DY Works Press: Women & Brands

DY Works Press: Women & Brands

Alpana Parida, President of DY Works is featured in MXM, March 2012.


Coming to the most important questions of them all, what the brands need to do for women to purchase their brands or influence their husband to do so? Explains Alpana Parida, President, DY Works, Mumbai “The first thing to keep in mind is to stop talking down to them. Brands see women as caricatures of themselves as the woman who waits for her husband’s smile or for children to say she is the best. No doubt these are important payoffs in a woman’s life – but brands tend to make simplistic associations. To truly earn their loyalty and advocacy – brands need to understand the women more deeply. Understand their layered dreams and unfulfilled desires, help her achieve than become her savior. For instance, Maggi allows her to add her own creativity and thus, nutrition to the basic noodles rather than wait for the beaming smiles of her kids.

Adds Madhuri Sapru, “Other than for women’s personal products, marketers have barely started “marketing” (and I don’t mean just a media plan skewed towards day time audiences) to women. We do not have any media isolation opportunities created as yet, and hence it is difficult for marketers to communicate to them in isolation.” Brands indeed acknowledge the value of engaging female consumers – increase in their purchasing and decision-making powers has not gone unnoticed. Last five years have seen a huge increase in product categories and brands (beyond FMCG) specifically targeting women – including computers, mobile phones and financial products.


Blue: The colour of a new evolution in the green revolution

It was an awakening moment for me (in the midst of a presentation),when my client involved in the business of reclaim produces, voiced his strong choice to have more of blue as opposed to green for the brand color palette. Given their green credentials, we presented a combination of blue and green to marry their professional and standardized approach (blue) and their minimum waste policy, which indicates responsible solutions (green). Our clients were of the opinion that green as ingrained in their value system, need not be represented overtly though the colour in their brand palette. Whereas blue, should be more abundant, since it invokes more than just sustainability.

So is Blue the new way to integrate green ideals?

Let us start by assessing both the colors through a semiotic lens:

Blue is the overwhelming "favourite color" for corporate identities. I’ll tell you why… Blue is seen as trustworthy, dependable and committed. The color of the sky and the ocean, blue is perceived as a constant in our lives. As the collective colour of the spirit, it invokes rest and can cause the body to produce chemicals that are calming. Blue is the least "gender specific" color, having equal appeal to both men and women.

Green on the other hand, is the pervasive color in the natural world and is second only to blue as a favourite color. The natural greens, from forest to lime, are seen as tranquil and refreshing, with a natural balance of cool and warm (blue and yellow) undertones. Green is considered the color of peace and ecology. However, there is an institutional side to green, associated with illness or ‘Government-issued’, that conjure up negative emotions like ‘slimy’ and after all, greens the color of ‘envy’.

So does blue go where no green has gone before?

The colour blue has about as many direct and associative semiotic meanings as it has shades, but in the commercial world at least, one thing is clear – when it comes to corporate identity, blue is a safe bet. Among other things, it lends gravitas and austerity to Tata; it connotes cool, clear thinking at IBM; and it has become the de facto colour of social networking thanks to its adoption by Facebook and Twitter.

Cutting edge advertisers are already using BLUE instead of green when dealing with environmentalism.  Here are a couple of examples:

BLUE TEC - BMW's new "green" engine could have been called "green tec" but instead... BLUE TEC

BLUE MOTION - VW's fuel-saving technologies

BLUE DRIVE- Hyundai and Kia’s new hybrid technology

BLUE is also emerging as the color associated with modern technology- Bluetooth, Blue Ray Disc.

Some more evidence of the green movement turning BLUE:

BLUE ZONES - The areas on earth where people live longest could have been, and almost should have been, called "green zones", but instead are called BLUE ZONES.

BLUE PLANET RUN - an inspiring 15,000-mile relay race— the longest relay race in human history—in which 20 athletes spent 95 days running around the globe to spread awareness of the global water crisis.

