Iconic Ads: Cherry Blossom – Cherry Chaplin

Charlies unique style of humour has built a charming and ageless persona. The idea was to leverage by association some of that charm to Cherry Blossom

In 1980, the sales of Cherry Blossom, the shoe polish from Reckitt & Colman (now Reckitt Benckiser), were plateauing. With over 80% market share, it was the leader and there was no competition from the organized sector. Growing shares further would have been difficult since competitors were significantly cheaper. And reducing prices were not an option for Cherry Blossom. The only way to grow was by market expansion.

Therefore, two routes to market expansion were considered:

· Convert non-users in the category to using shoe polish. However, studies revealed that everyone who wore leather shoes had a shoe polish at home, most likely Cherry Blossom; the problem was that they didn’t polish their shoes very often.

· Increased shoe polish usage among those who owned a shoe polish. This meant encouraging them to shine their shoes more frequently by reminding them to do so. Shining shoes was necessary but the problem was not everyone was fond of them. And with the informal culture setting in, the social conditioning associated with not polishing one’s shoes was fading.

The second alternative, increasing the frequency of polishing, was deemed more practical.

Moreover the shoe polish – was not given the same importance as the process itself. 

The communication challenge clearly was: How to get people who hated to polish their shoes to do so more often

Over the years various routes had been tried, but unsuccessfully. 

The brief came from the then marketing director, Mr Shyamal Ghosh, who had just joined Reckitts.

After studying the problem and research reports, Shyamal briefed Lintas. His interesting brief was: “When Mr Cherry walks into a party, no one wants to shake hands with him, no one greets him. I want people to smile at Mr Cherry, circle around him and enjoy his company. Can you give me advertising that will achieve this transformation?”

The creative team of Pranob Ghose, Anand Bharadwaj and Rema Ezra along with Pranesh Mishra of Lintas Calcutta worked on the creatives. And they cracked it around midnight prior to the presentation! 

A few weeks later, the team presented Shyamal with four scripts. With a whistling soundtrack, the first concept was set on a bright new morning. The second story revolved around a four-year-old kid polishing her father’s shoes. The third was based on a jingle recorded by Anjum Katyal, a well-known vocalist in Calcutta. The fourth was based on the Charlie Chaplin theme, in which he was depicted polishing shoes and having a good time.

The answer lay with Charlie Chaplin or to be more specific Cherry Chaplin

Hollywood stars did not have many fans in India (not many cinemas showed English films & lesser on television). But Chaplin was different. He had fans because his films were shown on Doordarshan. Also, Indian directors, especially Raj Kapoor, took inspiration from him.

Charlie’s unique style of humour has built a charming and ageless persona. The idea was to leverage by association some of that charm to Cherry Blossom.

The idea was presented and Shyamal loved it. His response was: “When can we shoot And, how can we make it really authentic Charlie?” (A couple of other ideas were presented but obviously did not pass).

The commercials, featuring a Chaplin doppelgänger – Cherry Chaplin (played by Rajesh Puri aka Lallu of Hum Log fame), were shot like Chaplin’s films – mainly in black and white, jerky camera, speedy action effects, upbeat music, narration boards etc. &, lookalikes of some characters from his films – a bearded-bullying fat person – Heavy, a lady love, & the cute kid who Chaplin (the kind tramp) mentored.

The commercials, executed by Sumantra Ghosal, ended with “The Perfect Gentleman always carries a Cherry smile” & showed a shoe polish tin in colour.

The easy-to-grasp stories were entertaining, crossing cultural & linguistic barriers. The shoe polish was not made special. It was about Cherry & how Cherry Blossom fit into a part of his life.

It was a brave effort & without any spoken words, which still is a rarity, given a certain eternal quality

Alyque Padamsee, who guided this campaign (and picked up the bowler hat for Charlie/ Cherry on a visit to London), said “humour has no language”.

The achievement of international recognition was not without controversy. The commercial was noticed by the Charlie Chaplin Museum Foundation in the United States of America, which owns the rights to the iconic artist’s works. They questioned whether Reckitts had any copyright for the commercials after they became renowned and won awards at Cannes.

“We said, ‘We don’t require any copyrights,'” Shyamal explained. We aren’t stealing any of Chaplin’s assets or properties, and we haven’t exploited any of his photographs. We didn’t use any footage from his film.’ The team went on to say that they made the commercial because they respected the comic and thought mimicking was the greatest method to convey their admiration for him. “We devised our own plot.” In the campaign, we also developed a doppelganger dubbed ‘Heavy,’ who appears in several of Chaplin’s films. They wrote to us, and we responded with a letter. “The issue was resolved,” Ghose stated.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.