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Is Shalimar Paints’ inclusivity stance an effective marketing strategy?

Shalimar Paints, one of the oldest paints manufacturers in India, is looking to make inroads into the paints industry once again. The company had suffered huge losses following two fires in its Howrah (in 2014) and Nashik (in 2016) factories, among other reasons.

After maintaining a low key, Shalimar Paints has rolled out its latest campaign, ‘Har Rang Khoobsurat’ (HRK). Instead of taking the conventional route of its competitors who highlight their product and the brand, Shalimar Paints’ campaign is more cause-centric. ‘Har Rang Khoobsurat’ talks about harmony and inclusivity.

Steering away from conventional marketing, Shalimar Paints is taking a bolder approach to change divisive, opinionated and judgemental mindsets. Through this campaign, the paint maker attempts to question deep-seated prejudices that usually ignite from archaic beliefs, and have been a part of India for ages. Shalimar Paints aims to raise awareness about these topical issues and fuel a positive change among masses while promoting a colourful outlook towards life. As part of the campaign, Shalimar Paints will organise a photography contest to share the joy of diverse colours. All the participants will be required to explore deep into the shades of life and bring out the best of them through their camera lens. The one who clicks the best picture expressing the various emotions of life will receive exciting prizes. The campaign will also include other interesting on-ground activities around topical issues like individual diversity, empowering the Trans community, promoting equality across the nation, among others.

Read More: Shalimar Paints launches 360 marketing campaign 'Har Rang Khoobsurat'

Speaking on the core campaign thought, Minal Srivastava, Vice President - Strategy, Growth & Marketing, Shalimar Paints, explained, “It was a process of elimination. Prior to this campaign, we had done a lot of on-ground initiatives, such as ‘The Kahaani Project’, where we painted the walls in a remote village in Dehradun with their unique story; we also painted the largest slum in Delhi. The response received was amazing. The change brought about and the energy that we saw made us realise that this category has so much more potential and scope to do so many things.”

Srivastava goes on to elaborate that it was her first time in the category and that she could see that paint had the power that could bring people together and start conversations. “Thus, when we were thinking of a campaign, we decided that we wouldn’t be talking about the product or roping in a celebrity. Shalimar Paints was an underdog in this category dominated by giants, but I also knew that I won’t be showing any emotional, sappy content around paints. During my brainstorming with Jigar (Fernandes, Founder, Tiqui-Taka), we upon this idea and it got its own wings from there on,” she explained.

Adding here, Jigar Fernandes said, “There wasn’t really a client brief in the traditional sense of the word. It was more about the client and us jamming on what could a legacy Indian brand say that is relevant for today and still stay true to its own character of being a responsible paint company. The creative idea married the product, that is, colours with the larger truth that every colour is beautiful – thereby celebrating diversity in all its forms.”

The key campaign message is born out of the fact that today’s world is very opinionated and quick to judge. “I think social media plays a huge part in the sort of world where we have landed ourselves in. Everyone wants to create a noise about he/she wants, there isn’t much openness any more. As a marketer and as a mother I feel really worried for our children and the world that we are leaving behind for them. Thus, the entire message was about being a just little more open and a little more accepting of the differences – be it religion, one’s mood, gender, preferences or just the way you look,” Srivastava added.

Scheduled to run in a few select cities, the 360-degree marketing campaign will comprise radio, outdoor, and digital. The campaign will run till the festive season. As Srivastava said, “I am a small player, I can manage stretch it for a few months, till around September/ October.”

Speaking on the role of OOH, she said, “We have a strong market in the North Eastern states, where we have put up huge hoardings and are also getting fabulous responses. However, a market like Mumbai is too big for me to attempt something like this. My market primarily exists in small towns like Kochi, Coimbatore, Siliguri and not really Mumbai. Initially, I was sceptical about whether a small town would react to such a conversational advertisement, but the response that we have been getting is pretty amazing.”

Along with OOH, Shalimar Paints is also banking heavily on digital, especially social media, which Srivastava considers to be more crucial than the print media aspect. As she explained, “Print is expensive and you can’t carry it for a long time, but in the digital space you can tweak the communication the way you want and it’s a bit more long lasting. I can’t do print campaigns in all cities, but digitally I can.”

Srivastava is not perturbed by the campaign blitz of the bigger competitor brands as she insists that the campaign is just minuscule part of what the company does. “I have been in the advertising business for 15 years now and I know that campaigns don’t really last. Instead, I want to undertake initiatives that last or at least make an impact in someone’s life,” she affirmed. These include partnering with artists to paint the walls of a hospital in Delhi for blind kids so that when they get their vision after operation, they get to see a colourful world. “That is what ‘Har Rang Khoobsurat’ is for me, and the entire initiative that we are doing is advertising. I don’t consider a campaign as advertising unless you do something with it,” she maintained.

As far as Shalimar Paints’ market share is concerned, Srivastava admitted that it was “pretty small right now”. She further said, “We really went through a bad patch in the last few years, when two of my production facilities burned down. Right now, the first task is to get the business back up. Getting production, logistics and other important aspects back on track has been our main concern. That’s the reason why you hadn’t heard from us as we wanted to take time and get the business back on track before we started talking about us. There’s a long distance to travel, but I am glad we have picked up the right path – the business is stabilising and the distribution is back on track.”

She refrained from speaking about where Shalimar Paints will be in the next 2-3 years. “Honestly speaking, just because I am so small at present, I don’t have that long-term visibility right now. I am literally living quarter to quarter; it isn’t just something that you come up out of the blue,” Srivastava said. However, she has a clear vision of where the business should head in terms of supply, distribution process and also brand and marketing perspective. “Beyond that I think it’s a little premature for us; the world is changing too fast and we only strive to work harder,” she concluded.

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