Amul Moment Marketing

Since 1966: Amul’s Moment Marketing Genius

Imagine you’re having a conversation with a friend and they crack a joke about something that just happened in the news. That’s kind of what Amul, a dairy company in India, does with their marketing. They’re the masters of moment marketing, and they’ve been doing it since way back in 1966!

The Setup:

Recently, a friend shared Amul India‘s Instagram post about the Indian Premier League adding sign language to their commentary with me.

Now, every Indian knows – and expects – Amul’s take on topical events, even though at the end of the day, they are an organization centered around dairy farms and milks. Indeed, Amul literally stands for Anand Milk Union Limited.

But the cute images of the cartoony Amul girl accented by cheeky wordplay are ubiquitious and expected around major events happening in the country, or the world.

This got me thinking about Amul’s genius at Moment Marketing, and how a brand that has almost nothing to do with so many of these events has in some way or the other managed to capitalize on these trends in real time. But what I didn’t know is that Amul has been doing this since 1966! (How’s that for a long running advertising campaign? How’s that for the longest running outdoor ad in the world?!)

What is Moment Marketing?

The TLDR version:

Moment Marketing is all about jumping on current events and trends to connect with your audience in a real-time, relatable way. Think of it as a brand joining the conversation that everyone’s already having online or offline.  See a trend? Hop on the trend! But in Amul’s case, they make sure to add their cheeky twist on it, usually with a fun bit of wordplay.

Amul’s secret weapon? Their iconic Amul girl.

This little cartoon character has been the face of their witty and creative ads for decades. They’ve tackled everything from politics to pop culture, always with a healthy dose of humor. Diving into the archives, I found the very first topical ad Amul came out with in 1966 when horse racing was a big deal. It featured the Amul girl riding a horse with the caption “Thoroughbread,” of course, followed by their famous slogan, “Utterly Butterly Delicious.” Notice the slice of buttered bread in her hand?

Amul's first topical ad that came out in 1966. It shows the iconic Amul girl riding a horse and carrying a slice of bread laden with butter with the words THOROUGHBREAD in the background. The tagline 'Utterly Butterly Delicious' is at the right bottom corner of the image.
‘Utterly Butterly Delicious’

Of course, moment marketing isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. There’s always the risk of going unnoticed or even being misunderstood by your audience. But Amul seems to have a knack for walking that tightrope.

They’re also pretty strategic about their approach, and moment marketing is just one pillar (albeit a sturdy one) in their branding. Apparently, according to the managing director at GCMMF (the Gujarat Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation, which makes Amul products), these topical campaigns only take up about 0.4% of their total marketing budget! But the return on investment must be pretty good, because they’ve been doing it for years. I wonder where it falls on the prioritization matrix for their marketing team. Low effort, low cost but high visibility makes for a great weapon in their arsenal.

Some Amul Ads:

Here’s another one from the 2024 edition of the Indian Premier League, capitalizing on two young fast bowlers from the subcontinent clocking over 150kmph:

Image of two young fast bowlers from the Indian Premier League with the caption Indian Pacer's League in the background
Young fast bowlers, Mayank Yadav and Matheestha Pathirana clock speeds over 150kmph!

Interesting, but not as eye-grabbing as the some of their other work, but it still maintains a certain baseline level with the quirky copy and capitalizing on a niche sports moment – a sport with the most following in the subcontinent! Once again, the slice of buttered bread makes its appearance in the ad.

With the 2024 elections coming soon for my US friends, here’s a look at Amul’s ad from the last presidential unveiling:

An image of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris taking the presidential oath in front of the White House drawn in the inimical Amul style with the words 'Joe Vaada Kiya Tha,' a play on words with the president's name meaning, 'The Promise that was made!'
‘Joe Vaada Kiya’ (No buttered bread here)

Amul hasn’t shied away from making ads on controversial or tough topics – such as the Ukraine-Russia war (not linked here). Some call it in bad taste, while others say it’s a poignant take over a serious topic, but at the end of the day, the brand makes a stand, and in a world that sometimes tries to be as inoffensive as possible and ends up standing for nothing, that may count for something.

As attention spans dwindle with quicker, faster content consumption becoming the norm, Moment Marketing is an important tool in a brand’s quiver as they aim for success in a digital world. What story do you think Amul will feature in their next topical ad?