Part 9: Thums Up Story: Taste the Thunder

Previously, we had seen how Ramesh Chauhan was unstoppable & had become the darling of the industry by the mid 1980s:

When entrepreneurs reach such peak stage, they tend to become arrogant and falter, but Ramesh Chauhan was always humble and determined. Although Thums Up had captured significant marketshare and had become a cult, he was still not convinced and felt that it had more potential. In 1987, Ramesh Chauhan partnered with Ashok Kurien, who had just started his own advertising agency and they brainstormed over several strategies to enhance Thums Up brand.
kurienThe idea was to create a campaign which was unconventional and sought to focus on building Thums Up as a macho brand. The mid 1980s had begun to witness a rise in masculine brands like Royal Enfield Bullet & Old Spice, and the Thums Up team also wanted to build something on those lines. The thought process was very interesting and certainly deserves a mention here.

Ashok Kurien visualized the mind of a typical 18 year old Indian male and centered his strategies around it. He was of the opinion that young Indians were still insecure because the competition was intense and jobs were few (It was the pre-liberal era). When such youngsters struggle and manage to come out with flying colors, they experience triumph which is like tasting the thunder (supposed to be a figure of speech).

The rest of the team thought it was absurd because their argument was that thunder was just sound but they were trying to sell a cola. Moreover, how could somebody taste a sound? Normally, figure of speech used in advertising industry were similes. For example, “Feel like a bird”, “Experience heaven” etc were conventional tag-lines, but tasting a sound was a far fetched. Ashok Kurien tried to explain that when people become successful, they hear/imagine a roar of applause which is like thunder. Since “tasting victory” was a common figure of speech, he explained that the victory was actually thunder and hence “tasting thunder” would also make sense. It still did not convince many and it turned into an endless debate for days.

Finally, Ramesh Chauhan intervened and put an end to this debate by accepting Ashok Kurien’s campaign idea since his instincts also felt that it would be successful. The team decided to go with 2 tag-lines: “Taste the Thunder” & “Toofani Thanda”.
Salman Khan, who was already under contract with Parle to endorse Limca, was asked to take over as the new face of Thums Up.
The team produced a series of ads showing young men performing all sorts of stunts, emerging victorious and rewarding themselves with Thums Up, suggesting that it is the drink only for those who dared to take risks.


The campaign was a resounding success and is in fact one of the longest Indian advertising campaigns. Thums Up soared higher and left its competitors in the dust. It can be said that “Taste the Thunder” helped Ramesh Chauhan also taste thunder.┬áBy 1988, Parle had monopolized the soft drink market.

Since India was waking up to 21st century and progressing (albeit slowly) by the day, there was still enough room for competition, but surprisingly, no company could come close to Parle. Campa Cola had already lost significant part of its marketshare and it looked like it was not even able to compete, let alone threaten Parle.

Would Parle’s rivals give up so easily or would they hatch a plan to take on Parle? We shall find out in the next part tomorrow.

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