After all it is the colour closest associated with this magnificent planet we live on:

THE BLUE MARBLE - The name of the famous photograph of the fully illuminated Earth taken by the crew of Apollo 17, the last journey of humans to the moon.  To the astronauts, Earth had the appearance of a glass marble (hence the name).

THE PALE BLUE DOT - When the Voyager 1 spacecraft photographed the planets of the Solar System, Earth showed up as a "pale blue dot" in the grainy photo. 

So if you’re serious about ‘going green’, you should seriously consider ‘being blue’! If not as an active choice, but at least in the safeguard of making the wrong one!

Contributed by Priyanka Shah, AGM - Strategy, DY Works


Semiotic Decoding of ‘Cleaning’ in the Indian Context

Marketing suddenly becomes so much more interesting when we refer to it as the “art of giving meaning”. Meaning, in its true sense, can’t exist without a context. And that’s why a semiotic decoding of the context becomes indispensable in order to successfully market anything.

While trying to grapple with an ambitious ‘cleaning’ brand, we employed our semiotic decoding system to understand the culture and context of cleaning. Below are some excerpts of the analysis.


What does cleaning truly mean? Is it just about removal of impurities? Why is it so important to be clean? What do we mean when we talk about a ‘clean image’? Or for that matter a ‘clean society’? After a dip in the Ganges, in what sense exactly does one really get clean? Many might actually argue the opposite.

“Cleaning” is ensconced in our religious context.  The morning snan and the prayer that goes along with it (har har gangey); the ‘hom hawan’ to sanctify the house and the more contemporary ritual of the cleaning of house during festivals like Diwali, all point towards this.

There are ample mythological and historical cues to establish that being clean is “positive and pure”, while being dirty is “negative and impure”. Those who commit sins are usually depicted as being dirty even in the physical sense. For e.g. Rakshasa consuming madira, looking ugly and living in jungles. Being dirty in a way is being imperfect, while being clean is perfection itself. No wonder our culture associates cleanliness with godliness, the epitome of perfection.

Cleanliness = Perfection = Godliness


To understand clean, we must understand the unclean. We all realize, for e.g., that food accidentally spilled on a table is not germ ridden and dirty. But it is still seen to be making the table unclean. It’s just that we instinctively believe that food is supposed to be in the plate/bowl. Being “spilled on the table” is merely a wrong context for food to be in.

We can safely deduce that dirt is only that, which exists in a system of which it is not supposed to be a part. And therefore, it causes the system to be imperfect, which is then seen as being dirty.

To clean something essentially means to bring it to its original state of perfection

So, the three broad attributes of cleaning that we could derive were this. Firstly, cleaning is about purification or bringing back perfection. May it be physical (of germs/stains), social (a corrupt imperfect society needs cleaning) or spiritual. Secondly, we realized that being clean affects your social image. It has a positive effect on your status among friends and peer group.

But one of the most critical attributes came to light when we differentiated “being clean” from the “act of cleaning”. The act of cleaning is monotonous and repetitive in nature. It’s a continuous process that involves the need of putting effort over and over again. It tends to get boring.

But why should repetition lead to such drudgery and monotony? Aren’t artists who do riyaz, essentially repeating their act? The key difference there is the element of learning involved in each cycle of repetition. If there is repetition without learning, then it’s nothing but drudgery.

Repetitive nature of a task, without any associated learning, can take you to a point of absurdity. Cleaning in itself might have a higher order meaning, but the “act of cleaning" per say is just a repetition of an act to the point of meaninglessness. The home maker / house wife faces this state of drudgery, boredom and monotony every day. And therefore could there be a need to make this inevitable “act of cleaning” more exciting and meaningful for her?

This could be a potential space for a new cleaning brand to occupy.


Another often ignored aspect of “cleaning” is that it is about a state that is pure, positive, and pristine and allows you to flourish. Most modern day marketing discourses on cleaning revolve around ‘dirt’ and treating it as an enemy, a negative force that needs to be battled against. It’s a ‘Negatives OUT’ approach. But cleaning could also imply ‘Positives IN’. It could be about allowing the good, the pure and the shubh in the house. The home maker is not necessarily only Durga the warrior, but also Lakshmi, the harbinger of prosperity.


