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When you sell lubricants and your primary audience of truck drivers is too busy moving around, is not sitting around watching TV, then what do you do to build your brand in their mindspace and heartspace? Can branded content show the way?

Gulf Lubricants has used branded content (specifically, long-form video of 3-4 minutes duration) for digital channels to address its brand building requirements. Instead of highlighting product propositions based on product features, it has chosen to highlight a brand promise, anchoring it into the culturally rooted discourses of Raksha Bandhan in the North Indian context.

The brand promise is articulated as an analogy - just as brothers protect sisters and the raakhee embodies the promise as well as the bond between brother and sister, so also Gulf Lubricants protect the engine of the truck. This analogy has been expressed in the phrase, ‘Suraksha Bandhan’. The content initiative is conceptualised and executed by TV9 Network for Gulf Oil.

Apart from anchoring the ‘suraksha’ into the Raksha Bandhan festival, the videos by the brand also aim to celebrate and valorize the truck drivers themselves. They aim to elevate the truck driver identity itself as a source of pride. Much like the farmer’s movement, elevated the ‘Kisan’ identity as a source of pride ‘ hum annadaata hain’. The intent is to not just point out to the educated professional classes that drivers are not a lowly occupational category, but are people of high worth to society, but also to help the drivers themselves feel that sense of pride.

The videos follow the axioms of good branded content creation, viz, realism, focus on the audience’s needs and interests, not the brand’s features and propositions and uninterrupted storytelling for engagement. That’s why the campaign won awards in several categories in the recently concluded BuzzinContent annual awards. The campaign creators have used the content labelling code followed by media channels of Seasons, as it has been a multi-year campaign.

For season 1, the campaign highlighted the yearning of truck drivers to be united with their sisters on Raksha Bandhan day, as the former are usually busy working on their routes away from their homes. The campaign invites the audience to view truck drivers not by their occupation of driving, but by their relational identity as brothers. 

With the onset of Covid-19, season 2 launched in 2020 focused on the safety of the drivers while highlighting their economic struggles in the face of several lockdowns. As seen in the video, the campaign saw innovative ‘Suraksha Rakhis’ that carried soap strips to promote and make sanitation convenient for truckers and protect them from Covid. It also foregrounded their role as THE essential link in supply chains across the nation. They are the front-line workers/warriors who protect the public at large from hunger and illness, by transporting essential supplies of food and medicine across the nation.

Season 3 carries forward the theme of developing pride in the truck driver identity through a realistic family story. The video depicts the story of a truck driver and his two sisters. The elder sister is visibly embarrassed by her brother’s profession and tries her best to keep it hidden in her social circle. The video then dwells on the importance of the said profession specifically in the context of essential supplies and oxygen cylinders during the pandemic. The younger of the two sisters understands this and hence she is proud of her brother. She then educates her older sister and helps change her attitudes. Thus, the elder sister realizes her mistake and apologises. 

At this juncture, the importance of vaccination for covid protection is also woven in and the three siblings head towards a ‘Gulf Oil-Free Vaccination Centre’.

Season three of Suraksha Bandhan brought forward a winning approach consisting of not just words but also actions. Apart from boosting the truckers and their families’ morale through pieces of brand communication, Gulf Oil facilitated the vaccination of almost ten thousand truck drivers.

As we have previously pointed out in this column, words become more impactful when accompanied by actions. The act of sponsoring vaccination of truck drivers brings a ring of authenticity to the brand’s focus on its core audience. Of course, it can also garner social currency for the brand, not just among its audience by w-o-m, but in social media too.

The brand image thus built both positions the brand as socially aware and as one that takes meaningful actions to help their consumer base.

The brand connect in the campaign is spelt out through a thread (as is the raakhee that is tied) that links signs and symbols of ‘suraksha’ or safety in the lives of consumers, in layers.

Suraksha Bandhan becomes a layered concept that stands for the various links that a consumer shares in the context of safety: sisters protecting their driver brothers or vice-versa, the brand looking out for drivers’ safety and finally the brand product ensuring that a truck engine runs safely.

The narrative in Suraksha Bandhan’s branded content videos shows a mature understanding of the milieu that the audience of truck drivers’ occupy. The videos celebrate the many contributions of truck drivers without unnecessarily glorifying them. To do this, they often begin at a point of class-consciousness that identifies the lack of pride/shame related to a blue-collar job in Indian society. For instance, the elder school-going sister in the season 3 video of the campaign wants no public association with her truck driver brother. She is mortified when her brother gets her name painted on the truck as a mark of adoration.

Instead of employing token terms of respect, the video engages in an exercise that builds up respect for the position of a truck driver. He is represented as a brother who has enabled various other men (or brothers, the term used in the video) such as doctors through his own profession.

To take another example - the season 2 video begins with the brother calculating and struggling with household expenses. Stretched thin, he is forced to accept a delivery order even as the news channel reports the rapid spread of the Corona Virus. This is a distinctive image also which can be contrasted with the popular image of a truck driver breezing through mountains or green fields supposedly connecting the nation.

The truck driver in Suraksha Bandhan thus is codified as a facilitator and an enabler both inside and outside the home even as he faces a separate set of adversities in both spaces.


The campaign by Gulf Lubricants and TV9 Network successfully engages with the cultural phenomenon that Raksha Bandhan is and contextualises it as per their audience. Thus it derives an appropriate meaning of the festival for the truck drivers as per the contemporary time frame. It does so by keeping the themes and symbols dynamic according to the year.

The campaign narrative sketches out symbols of safety or ‘suraksha’ that are prevalent in a truck driver’s life- both personal and professional. The role of a truck driver and his family members as protectors is synthesized masterfully with the role of the product as the protector of the truck engines.

The winning formula for the Suraksha Bandhan campaign lies in the perfect balance between words and actions. This is well complemented by a unique understanding of the problems faced by its audience. Finally, what sets the campaign apart from others in the same category is awareness of the audiences’ social and economic realities. It ditches the usual tokenistic glorification of a truck driver in favour of realistic story arcs.