Zomato vs Zomato creates multiverse in advertising. Good content, bad marketing

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How do you pronounce Zomato? Is it Zo-maa-to or Zo-mai-to? It’s a long-running debate in many households in India. In its latest advertisement, the food delivery app imagines how this could lead to domestic wars. So much so that Zomato executives wouldn’t be able to resolve it alone, other brands must also step in.

The ad shows a family arguing over the correct pronunciation of Zomato, which escalates and all hell breaks loose. And they’re not being civil: there’s chair-smashing, pot-throwing, and TV-busting. In no time, everyone, including TV personalities, children, workers, and bystanders, is knee-deep into the ZoMaato vs ZoMaito tug of war.

As a follow-up, Zomato released a carousel Instagram post — its own ‘multiverse’ of ads, where other popular brands add unique twists to small segments taken out from the original. This call to action (CTA) for other brands is truly an experimental campaign, a major departure from advertising convention.

The ‘multiversal’ campaign, though well received, will now have to fight for ‘universality’. Potentially how many brands can be seamlessly plugged into Zomato’s original ad? Not many.

The Instagram ad series begins on a fairly sombre note. The sequence showing the smashing of a lamp is plugged in with Fevi Kwik (“Chutki mein chipkaaye”). In the next slide, the stakes are higher. A woman slams a man on a table, leaves him on the floor writhing in pain — enter Moov (“Taaki zindagi ke beech dard na aaye”). In the third slide, with the family members making a mess of the dining table, comes Urban Company (“Cleaning services start at Rs 399/- only”). The last segment of the ad, showing a wall getting busted, provides the framework for Ambuja Cement (“Mazboot deewaron ke liye”).

The most forced one in the series is the plug-in for Mamaearth when a housekeeper throws tea in the face of his employer — a stand-in for its tea-infused facewash — in the midst of an argument. This ad is completely off comedic timing even in the overall maverick tonality of the original ad.

The original ad and the Instagram series have received positive reviews and praise for the scriptwriter. Fevikwik and Mamaearth also joined in the conversation in Instagram comments. Newspapers and web portals are full of PR articles about the campaign. Deepinder Goyal, the CEO of Zomato, weighed in on the issue and left it to users to decide on the correct pronunciation.

Also read: Fevicol’s ‘chipku chair’ campaign in Punjab is a lesson in sticking to brand language

Should advertising be selfless? 

In the Instagram carousel ads, Zomato writes “Did something for our friends” as the caption. But why would a brand do something for other brands? What’s the driving point here besides creating a buzz in the advertising world and garnering some Instagram shares?

Don’t get me wrong, I do think there’s a lot of potential in the campaign. With the ongoing Indian Premier League (IPL) fever prompting people to celebrate and order in, it wouldn’t be surprising if the ZoMaato vs ZoMaito debate escalates in real life too. It will serve the purpose of the original ad — and every marketing campaign — to get some mindspace in the customer.

Also read: Federal Bank wants you to look forward to bank visits, new campaign moves away…

A new meme format

Through the ad series, Zomato has also given Instagram users a new meme format. I would be disappointed if Reels on this format aren’t promoted by Instagram influencers in the coming days. The company must capitalise on the meme format.

But do these ads fit anywhere outside of Instagram posts? At least not in the current ‘multiverse of brands’ avatar.

These ads would look absurd as pre-roll YouTube ads because, without context, a (particularly disinterested) viewer wouldn’t even understand why Zomato has advertised Fevi Kwik. The videos won’t work as standalone television commercials either. A clean print campaign would be difficult to crack too.

And that is the biggest downside of the Zomato Instagram campaign. They don’t inform the viewer about the functionality of the food delivery platform. That’s not a good call for a young brand like Zomato. With little added to the brand value of Zomato, the ads’ effectiveness is heavily platform-dependent. They might be ‘multiversal’ but are certainly not universal.

Swiggy has successfully waded into package and grocery delivery (Instamart) too. Its advertising has always been far better than Zomato’s in terms of creativity. And in the IPL season, is pronunciation war all that Zomato could come up with? It’s good content, bad marketing.

(Edited by Humra Laeeq)

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