NEW DELHI: Brands in India are moving away from a simple portrayal of a product's functions in their advertising to tap into deeper human emotions in a way that also shows how the country is changing.

"We are in an era where product differentiation is reducing," said Ronita Mitra, senior vice president, Brand and Consumer Insights, Vodafone India, in remarks reported by the Economic Times. "So the only way to create differentiation is by giving your brand a personality (emotions) that resonates with consumers."

One much talked-about recent advertisement has been that for jewellery brand Tanishq, which used a bridal story to tackle a number of taboos, first by showing a confident, dark-skinned bride rather than the usual fair, demure choice, and, second, by showing her daughter to indicate she was remarrying, as divorced women are never seen this way.

"Times have changed and so have people and their perceptions," said Omm Dev Sharma, creative director of ad agency Maverick Innovations.

Ads such as Tanishq's "have not just showcased change, but they portray a situation wherein women's freedom and empowerment have been highlighted, which itself is a big thing," he added.

And Priyanka Bose, who played the bride in the ad, suggested that "ads can play a key role in changing society". The Economic Times noted Tata Tea's Jaago Re campaign as a case in point.

This was about tackling corruption, and "Jaago Re" – which is Hindi for "awaken" – was not just about waking up every day to a cup of tea, but about encouraging consumers to "wake up" to matters of wider importance.

Nivedita Singh, a director at GreyCells Research Services, the insights group based in New Delhi, recently told a London event – reported by Warc in Understanding India: Insights into a rapidly changing market – that the Tata Tea approach was an example of how brands could take a stance on social issues. Nor was there any lack of opportunities given the huge disparities of wealth evident in India.

She also observed that India was shaking off its colonial past and developing a more internal focus, with citizens bound together by a new-found pride in "Indian-ness".

Data sourced from Economic Times; additional content by Warc staff