Only the kids from the 80s and 90s era know the emotion behind the drink that their taste buds had gotten used to but sadly it did not last long. Going back to those days, let us see how Gold Spot – the beloved local drink, was exterminated paving way for Coke’s brands in India.
The story of Gold Spot dates back to the late 1940s when Parle, led by Ramesh Chauhan, was riding high on the success of its glucose biscuits under the popular brand ‘Parle Gluco’.
The popularity of the brand was so substantial that there was a huge office in Mumbai for the ‘Gluco’ brand itself.
In 1949, Parle decided to venture into the cola market by capitalizing on its already popular brand – ‘Gluco’ and launched a cola drink called “Gluco Cola”. Eminent cartoonist, R K Laxman, designed its advertisement campaign.
The brand was destined to take wings but hit a roadblock within a few weeks of its launch courtesy the global giant, Coca Cola. They faced some serious issues with Coco-Cola.
Bonus Video: Gold Spot Ad Campaign
After two years of putting up an audacious fight, Parle succumbed to the pressure and decided to surrender and the ‘Parle cola’ was discontinued in 1951. However, Parle did not give up and in 1952 launched an orange-flavored cola called “Gold Spot” (named after its popular variety of peppermint called Parle Gold Star).
Gold Spot was one of the three brands of carbonated soft drink that was introduced along with Thums Up and Limca.
THE ZING THING STRATEGY
The battle between Coca Cola & Parle was getting fierce and to promote their businesses and expand popularity both the companies were spending belligerently.
Coca Cola, being the foreign brand, had an edge, mainly among the young Indians who were obsessed with anything foreign. Parle, on the other hand, was absolutely resolute and did not want to be overshadowed.
It used some innovative marketing strategies & product placements to ambush Coca Cola & create a market to sustain itself. Since Gold spot was popular among children and teenagers, Parle decided to change its marketing strategy by changing the image of Gold Spot from Children’s’ drink to a premium & uber-cool drink instead of jeopardizing its equity with a new brand altogether.
They spent copious amounts of money on print ads to lure all sections of people. The drink tasted great even when it was slightly chilled. Vendors would lug the bottles in large utensils filled with ice to keep them chilled and sell them at busy convergences, beaches & tourist spots.
It gained popularity especially amongst children who loved the orange taste with a fizz. For the next few years Parle kept expanding its brand with innovative marketing strategies. Soon they also launched Limca – a lemon-flavored drink.
To create some ‘oomph’ factor, the company persuaded an upcoming South Indian model to feature in its advertisements and this model eventually became the heartthrob of Bollywood.
She was none other than Rekha. Vibrant print ads featuring the young Rekha sipping Gold Spot through a straw had become a national sensation.
The tag line “Livva little hot, Sippa Gold Spot” added more zest, suggesting that Gold Spot was for those who wanted to live ‘hot’. Soon Gold Spot also started sub-conscious marketing techniques by including captivating messages, which were displayed across cities on billboards with flashing lights.
For the next few years, Parle expanded its beverage business by setting up more bottling units & increasing the franchise network for Gold Spot.
By 1970, Parle had a pan-India presence through its wide bottling plant network for Gold Spot and to capitalize on the investment they thought it was the best time to introduce another drink. With an orange drink already in its portfolio, the next obvious choice was a lemon drink and this is how Limca was born.
By the mid-1970s Gold Spot & Limca had established themselves as exceedingly strong brands in the metros & majority of the Indian, but there was still scope for augmentation.
FIGHTING TOOTH AND NAIL
Gold Spot’s successful run did not last long. In 1975, emergency was imposed, which impacted the soft drink market substantially. People cut down on picnics and parties.
The deep-pocketed Coca-Cola survived the slowdown, but Parle was hit severely due to vast investments in bottling facilities. Coca-Cola was a behemoth with humongous financial support however Gold Spot did give it a doughty competition through its skillfully strategized promotional campaign and unique flavor.
Eventually, in 1977, Coca-Cola left India after protesting the government’s new regulations.
For the next few years agitations were at an all-time high due to the political squabbles in the country and this took a toll on Parle as outings, joyrides, trips and vacations took a backseat.
MNCs like Coca-cola had the financial backing to withstand this slowdown, but Indian companies like Parle found it onerous to sustain. The full-blown ‘cola wars’ began afresh with the entry of Pepsi (1990) and the re-entry of Coca-Cola (1993).
In 1993, Coco-Cola acquired the three mega-brands from Parle for a consideration of $10 mn. Coke slowly began to eliminate the Parle brands to make an easy in way for its own brands. Thums Up was sidelined in favor of Coca Cola.
Limca and Gold Spot were slowly eliminated to make way for Sprite and Fanta.
Coke anticipated that the users of Gold Spot will migrate to Fanta and that is how the most loved soft drink brand of the 80s was killed.
Thanks for reading. The content of this post has been written by Shrey Mahendra for FinMedium.
Cover Image: Business World