Bread and butter might never have been the quintessentially Indian breakfast but there still is something about the ‘butterly’ experience in this part of the world that tickles the taste buds in a fashion not restricted to the ambits of food. As you might have made out already from the very iconic reference to something not even possessing a proper grammatical identity, it indeed is the servings of nostalgia that Amul has been dishing out everyday for so many decades now that is at the forefront of this experience so essentially Indian and so utterly butterly delicious!
So ingrained is Amul today at the core of India’s acquired taste for butter that the utterly butterly way of delighting is synonymous with it, even when it is by no means the only decadent product offered by a brand also very remarkably indigenous. But even with a range of scrumptious picks like exquisite chocolates and cookies and milkshakes and cream and other dairy and confectionery that can be elicited out of this giant of a dairy conglomerate, it still is the very instantly recognizable yellow peeks of the Amul butter packs that delivers an emotion of mass sentiment for the people of the country.
While it might be the rich decadence of the regular Amul butter or its evolution through the times to be tasting today of options from herby and spicy to cheesy and chocolatey that has made this mound of essential bread spread a raging favorite in the parlance of Indian food that sees butter do most of its rounds melting across parathas and sizzling in butter chicken curries that it does sprawling on bread for those simple but sumptuous bread and butter sandwiches, the popularity of Amul butter in particular has also been helped by the manner it came to rest in the public psyche. Brands have always been done in or otherwise at least in part by marketing and the smooth stretch of the Amul butter is no exception. In fact so essential has been marketing a tactic that has led to the now established globally Indian fame of the Amul butter that today Amul butter speaks as prominently in its mascot and its jingle as it does in taste, texture and time tested pledging of consumer loyalty.
And why would it not? As a brand so singularly committed to a product that boasts of its own exclusive mascot, and that too one of the finest and the longest enduring in the advertising world, it is no surprise at all that Amul’s big, thick slabs of butter is also one of the most prominent presences in its respective sphere within the food basket. With an endearing little girl at tow, mischievous and endearing and popular and ordinary all at once, raking up interest, fueling aspirations and rattling up the desires of the masses, through matters that are of commonplace occurrence and everyday prevalence as well as through issues that are socially charged and societally relevant, the little Amul girl is a giant of iconic stature even in her childlike charm, of course adorable in all her palpable fondness for the butter feeding the masses but also assertive with a voice of her own, standing up to such stances that defy her ‘littleness’ to emerge as one of profound identity.
In her very image of a sweet, round eyed, chubby cheeked with a rosy tint moppet, blue haired and nose less, clad in a red polka dotted white frock, endearingly holding a slice of Amul buttered toast on one hand, the Amul girl was devised as a mascot to appeal to who the brand thought would be the greatest drivers for their business- the Indian housewives typically catering to every need of the family, meals included, in a promotional tactic that sought also to tackle effectively the then sky high costs of advertising through electronic media. But perhaps this draw (literally as well) of the vibrant young child would never have been conceived had it not been to outclass the high soaring butter fortunes of a rival brand Polson, another Indian dairy giant albeit of times in the past. In fact it was the almost exploitative monopoly enjoyed by the latter in the dairy industry in the country during the pre independence times that led rise to the brand Amul as a milk cooperative in a conscious effort to aid the dairy farmers of India. No wonder that the Amul girl also came into being as a response to Polson’s butter girl, the nation being sold already to the then standard offering of the soured cream butter by what was the generic staple of those times. So accustomed had been the then Indian taste to the salted and processed stale cream butter of Polson that even a revolutionary module of the Amul brand of fresh cream butter met with tremendous failure in a country used by then to the characteristic flavour persisting since the pre World War I times.
Interestingly, Polson’s advertising tactic of its butter can also be interpreted as the model on which the Amul girl came to take shape. As an Indian company developed during the British times, Polson’s butter girl was depicted as a blonde haired girl, sweet and simple and gentle, dressed in blue and white stripes, seating around a table with cans of the brand’s butter, very characteristically buttering a toast. Though innocent and endearing and pleasant all the same, one glance at the little girl and it was evident that there indeed was no character about this existence which essentially was indeed just a drawing. Consider then the playful spark of the Amul lady, engaging and spirited and exuberant, with a hint of mischief in her eyes and a smile that plays out so well her affinity to that particular brand of butter she was made to market, that makes her instantly the one you would likely vibe with, dwelling in an energy that conveys the embedment of a personality much like a real human and who therefore would emerge to be so much of a firebrand for the product of an entity looking to create its own identity in the market.
Going as strong and savvy as ever with a legacy of more than fifty years now, the Amul girl has been making prominent her image on billboards and her views on a wide range of issues of national and international interest ever since she was created in 1967. Entrusted by Amul with their brand portfolio, the owner of the ASP (Advertising, Sales and Promotion) agency Mr. Sylvester Da Cunha and his art director Eustace Fernandes set about to work on the reference of a mischievous little girl as mandated by Dr. Verghese Kurien to ultimately create this image of the endearing mascot that would come to dominate brand figures not just for Amul but for all Indian brands as a whole in the times to follow.
But while the Amul girl managed to capture the imagination of the public all by her own, in her very visible image that peered from ever strategically placed hoardings all across the country, winking enticingly from every convenient corner, it was the USP of the one liners that today any Amul hoarding is incomplete with that came to be devised two years later that did the trick for this pick of butter in all its smoothness. Prior to that, it was the simple but still striking baseline of Thoroughbread, Utterly Butterly Delicious Amul, that was expected to do business for Amul butter. In 1969 though, with the Hare Rama Hare Krishna movement beginning in then Bombay, Amul wittily wove this account of the society into its ad campaign with the clincher ‘Hurry Amul, Hurry Hurry that marked the first in a series of such cleverly worked out wordplays that the brand and the Amul girl would come to be synonymous with in the near and distant future. So persistent has been Amul in its pursuit of residing forever in the social conscientiousness that it has risen to every occasion since then, deftly delivering its punch on incident after incident with an immediacy that only spells the commitment that the brand as a whole lives through. The integrated, dedicated approach that the DaCunhas and co have worked upon over the years, of course by exercising the full creative freedom granted to them since the time they came to be associated with Dr. Kurien have paid rich dividends for Amul as sales figures jumped from 1000 tonnes a year in 1966 to 25000 tonnes a year in 1997.
Beyond the realms of business, it has also been the Amul girl who has received recognition, claiming its place of pride in the Guinness Book of World Records for being the longest running campaign ever, unfazed as it has been even by the many controversies played out to its illustrative legacy of jumping on the bandwagon of documenting many a stirring state of affairs. The forever cheeky Amul girl continues still today her pun filled take on real affairs, offering somewhat of an evocative yet entertaining commentary through tongue-in-cheek captions, persisting in the the topicality of her choosings, exercising therefore a power differently significant than the stronghold that the Amul brand of butter has on the Indian way of life at present. With copywriter Manish Jhaveri and illustrator Jayant Rane manning the proceedings today together with Rahul DaCunha to continue to breathe life and character into the Amul girl, this half ponytailed little lady and her enticing way of going about business, both in social and financial terms, sure offers a hearty buttery serving of the everyday morning breakfast for a million Indians who might not have stuck to their traditional meal of the rice and the roti but indeed have kept every ounce of their Indianness intact by making sense out of deriving humour from what is an ‘utterly, butterly, delicious’ summation of life itself.