At its very core, “cleaning” has a very deep rooted importance in our core social construct. The Manusmriti, howsoever contentious, accounts for an entire set of people dedicated to ‘Karma of cleaning’, one of the 4 most critical Karmas. The other 3 being – Gaining and spreading knowledge (Brahmin), wielding power and leading the society (Kshatriya), and trading goods to generate wealth (Vaishya). The irony is that while the other three Karmas are treated with respect, the cleaning sect Shudras has always been sidelined.

The one who cleans is always seen as being dirty. In fact, to clean something, you have to get dirty

The Dhobi, the maid and the Jamadar are always the lower strata of society. There is a deep resonance here to the plight of a home maker. What gratification does the housewife get for ensuring a clean house? Possibly, housewife is a hero simply because she does the cleaning without getting any gratification or reward – she is, however, an unsung hero.

Also, given that one who cleans is never looked up to, never held in any sort of awe, is there a need to create mythical heroes in the form of cleaning experts? We have the Mr Clean and the Mr. Muscles of the world. Probably this iconification helps the cause of a brand aiming to gain any sort of an affinity, or a first among equals status, among the otherwise functionally driven cleaning category.


It’s very exciting to realize how something as basic and mundane as “Cleaning” can mean so much more. We just need to be ready to open are minds, go deeper and explore.

By Vivek Chaturvedi, GM - Marketing, DY Works
(with contributions from Ankit Sharma & Siddhartha Gupta)


People ignore designs that ignore them

While operating in the space of brands, and especially the ones which actively exist in the life of end consumers it is not only important but a ‘must’ to have a great deal of understanding about their way of living. If we are intending to create likings and preferences towards the brands we are crafting how and why there should be any disconnect?

In the age of super pace, only if we pause for a moment and look at ourselves, we’ll notice we are humans first before the economic system defined us as ‘consumers’. And, it is an indisputable truth that all the choices, actions that we as humans do comes from the perception and a belief system which we created out of the sensorial, emotional and societal experiences. The outcome/ response of which can be observed in our behaviour; be it individual or collective and all the areas of our expressions e.g. body language to photographs to tweets etc. These subtle signs if decoded in semiotic manner as insights to build design solutions the way they can be received by the audience will be with high degree of effortlessness and synchrony with their lives. However having decoded such signs and patterns by scanning all life-stages of humans is not sufficient as ‘time’ is another important factor that keeps influencing our responses/ behaviour in considerable manner.

Fig.1: An Inside-Out Approach to Design

One such case at DY Works, though not recent one would be the refreshed identity of Thums Up. The brand, a metaphor for Indian masculinity is a leader of its category. It also has an iconic visual signature, which is based on a simple but everlasting positively meaningful gesture. The Coca-Cola Company came to us to get it tuned with the changing times. A semiotic study of various aspects of masculinity in changing India made us discover many signs including the take the new age male had on masculinity.

Fig.2: Men; Then and Now

Fig.3: Devised Thums-up visual mark

One such, the change of perspective from the workman-like to more youthful and relaxed persona as an aspiration. Besides the strength and endurance lot of aesthetic sophistication was fused into the definition. To bring up the value of 'dum/power' in the visual signature of brand, it clearly demanded the fine-tuning in order to infuse clean lined sophistication to the hand silhouette also a refinement of the typeface (from the archaic to simple and upfront). We did remove the thunderous shadow (which held it back, rather than propelled it forward). The change is also reflected in the baseline and the PVC bottle labels, which build on the masculinity and strength of the brand… making the brand vocabulary clearer, assertive and refreshed whilst remaining rooted.

Fig.4: Inside-out approach results compared

The semiotic approach helped us reach the root cause ‘why’ and the means of achievement ‘how’ to help derive the solution inside out. In a way an approach that keeps the solutions in perfect alignment with the mindset of end-consumer in true sense. A simple learning from my experience is, most of the advice we’ve heard about life probably also applies to design;as both are primarily concerned with people.

Prashant Shingade
Associate Creative Director, DY Works