Iconic Ads: Taj Mahal Tea – Wah Taj!

The commercial and Zakir Hussain helped Taj Mahal tea redefine itself by balancing both its Indianess and refinement

Brooke Bond Taj Mahal Tea was launched in 1966 in Kolkata. India’s first premium tea brand, made from the finest leaves.

In the 70s, Taj Mahal Tea had a strong British influence. It was meant for the elite & mornings would be incomplete without it. Models like Malavika Tiwari appeared cycling & aerobics in advertising because it was elitist. She would exclaim Ah Taj!

Levers realized that the middle class liked this tea too & decided to reposition the brand to connect with a larger number of consumers. It moved from being just a western brand to an Indian brand as well, equally

Research showed that three parameters were very important for a tea buff: colour, smell, & taste. This had to be communicated that the Taj Mahal lived up to these parameters.

The HTA team researched how tea was processed. They realized that there is an individual – a tea taster – who is crucial to the process. He checks the three parameters to match the exact standards set.

HTA had to also create advertisements that appealed to the middle class while maintaining the elite imagery. As the strategic planner, Dhiren Chaddha wanted – refinement to Indianess.

The tabla maestro Zakir Hussain was chosen to convey this. Chax the writer liked Tabla and it worked that Ustad had the right mix of Indianness and western imagery. Zakir also had the persona apart from the talent. He was hardworking, dedicated and was one of the most famous tabalchis. He got paid a full Rs 50000 for it.

This ‘Wah Taj’ was born.

Against the backdrop of the Taj, sipping a cup of tea was Ustad Zakir Hussain, one of the stars of Indian classical music. So, when the voice-over of Harish Bhimani complimented his playing with “Wah Ustad, wah!”, the Ustad replied “Arre huzoor, wah Taj boliye!”

The grouping of “Wah Taj!” with suave Hussain’s curly locks flying about his face, his fingers created magic on the tabla, & that magnetic smile—elicited a great consumer connect

Trivia – People in India did not know how Zakir Hussain looked! They had only heard of him from the radio and newspaper as televisions in households were limited. What the HTA team did not know was Zakir lived in San Francisco. So, they had to fly him in. from San Francisco to Mumbai and then to Agra to shoot the film before the Taj Mahal.

The piece which was played by Zakir on the tabla was created, on the fly by him, on the trip.

Sumantra Ghosal, who produced this, went on to make a documentary on Ustad Zakir Hussain.

And after that commercial, all air hostesses recognized Ustad on all the flights.

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