. With the new tagline: ‘The World’s Favourite Indian’, the company wanted to achieve a dramatic transition from being a domestic scooter maker to a global motorcycle company. Their advertisement seeks to portray just that:

Regional Festivals

Festivals provide the most profitable spots for the brand to advertise its products. As Bajaj’s ethos is stemmed from the ‘Indianness’, festivals such as Holi and Dussehra are great opportunities for them to extend their presence. Bajaj’s festival TVC campaigns rely on visual storytelling and elements like music play an important role in elevating the festive spirit.




Growing up as an Indian, Cadbury is one of the brands that end up becoming a part of your identity. Founded in the year 1948, Cadbury began operating in India by developing cocoa-growing centres. Much like Bajaj, at the heart of every Cadbury advertisement is a story that evokes feelings of love and nostalgia rather than selling the product. As we look at the timeline of its various advertisements, one must note that Cadbury as a company has many brands under it namely: Five stars, Bourneville, Oreo, Tang and so on. To make our observations concise, we will look at some of their most popular and successful campaigns over the years.

Did you know: The first chocolates that Cadbury introduced were the `Five Star and Gems' chocolates, launched in the year 1967 and 1968 respectively.

Kuch Khaas Hai

One of the oldest and perhaps widely recognisable advertisements of Cadbury was its 90s, ‘Kuch Khaas Hai’ TVCs — a part of the ongoing cricket series. The ad’s premise showed a girl watching her boyfriend play a cricket match in anticipation. As he scores the winning run, she ecstatically runs towards him and dances to the song ‘Kya swaad hai zindagi mein’.

About 28 years later, it is the year 2021 where advertising giant Ogilvy puts a new spin on the same ad, only this time with genders reversed. It is the boyfriend who waits supporting at the cricket stand while his girlfriend hits the winning run and then breakouts into a similar celebratory dance. This beautiful advertisement works because it tastefully reimagines a classic advertisement; it retains its core ingredients of music and general plotline but offers a new narrative, something culturally and socially relevant to the times.

“I’ve always believed that the true power of advertising lies in being able to have conversations with society. The girl did it then and the boy is doing it now.” - Rahul Mathew, Chief Creative Officer, DDB Mudra Group.

The Era of Amitabh Bachchan

Controversies are a part and parcel of running a worldwide successful business. Combating and resolving the crisis becomes crucial and of topmost priority. When advertisements are not the reason behind the said controversy, they become the vehicle to resolving it. Cadbury is no stranger to such controversies. In the year 2004, Cadbury found itself in the middle of mounting accusations of worm infestation in its chocolates.

What was the company to do?

Back when the internet wasn’t in the picture to post quick official PR statements, brands had to take a far more long-winded and expensive route: celebrity endorsements. Amitabh Bachchan was chosen as the brand ambassador for Cadbury post controversy to regain the trust of its customers in a series of advertisements that directly address the problem and hoped to diffuse the stakeholder apprehension.

The advertisement worked. Mr. Bachchan’s ability to evoke trust along with a full-proof redeveloped product packaging helped assuage the brand image and sales. He then went on to promote the brand for two years and popularised the iconic tagline: ‘Kuch Meetha Ho Jaye.’

Ramesh-Suresh and 5-Star

Humour lies at the heart of good (or even arguably great) advertising. To be able to sell, your audience should forget that you are in fact, selling something in the first place. Cadbury takes up this approach for most of its advertisements but does it particularly well when they infuse humour along with witty tag lines.

For the product 5-star, Cadbury had some memorable TVCs featuring the now-iconic duo - Ramesh and Suresh. With the tagline: ‘Jo Khaaye, Kho Jaaye’ they released some of the most hilarious TVCs in India — each around the premise of how both Ramesh and Suresh after taking a bite of the 5-star go into an amnesiac state and find themselves land into hilarious situational quandaries.

One of Cadbury’s longer-running campaigns with the consistent duo, the advertisement first launch in 2006 and had its last release in 2018.

Jo Khaaye Kho Jaaye - Extended Universe

Keeping the tagline of - ‘Jo Khaaye, Kho Jaaye’ the same while trying to connect with their new-age customers, the advertising campaign now features a teenager whose similar tendency of forgetfulness lands him in surprisingly good situations.

Regional Festivals

Similar to the marketing approach as Bajaj, even Cadbury releases exclusive advertising spots on certain Indian festivals, only in Cadbury’s case it has a specific product, Cadbury Celebrations which in its name itself propagates the purpose of celebration.

