The legend of Raymond’s Complete Man
This campaign is the starting point for any other advertising strategy. But is Raymond’s Complete Man, a man who is the epitome of loving, caring, and also style, in danger of being left behind?
Some saw it as an emasculation of the Great Indian Role Model. Others raised toasts to him. Finally, they cheered, some ‘real flesh and blood’ they said – emotions, a sense of humor and sensitivity rather than just brawn. Even a touch of vulnerability. The dream guy with no shining armour. A man for the liberated Indian woman. Someone who doesn’t see himself with Rambo’s body and a James Bond style.
The Complete Man. From Raymond.
Sneering competition had to eat their words
Rivals in the early 90’s sniggered quietly at this pseudo-liberal western import. More than a decade later, this campaign is still going strong and a lot of suitings advertising is still life-style driven. If there is a problem, it’s that the Complete Man is too powerful, not in terms of testosterone, but in the way it dominates the consumer mindspace.
The sniggers of the competition turned to wonder, and then worship. He-men were dumped and clones of the Complete Man appeared everywhere…but they didn’t work. Only the original did. After all, pretenders are better at tickling people, not selling them suit lengths.
How did it all start?
The Raymond’s campaign is still the most influential. But how did it start? ‘We wanted a real man, a 3-D flesh and blood figure, the kind of man who is our target audience,’ says Rajiv Agarwal, CEO, Enterprise Nexus. It was research that indicated that men did not really aspire to be muscle-rippling superstuds.
Accordingly, the Raymond’s man was developed – as someone more believable and fleshed-out than the standard cardboard cut-outs of yore. But portraying a caring man was a revolution in Indian advertising. Research however told the agency that the market was ready. Social trends indicated that the upper-end Indian male had indeed evolved, or aspired to evolve. So Raymond took the bold step of translating this into an advertising strategy. Today, this thinking stands vindicated…even Hindi cinema has veered away from bash-em-up films to romantic and family drama’s.
Some of the later Raymond spots featured a fellow who takes time out from his busy schedule to hunt out an old disabled friend. Another had a guy spreading his arms at the edge of a cliff – in an apparent desire to take flight.
Is the Complete Man for real?
Advertising and marketing pundits wondered: Has the Indian male really evolved or was this just a polished exterior to please idealists on the look-out for the ‘New Age Man’? And was it really possible for a man to be only gentle, and have no aggressive impulses? And would this repressed reality stage a dramatic come-back at the turn of the Millennium? Yes, thought some, the gentle Raymond man who tucks his daughter into bed and plays the violin is a figment of an elitist imagination. ‘It’s alright in the metros, but I do not think it will work in middle India,’ says Shivjeet Khullar, national creative director, The Joint. ‘Or perhaps it works for Raymond, but no other brand.’ Pranav Dewan, Creative Consultant, Mudra, says that The Complete Man may not have completely arrived, but he has aspirational power, and in a way has given an impetus to the change in the metro man, even though not all of it has been voluntary. ‘It’s now accepted to be that way, and aspire to be that way. For some it has been a reluctant change…but in a way it’s a feeling of relief, to be dragged kicking and screaming to the altar of sensitivity.’
Tapping aspirational values
Agarwal of Nexus acknowledges that the typical Indian male, even the ‘well-educated’ one, may not be the idealised person depicted by the campaign. ‘But what is important is that he aspires to be him,’ says Agarwal. And that’s good advertising.
Whatever the new reality, the fact is that Raymond is still India’s top suitings brand – having imbedded itself in the mind of the audience that matters in value terms. Therefore, the advertising is right.
Rival brands knew that they had to position themselves away from the Complete Man. Just to gain an identity – of any sort.
The obvious way to stand apart, as some brands had known all along, was not to have a fictitious personality, but an actual celebrity. Vimal had a series a cricketers, back in the 1980’s, including Vivian Richards and Ravi Shastri. Digjam had Shekhar Kapur, the film maker. ‘Tiger’ Pataudi was the Gwalior Suitings man, and Sunil Gavaskar posed for Dinesh Suitings. But agencies subconsciously started to emulate the persona of the Complete Man. Pataudi turned discernibly more ‘family-oriented’ in the later days of the Gwalior series, with his wife Sharmila Tagore and actor son Saif Ali Khan making appearances. Shah Rukh played ‘Mayur’ Khan for Mayur suitings, an actor with a ‘family man’ image. OCM tried to go soft too and attempted to show how the suiting gets the OCM man his wife’s attention. The ad spot had the wife not noticing her husband when he comes home from work, until he changes into a suit. Suiting companies like Reid & Taylor still go in for celebrity advertising and today Amitabh Bachhan endorses the brand instead of Pierce Brosnan.
And ofcourse, the man getting the girl is a re-current theme.
However in the dawn of this millennium suiting advertising has become more product oriented. Brands today hawk the feel and finish of the fabric. Occasionally we have suitings which claim to look good but are not as expensive. This is a direct hit at Raymond.
What’s the future?
India has always been a low-value market, but today with globalisation, the value base has started to move upwards towards the global average and this trend can only accelerate. In this context, the Raymond personality-based advertising is likely to retain it’s appeal, at least for some years to come. And His rise to eminence will cast a longer shadow on other brands, resulting in an even greater desire on the part of rivals to take The Complete Man down. Or better it in some way.
It would be interesting to see how The Complete Man copes with competition in the coming years. There is a ‘casual’ clothes wave and thanks to Silicon Valley, it’s cool to look uncomfortable in suits. The Complete Man will have to tailor himself to a new generation reality. But without hurting his values.
(This piece, written by me, was published in A&M (Advertising & Marketing) Magazine.)
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