Well intentioned, but misinterpreted - Why Zomato faced flak for its ad campaigns

The delivery and logistics business are witnessing a surge as they recalibrate to operate in the new normal. While the nation battled the first wave of COVID-19 last year, delivery brands became the key aspect during this pandemic.

While many brands were promoting the new normal through different campaigns, Zomato launched two new advertising campaigns featuring Bollywood actors Hrithik Roshan and Katrina Kaif to show how much they care about their delivery "partners".  The campaign was titled ‘Har Customer Hai Star’. The message behind the advertisement was to thank the delivery personnel who are working for the brand by keeping it as their first priority. The campaign highlighted how the Zomato delivery guy wanted to click a selfie with these celebrities but was more loyal to its work rather than his own wishes.

This aggressive marketing strategy by Zomato took a different angle on Social Media when people went berserk on Twitter. Twitteraits suggest that instead of paying Hrithik Roshan such a huge amount, they should pay the Delivery executives a better payment which will be a greater thanksgiving gratitude for all the employees.

After receiving outrage on social media, Zomato issued a public statement on its Hrithik Roshan and Katrina Kaif advertisements. It argues that the advertising was "well-intentioned," but that "some people unfortunately misinterpreted it."

According to Zomato, the advertisements were created with the goal of highlighting delivery partners as heroes and emphasising the need of speaking properly to them . The advertisements were also designed to raise the degree of respect connected with a delivery partner's profession and to emphasise that every client is a star for them, just like prominent stars.

Speaking on the statement and clearance given by Zomato, Shrenik Gandhi, Co-founder and CEO, White Rivers Media, said "Zomato has been doing some incredible work and by issuing a mature statement, they've addressed the backlash, justly.”

“This is a quintessential PR learning for other brands on how to deal with such issues. There is no doubt that the TVCs were made in absolute good faith. Being genuine with consumers should be an uncompromised factor at all times”, he added further.

Rajni Daswani, Director - Brand Experience, SoCheers, noted, “Having been following Zomato’s social media strategy for a very long time, I feel they missed judging the one thing they do best - ‘social listening’ - before releasing this set of TVCs with Katrina & Hrithik. While their intent, like in their letter, was to establish the respectfulness around the job of a delivery person, it’s got lost in the chatter that has been surrounding the pay scales & working conditions conversation. If the chatter around the brand is not favourable, then it makes more sense to shelf the pre-planned ads than to invest more money on TV spots and fuel the negative chatter.”

According to Manesh Swamy, Senior VP - Creative, Social, PR, Marcom, Logicserve Digital, the brand’s intent looks honest. They are celebrating their partners, keeping their customers on a podium. I liked the way how the big celebs are weaved into the story but the spotlight is still on the delivery partners. Some people are reading too much between the lines which I feel is not required.

Last year a similar case had happened with the brand ‘Zomatrolled’ because of a Twitter incident. The brand’s response to a tweet by actress Swara Bhaskar was what led to the entire fiasco and #boycottzomato started trending as actor Swara Bhaskar asked Zomato to stop advertising on TV news channels like the Republic Bharat. 

Another incident took place in March 2020, when the most eligible candidate of Zomato delivery app Sonu aka the the Smiling Zomato guy went viral after one of the TikTok users shot his video. The Zomato’s happy rider spoke about having a 12-hour shift and getting paid 350 a day while describing how happy he is with his job at Zomato India.

This incident not only  encouraged the famous food delivery app but also made the favorite guy of the brand. Zomato India changed its Dp into his face as they also called themselves as the ‘happy rider fan club account’.

While Zomato has recently received a lot of flak for it's recent campaigns lately for its campaigns with Bollywood Actors  Hrithik  Roshan and Katrina Kaif and Bengaluru-based comedian-writer, Host, and RJ, Danish Sait, the food delivery app was seen delivering Birthday Cake to The Great Khali and wrote, "got a chance to deliver a very special birthday cake today"

This just seemed like a marketing post by Zomato, as Khali posted a reel on his birthday with Red Balloons and mentioned in his caption, “Balloons ke bina kaisa birthday? Aaj socha balloon ke saath wrestle karke dekhu. Must say, unique cheeze try karne me kafi maza hai! Watch this space for what I'll try next. Coming soon on Aug 31".

It's suspected that the wrestler might have partnered with the food delivery app for its next campaign.

As we see a lot of negative trolls by the citizens on social media, Zomato is still not backing off with its marketing strategy for its users. With these developments, the food delivery app launched its first IPO on Wednesday, July 14, which attracted a significant demand from young investors in India

According to the media reports, on the first day of the launch, the food delivery app witnessed 25 and 60 percent of investment under 30. The average ticket size of IPO applications for Zomato on the first day of its launch was also 20 per cent higher than that of other IPOs on Paytm Money, the company said.


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