Serving as the non-traditional gifting option of premium chocolates instead of mithai and dry fruits during the Indian festival season, the products become synonymous with the joy of Indian festivals. Cadbury celebrations have TVCs focused on three Indian festivals mainly Raksha Bandhan, Diwali and Eid.


It was the year 1993 when Coca-Cola began operating in India. With an already reputable worldwide name, this cola company adopts the most creative and memorable advertising strategies.

Majorly, Coca-Cola initially relied on familiar celebrity endorsements to establish its footing in the new Indian market.

The very first 1993 Coca-Cola TVC featured youth celebrities and icons such as Hrithik Roshan and Aishwarya Rai as they tried to sell the new product into the market to its TG which were the youth.

Thanda Matlab Coca Cola

One of Coca-Cola’s most iconic and long-standing advertisements is the ‘Thanda Matlab Coca-Cola’ ads released in the early 2000s featuring Aamir Khan. Claimed to be the brainchild of advertising genius Prasoon Joshi, the catchy tagline aimed to build a synonymous recognition in the Indian minds that anything cool equals Coca Cola.

Shripad Nadkarni, vice-president, marketing, Coca Cola India, “What sets Prasoon apart in the make-believe world of advertising, is his ability to connect to the masses through his understanding of the Indian psyche - he thinks Indian.”

With peak Indianness at the crux, these advertisements captured the cultural diversity of our country as Aamir Khan played different characters belonging to different states.

The Pesticide Controversy

Coca Cola, similar to Cadbury, resorted to celebrity, Aamir Khan as being the face of reassurance and trust when faced with the rumours that it had pesticides mixed in it. Extending the series of playing different Indian characters, this time he played the role of a Bengali Babu who with a desi spin to the ad, tried to assuage the safety concerns of the product. What’s so eccentric about Coca-Cola ads is their desi quirkiness which can be credited back to Mr. Prasoon.

“I don't think brands should be built on the aspirational value of products. What cannot be believed is not what works. Today, India has the confidence to take on the world. Reality sells," says Joshi.

Open Happiness

Cricket is that one game that unites billions of Indians. It’s a great platform that has the potential to be truly memorable when creating advertisements given its collective and universal appeal. Coca Cola in the year 2009 leverages this passion of cricket amongst the Indian youth by featuring cricketer Gautam Gambhir with the tagline, “Open Happiness.”

Taste the Feeling

Emphasizing storytelling and celebrating everyday moments, Coca-Cola’s 2016 campaign featuring Siddhart Malhotra seeks to remind the consumers of the happy and joyous moments that a chilled bottle of Coca-Cola brings to their life.

At its core, Coca-Cola’s marketing communication centres around the simple albeit magical moments shared between people.

“The ‘Share a Coke’ campaign first launched in Australia in 2011, and involved changing the traditional wrapping around the Coca-Cola bottle to say ‘Share a Coke with…’ and a popular name. The purpose of the campaign was to create a more personal relationship with consumers and inspire shared moments of happiness.” – Coca Cola Australia

It was in 2018 when ‘Share A Coke’ campaign launched in India to expand this meaning of relationships through its new branding of the product — coca-cola bottles/cans with specific names and relationships on the labelling. The brand becomes the enabler of that reminder between people and their relationships. As part of this campaign, they surveyed its target audience of 18–29-year-olds to identify what the campaign should be about. Participants were also asked to list their top 20 relationships and the most popular ones made their way to the labels on bottles and cans.

The TVCs also focused on similar emotions of shared love while sharing a Coca-Cola.


With more recent brands such as Zomato, which rely a lot more on digital traction than cable, the advertising is tailored accordingly. Zomato focuses a lot more on its digital marketing rather than the traditional medium. Further, they divide their advertising attention a lot more on creating digital content with different unique topics around food – memes, digital film series, short-format ads as any traditional company would do.

An important asset when it comes to digital advertising is social media marketing. As most of our social media platforms remain full of memes, Zomato has wielded the meme marketing strategy successfully to its benefit. There’s no doubt that Zomato has earned a boastful title of being the coolest meme dealer. Zomato prides its meme game so much that even the brand’s bio states, “cool brand posting lit memes to stay relevant.”

