The story of Thums Up & Gold Spot dates back to the late 1940s when Parle was riding high on the success of its glucose biscuits under the popular brand “Parle Gluco”. In fact, such was the popularity of the brand that it had a huge office in Mumbai for the “Gluco” brand alone, and used to spend aggressively marketing it.
In 1949, Parle decided to venture into the cola market by capitalizing on the already popular “Gluco” brand and hence launched a cola drink called “Gluco Cola”. The ad campaign for Gluco Cola was created by a young man with a knack for cartoons, who was none other than the legendary R K Laxman!! The brand was destined to take off but had hit a hurdle within few weeks of its launch by the global giant, Coca Cola.
Although Coca Cola did not have its presence in India that time, it had registered its trademark in India and hence took offence when it found a similar sounding brand which it thought would confuse Indians, thereby fearing its brand dilution and threatened to go to court. Parle did not want to spend a fortune on legal battle and quickly renamed it to “Parle Cola”, but Coca Cola was still not convinced. Parle did not want to budge either, but after 2 years of putting up a brave fight, Parle succumbed to pressure and discontinued Parle Cola in 1951.
But Parle was not the one to give up its ambitions so easily. In 1952, Parle launched an orange-flavored cola called “Gold Spot” (named after its popular variety of peppermint called Parle Gold Star)
Gold Spot became an instant hit because it tasted good even when it was slightly chilled (Vendors would carry them in large utensils filled with ice to chill the bottles and sell them at busy intersections, beaches & tourist spots). It was popular especially among children who loved the orange taste with a fizz.
For the next few years, Parle, led by Ramesh Chauhan, put efforts into the beverage business to expand its presence across India by setting up more bottling units & franchise network for Gold Spot. By 1970, Parle had a pan-India presence through its wide bottling plant network for Gold Spot and the time was right to introduce another beverage to capitalize on this investment. With an orange drink already in its portfolio, the next obvious choice was a lemon drink.
In order to differentiate itself from the lemon drinks of their competitors, Parle used special techniques to produce a drink with a cloudy look and called it “Limca”, derived from the phrase “Limbu Ka” (which in Hindi means “of lemon”). It was initially mocked by consumers who called it “soap water”, but soon got hooked to the taste. The Limca brand, launched in 1971, was targeted the upwardly mobile and especially ladies who wanted a fizzy, non-cola alternative to quench thirst while on the move.
By the mid 1970s, Gold Spot & Limca had established themselves as strong brands in metros & major cities across India, but there was still scope for expansion. In the meantime, Coca Cola was also gaining strength in India through aggressive marketing and partnership with bottling units.
The battle between Coca Cola & Parle was getting fierce by the day, and both the companies were spending aggressively to promote their respective brands.
Coca Cola, being the foreign brand, obviously had an edge, especially among young Indians who were obsessed with foreign brands, but Parle did not want to be left behind and had to use some innovative marketing strategies & product placements to counter Coca Cola & create a niche segment for itself to sustain.
We shall find out about these in the next part tomorrow.
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