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Zomato delivers 'poor' veg messaging, Pepsi wins the Holi video game but godmen have a bad month


Remember Poonamgate from last month? We locked it up in Bad PR jail, where it has languished since. This week, we're adding its first 2024 cellmate - welcome Zomato. You'll love the food, even if it is a bit soupy.

Bad PR:

Zomato

Was it worth opening Pandora's delivery box? In the long term, maybe you guys are onto something with the audience segmentation. Suppose the insight came from an open survey (like you said it did); good on you for listening to your customers. Communicating about the new feature (pure veg deliveries) directly from the CEO's socials showed conviction and readiness to see this through—until it didn't. When you have to re-issue a set of clarifications after your initial message raises an e-ruckus, it's plain to see that you didn't think the concept through. Startups 'build' in public as feedback from early adopters can be a boon to accelerate development and time to market. But must we build a 'reputation' in public? We're biased toward the communications team in this part of the woods, so on behalf of them all, here is a plea to brands: Stop dumping ill-thought ideas on our desks and expect magic.


Good PR:

Pepsi

Good use of the kala(ai), copywriter of Pepsi's Holi promo video. We see what you did there - start with a Holi brief, stuff it with AI comedy that seems borrowed from HBO's Silicon Valley, and also manage to fit in some passing reference to beverages in general. Lots of chatur(ai), sliced like a samur(ai) into a video of just the right lamb(ai). If they had got the treatment wrong, there would have been a lot of social media dhul(ai). Would the agency have done any bharp(ai)? One of their most iconic brand ambassadors from the 90s could have added another angle to the concept - (ai)la, anyone? You know it's a Good PR campaign when this writer cannot bring himself to do any campaign bur(ai).


Bad PR

Patanjali Foods

On 19 February 2021, Baba Ramdev, the face of Patanjali, launched a research paper on Coronil (in which they claimed to achieve 100% virological clearance in a double-blind sample study). He was flanked by the erstwhile Health Minister (who has since retired to his clinic) and the Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways on either side. A bizarre combination at a time when a large number of families in India had started admitting their loved ones to severely understaffed hospitals just before the second wave of COVID-19. This 'scientific discovery' was obscene, insensitive, and evil in its opportunism, leading Patanjali to be rightly sued and subsequently warned by courts to ensure it was advertised responsibly.

This month, the Supreme Court again asked them to explain why they had breached their promise made last year not to make false claims about modern medicine and the capabilities of their products. Talk about getting sent to the principal's office in succession. Except, millions of lives were and are at stake. Oh, and they sent Acharya Balakrishna to face the heat, not the usual bearded face of the brand.

Bad PR:

Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals

It's not been a good March for the Babas and Gurus. Sadhguru (Isha Foundation), a big proponent of engineering yourself from the inside to improve your quality of life, had to undergo emergency brain surgery at the Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals. Renowned neurologists relieved Jaggi Vasudev of suspected subdural hematoma, a high fatality incident.

Treating celebrities can be tricky. They're famous and have legions of fans following their every move. Communicating updates can take a toll on even experienced doctors. Here's the issue. The celebrity here has repeatedly chastised his followers for not believing in natural treatments and relying on modern medicine a little too much. For the consulting neurosurgeon (whose name is openly available) to bend over backwards in the press conference and claim the patient is "healing himself" after they performed a life-saving operation on him is disrespect to his profession, peers and the entire scientific medical community.

Contrast this with the most viral story of 2024 yet - the Kate Middleton disappearance. The London Clinic, where she underwent her cancer surgery, has steadfastly stayed mum on the entire episode. There's a neurosurgeon and spinal cord pun in here somewhere. Go figure.

Shoeb is the director of brand content at Ideosphere Consulting. He loves helping brands and business leaders articulate their value better.

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