Here are the different ways and forms in which Zomato promotes its business:

Chef George Colambaris Series

George Calombari the Australian chef and more popularly recognised as a judge on Masterchef launched The GC Collection – a list of his favourite restaurant recommendations handpicked for Zomato (previously Urbanspoon). On Zomato’s YouTube channel they released a series of 1-2 minute long videos of chef Colambaris experimenting with different Indian dishes.

The Cricket Season

There are a lot of simple pleasures in life and the combination of having a good meal while watching a good match beats all odds. Zomato recognises the opportunity to create spots during the cricket series and created TVCs and digital ads featuring cricketers such as Virat Kohli.

Zomato Originals

When it comes to content creation, Zomato taps into various channels of communication more so the visual mediums like YouTube where they reach their TG extensively. There are two digital series in particular that sheds light on how and what content production has evolved into:

Starry Meals

Social media celebrity Janice Sequeira visits different star kitchens as they share their personal favourites or family recipes along with a peek into their lives. The series featured celebrities such as Armaan Malik, Ananya Pandey and so on.

Now Eat This

Considering the synonymous relation between social media and Zomato’s marketing strategy, collaborations with social media influencers to create digital content was predictable and important. Featuring influencers such as Saakshi Shivdasani and Shivesh Bhatia, introduced the ‘Now Eat This’ series on their YouTube channel.

There’s nothing worse than non-skippable ads.

Interestingly, a brand that was loved by the Gen-Z for its meme game came under heavy scrutiny for promoting its 15-second non-skippable ads before every YouTube video. Now on the receiving end of becoming the meme, during the pandemic, Zomato started a new campaign called #ZomatoLoot with a contest for new Zomato ad entries to win over 25 lacs and be used as a TVC by the company.

The Winning Ad

Gram Game

Zomato is active on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. As of October 2021, it has 552k followers on Instagram & 1.5 Million followers on Twitter. Zomato engages with the audience by posting about trendy and relevant topics. The creators of their social media pages understand the new-age consumer behaviour. Hence, the formula to a viral post becomes simple = create content that would make users like, comment and share it with their friends.

Hence, what we can learn from Zomato is that as the user preferences change so does the way advertising works. While in the short sight memes do not directly equate to sales, the online relevancy and brand presence stays far far longer and reaches a much wider audience in the fastest, widest and cheapest way possible.


The perfect company to represent the modern face of advertising is without a doubt, CRED. From optimising digital channels of communication to creating viral ads, CRED has been consistently hitting the bullseye. The company came about in 2018, providing a reward-based credit card app with Generation Y as the target audience.

The Explainer ft. Jim Sarbh

The earliest ad of Cred goes back to the explainer video featuring Jim Sarbh where he simply explains what CRED is and how it works. This breaks the pattern of making advertisements that don’t have a storytelling approach but are rather candid and straight to the point.

Not Everyone Gets It

Staying true to its, get creative – break the pattern approach, the cricket season was the time to launch the ‘Not Everyone Gets It’ campaign. A playful jab at its exclusivity (it is only a certain socio-economic section that can enjoy the rewards it features three ad films with celebrities such as Madhuri Dixit, Bappi Lehri and Govinda to humorously set the brand apart.

Further, cricket and IPL season as we have discovered is a unique opportunity for brands to make a mark for themselves.

The Great for Good

Here comes another IPL season, and another virally successful CRED ad campaign. The creators picked a new campaign that mingled with a similar template of using celebrities in unique ways. With the copy, “A credit card bill payment platform…that turns all your credit card bills into exclusive rewards,” the objective lies in spreading brand awareness by starring beloved personalities and humorous scripts. Their ad campaigns work beyond television and video format with the marketing presence extended to CRED’s and its CEO’s Twitter and Facebook.

YouTube Content

To make digital content around different topics that do not overtly promote the app, CRED released different series on their YouTube channel namely: My Two Cents, On The Money and The Long Game with content that centres around finance but not in the book-ish technical way. Instead, they take the traditional approach of featuring celebrities but presenting them in a new, never-seen-before light. Kapil Dev talks about his favourite match moments, rapper Prabh Deep elaborates about how he budgets and Vishnu talks about all things in the finance culture. By dappling with a different format, CRED steps up its advertising game by providing its customers with valued information or a platform as they, “where watching counts as an investment.”

By looking at the top five brands of India and how they successfully advertise, we’ve seen over twenty years of different types of ideas, campaigns and stories are told – each unique, creative and worthwhile in its own way.


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