From THE HINDU group of publications
Thursday, November 01, 2001


Glowing with gold

Sankar Radhakrishnan

You can almost feel a sense of warmth in those gold-tinged images scrolling across the screen of Michael Pace's laptop. And `gold-tinged' it certainly is, for these are some shots from the new communications campaign by the World Gold Council (WGC) to reposition gold and give it a more `contemporary' and `warm' feel. Says Pace, the WGC's London-based marketing manager: ``The objective of the campaign is to bring out the intrinsic values of gold - warmth, spirituality and sensuality.'' And it's these emotions that run throughout the campaign.

But was there a need for such a campaign, especially for something as basic as gold? Pose this question to Pace, and he says the impetus for such an international campaign came from the belief that there was a need to shift perceptions about gold, at least in some Western markets. Hiroo Mirchandani, Marketing Director (India), WGC, adds that in a market such as India where gold already has a number of positive associations, the need is to give it a more contemporary and fashionable image, while simultaneously projecting its core values of warmth, spirituality and sensuality. Coupled with this was the need to ensure that this image was the same across the world.

So a little over a year ago, the WGC commissioned Wolff Olins, the London-based strategic brand consultancy, to reposition gold. Pace says that based on its research, Wolff Olins recommended a strategy that involved projecting the `emotions' associated with gold. This strategy called for shifting the Western world's perceptions about gold so that it would no longer be `ordinary' and `basic', but something very special, with a series of values associated with it. Wolff Olins also recommended the creation of the brand `gold' with all the attendant trappings.

The result: A campaign developed by Bartle Bogle Hegarty (BBH), the London-based ad agency, that spread a message of connecting, with the baseline `Glow with gold'. ``The message was that you could enrich your life emotionally, sensually and spiritually by having gold as a part of your life,'' says Pace. The BBH campaign, thus, focused on the aura of gold, using images that were evocative and had a sense of gold in them. ``The communication uses landscapes, people and objects that are identifiable with gold,'' adds Pace.

The campaign was rolled out in the US, UK and Italy in August and focused on print ads in magazines such as `Tatler' and `Vogue'. ``The effort behind these ads was to appeal to a younger audience by positioning gold as something cool,'' says Pace. In India, on the other hand, the campaign will be led by television and supplemented by a print campaign in select magazines. Mirchandani says the reason the WGC opted for television is because of the medium's wide reach.

According to Mirchandani, the Indian segment of the campaign, developed by Ogilvy & Mather Advertising, keeps the core message intact while trying to make gold more contemporary to the Indian audience. And while it will have the same look, feel and tone as the international campaign, it has been executed so that it appeals to Indian consumers, she says.

Shot by White Light, the Indian campaign retains the `warm' feel of the international advertising. But, as Zenobia Pithawalla, Creative Controller, Ogilvy & Mather Advertising, says: ``Somewhere along the way what happened was that in trying to make gold desirable for the Indian market, a sensuousness crept into the advertising which is totally missing in the international work.'' While the TV commercial has been shot in six languages - English, Hindi, Malayalam, Tamil, Kannada and Telugu - the print ads are likely to be mainly in English and Hindi.

Mirchandani says the WGC hopes this campaign will create a more cohesive `feel' for gold. She adds that though there has been a fair amount of advertising for gold over the years, most of this was fragmented in terms of the image being projected. ``We hope that in the coming months other trade partners will adopt the same look, feel and tone so that what the consumer gets to see is a more cohesive and trendy look and feel of gold, while the core values are retained,'' she declares.

So how much is the WGC spending on this exercise? Pace says that the international budget for the entire exercise is $55 million. Declining to reveal details of the Indian budget, Mirchandani admits that the amount being spent on the Indian segment of the campaign is more than what WGC spent earlier on any communication activity in the country.

And, while it's perhaps too early to say if the effort has succeeded to any great extent, there have been some encouraging signs. Says Christina Sami, WGC's market research manager: ``The campaign appears to be making people reappraise gold, while reminding them of the good things about gold.'' She adds that what has struck her about India is the degree of connection between Indians and gold; the strength of the emotional bond a large number of Indians seem to have with gold. And it's emotional bonds such as these that WGC hopes to create with its new campaign. Or as Pace put it: ``We hope to make gold stand out against the competition, the competition being any luxury good people spend money on.'' Whether this will happen is a million dollar question -- a 55-million dollar question to be precise.

Drawing on alchemy

FOR generations of alchemists, the symbolic relationship between gold and the sun has been a part of the quest to `create' gold from materials as diverse as sea water and the base metals. In fact, one of the symbols they used for the sun and gold were the same - a circle. And it's this connection with alchemy the WGC has drawn on while designing the new logo for brand `gold'.

The logo features three concentric circles with `gold' in a special typeface printed below. WGC's Michael Pace says the three rings symbolise the past, the present and the future - the continuity of gold so to speak. ``The outer ring is supposed to represent the external - the way gold affects people when they look at it, while the inner ring represents the internal,'' adds Pace.

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