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Will this candy brand get the right Pulse with its first ad?
Pulse hit Rs100 crore sales in eight months with no advertising. So why is it going in for a TV campaign now?
ETBrandEquity, 12 April, 2017

In a category like confectionery, to go mass-media would be the first trick of the trade for a brand to get noticed. Thus to become a Rs100 crore brand within 8 months of launch and then triple that size, in absence of any mass-media spends does make Pulse candy, a part of the Noida-based DS Group, a formidable player.

A few days ago, the candy brand finally launched its first ever integrated campaign conceptualised by JWT Delhi. Why so late to the party, one may ask. The campaign timing is as per the plan, says Shashank Surana, VP, new product development, DS Group. "We believe the TVC should be on air only after the product-placement is at least 60% of the retail shelves. The consumer is not going to be very patient if the product is not available and the brand-promotion is out, he says. In Pulse's case, the brand has already crossed the 60% distribution threshold. The candy-brand started its journey with the Kachcha Aam flavour in 2015 and has added guava, mango and most recently pineapple along the way.

Breaking away from the category code of candies being pitched as a kid-phenomenon, Pulse has identified its sweet-spot with the young consumer, as underlined in the film as well. The campaign with the tag-line ‘Pran Jaaye, Par Pulse Na Jaaye' riffs on the lengths to which people will go to hide and to find Pulse, in an over-the-top and funny way. The creative team was looking for an idea with

some unique Pulse-like quality, and surprisingly (or maybe not), their answer came from a consumer observation. Shares Siddharth Prasad, VP & ECD, JWT Delhi, "It was seen that while there was a lot of the candy around in the office, for some reason it doesn't last long on the table. And that's not just because people keep asking for it, it's also since they are hiding it to eat later." Adds Prasad, "We had to create a tone-of-voice and identity for a brand that's already so hugely popular."

Overall, marketing budget of around Rs 8 crores has been allocated for the campaign across television, print, radio, outdoor and digital. With this, we hope to take the brand's popularity to the next level and further strengthen the consumer connect, says Surana. Pravin Kulkarni, ex-general manager – marketing, Parle Products and now an entrepreneur, attributes Pulse's success to a bunch of reasons. These include: a catchy name that cuts across both rural and urban markets, attractive packaging and most importantly the group's strong distribution network – a given in the category to gain volumes.

The big challenge for the brand, which earlier came from a host of imitations could now be from organised players. Most recently, ITC has quietly launched its own variant Candyman Tadka. Currently under a test-market phase, with limited footprint it would be a matter of time before ITC's existing retail clout and the marketing muscle takes over.

At a brand level, reckless expansion might just make the success-graph shaky. Assuming what worked well for Kachcha Aam will deliver just as well for other variants may be a foolhardy bet. As per Manish Bhatt, co-founder of Scarecrow, the agency that has also worked on the brand previously, "What worked for Pulse when it launched was the mix of product + flavour + format." However each new flavour will have to do its own hard work, he adds, and it would be interesting to see how they sustain.

For the longest time, the candy segment has grappled with a loyalty deficit both among consumers and trade. The task, in Kulkarni's view, would be to remain top-of-mind in a category where the entry-level cost is very low and the loyalties are not very high.

While researching on the story, I walked up to the neighbourhood paan-wala in my city and asked for the Pulse candy variants. The guy insisted on pressing me with Candyman Tadka pineapple flavour. On insisting I be given Pulse, he explained to me, "It is the same taste." Almost making it a category-truth. That would also be the biggest challenge for Pulse: as more players enter the market, to ensure the retailer pushes its brand over any similar-tasting products. No sweet answers there.