Amul Girl— A Marketing Genius

The Amul Mascot

For a long time as a child, my view into pop culture and current trends was an Amul billboard by the signal next to my school building. I would wait for the bus to stop at the red-light and quickly turn to gaze at the week’s talk of the town. If there was an exciting cricket match or a foreign dignitary was visiting the country or if India had done itself proud at a beauty pageant, I could count on the cute little Amul girl to let me know. And she was funny and opinionated and light-hearted and incisive, all at the same time. Few brands have been able to curate and run a campaign as iconic as this one.

Polson Butter Girl & Amul Mascot

Born out of a move to counter rival company Polson’s butter-girl, the Amul girl has talked to us in her witty banter for over 50 years now.

The campaign was conceived in 1966, long before today’s avalanche of digital media apps. In those days, companies relied heavily on print media and roadside hoardings to market their products. Given that these needed to be hand-painted and frequently changed, the designer was given only two guiding principles to design the campaign : ‘easy to draw’ and ‘memorable’. And there couldn’t be two better adjectives to describe the Butter girl campaign. The blue-haired, polka-dotted frock clad little girl has managed to etch the dairy brand in the public conscious for over half a century now.

So I thought it would be fun to look back at India through her eyes. I guess it would make for a delightful nostalgic trip through the decades.

Compulsory Sterilisation, 1971

Amul has captured the historic developments in the country since as early as 1971 when compulsory sterilisation initiatives were taken during the Indira Gandhi regime. Many other events including the first test tube baby and the installation of India’s first escalator at Chowpatty, Mumbai formed the early chapters in the Amul story.

Virginity test furore at London Airport, 1982

This gave way to the eventful eighties. The scandalous Virgin test for Indian women at the London airport, the Bofors scandal of 1986, the passing of the Panchayat Raj bill and the Reservation policies for the OBCs, Amul captured everything with sheer panache.

Advent of Satellite TV, 1991

Then came the revolutionary nineties. When Mr Manmohan Singh’s LPG policies changed the nation forever. And Amul celebrated every feat, from the cable TV invasion of urban homes to the changing face of Indian aviation, with utmost joy.

U.S. President Barack Obama visits India in 2010

And our Amul girl only turned more affable and more meticulous at the turn of the century. From the introduction of VAT in the union budget to the dazzling visit of Barack Obama, she told us every tale enthusiastically.

Even in today’s age of fleeting social media fads, Amul is able to leverage each event to up its marketing game. We saw the company take the ten year challenge recently. And just a few hours ago, they released a new poster capturing the social media frenzy around the now viral Faceapp.

Faceapp trend on Instagram, 2019

And like everything with a voice and a bit of an edge, the Amul girl isn’t devoid of her share of controversies. In 2001, Amul ran an ad campaign criticising the Indian Airlines strike; the latter threatened to stop offering Amul butter on their flights unless the ads were pulled! Amul ran another cheeky ad during Ganesh Chaturthi which said, Ganpati Bappa More Ghya (Ganpati Bappa take more). The Shiv Sena party said that if the ad wasn’t removed, they would come and destroy Amul’s office.

A quirky take on the Indian Airlines Strike, 2001

Another rather laughable incident happened when they wrote ‘Satyam Sharam Scandalum!’ for Satyam Computer Services Ltd.’s disgraced chairman Ramalinga Raju and the company threatened Amul with dire consequences : all their employees would stop eating Amul butter!

The CWG scam involving Suresh Kalmadi, 2010

In 2010 during the Commonwealth, an ad criticising Suresh Kalmadi led to trouble in Pune, while an ad needling Mamata Banerjee later that year led to chaos in Kolkata.

Unfazed by threats and politicians & business bigwigs breathing down her neck, our Amul girl has grown into an independent, confident woman of the 21st century. She has evolved relentlessly, keeping up with the changing norms of the society. Sometimes ahead! Homosexuality, Women Empowerment, Politics…she has a take on everything. And boy does she socialize. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, the woman is everywhere.

In the last few years, popular brands such as Blackberry, Zomato, Apple, Dabur, Hero Honda and Snapdeal have completely transformed their image to shed their old identity.

In times of such radical cannibalism, Amul is one of the few brands that has stuck to its original positioning and marketing techniques. No matter what the socio-political state of our country, the Amul girl is always relevant. Always ravishing.

Writer, Language lover, Marketing professional