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Love and chocolate have once again been reunited as Cadbury Dairy Milk Silk has collaborated with singer Jasleen Royal for its Heart Pop ‘I Missed You’ campaign. Built upon Cadbury’s foundational thought, ‘How Far Will You Go For Love’, Royal’s music video captures the longing and frustration felt by couples in a long-distance relationship; a theme that sits just right for lovers pulled apart by the pandemic.

The video:

With the makers having gone up against the challenge of rendering a well-established concept afresh, the question is, does it work? And are they able to successfully equate the ‘I Missed You’ Heart Pop bar with young love, without overdoing it?

Confirming what the audience already knows

To begin with, content centred on something as universal as love, and what is meant to appeal to the masses, can't afford to completely redo the narrative. Employing a good number of conventional tropes is necessary because it creates comfort through familiarity. It allows viewers to bond as a community in the shared knowledge of what love looks and feels like. The aim is not to jar them with the concept, but to let them quickly settle into it.

Wavemaker India, the media agency behind the effort, has taken plenty of care to populate the music video with such familiar elements.

They tell the story of a young couple, Jasleen and Ranveer who are introduced as they pack the latter's suitcase for his departure. Ranveer presumably has to shift away for work and both wish to stretch out the time they have before he has to leave.

Right as the video starts, you begin to see them playing out the typical signs of a young couple in love: playfully disrupting an activity the other is involved in to draw attention to self (she snatches away his sweater as he packs, and he tries to get it back); the playfulness turning into a sobering moment of intimacy (in the tussle for the sweater, he ends up tackling her onto the bed); and the physical chasing of each other that evokes an easy feeling of excitement (she sneakily pushes him off and takes off with the sweater again).

As the video progresses, more such signs feature. There is the exchange of meaningful, knowing glances that capture intense feelings which can’t be put into words. The red thread from the sweater that runs between the two and tugs back and forth, much like heart strings. And the compulsive phone calls after Ranveer shifts away. The signs go on.

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Creating a utopic vision for which to aspire

The content also appeals to viewers through indicators of modernity and an upgraded lifestyle.

Both Jasleen and Ranveer are able to afford comfortably sized flats despite being young professionals. The settings they’re featured in look international or like parts of India that could be anywhere abroad.

They own brightly coloured sofas that signal lively, youthful living as opposed to having traditional, ornate ones that remind viewers of their own family governed setups. Their cute, printed socks suggest individuality and serve as a sharp contrast to ordinary-looking ones that are bought in sets to get value for money.

But most importantly, Jasleen and Ranveer possess personal space that allows them to live exactly how they wish, without any interference.

These elements aren’t meant to recall the familiar but to create a visual escape from where viewers are, to what their lives could look like. And to suggest that it isn’t just the creators’ conceptualisation of love that is worth aspiring to, but also the environment they set it up in.

Bringing the audience in on the definition of love

The final building block that strengthens the execution of the video is its understanding of love and the struggle young couples face, especially in their early days.

Love is finding your home in the intimate space between you and your partner. And when that space expands to an unsettling distance, it doesn’t feel like home anymore. That’s why when Ranveer gets a flat away from Jasleen, its opening shot looks bare and exudes none of the warmth their shared place did.

Love is about staying connected and making the extra effort when you feel yourself falling out of sync with the other, as when Jasleen hastily packs to go meet Ranveer only to find that he has already come over to bridge their gap.

And as the lyrics emphasise, love is also about unconditional support, especially when the rest of the world isn't willing to empathise ('Samjhe na duniya tu to mujhko samajhiyo'), support that is offered even when it comes to irrational, emotionally charged behaviour ('dil nasamjh hai, dil ko kuch bhi na kahiyo').

With all the elements of the storyline well set in their spots, how does the ‘I Missed You’ Heart Pop bar effectively tie in without extensive brand mention and strong selling messages? Because the goal is not to change or convert content into advertising, but to keep content as content – which is material that people want to watch and listen to.

Tying the chocolate bar into the narrative

The Heart Pop bar gently accompanies our couple in the ups and downs of their story.

Chocolate placements conventionally involve breaking and eating. But here, when Jasleen feels a strong sense of longing right after Ranveer’s departure, she is only shown popping the heart out of the chocolate without eating it. For her, the bar isn't about eating to feel better, but about acknowledging her sadness.

We find that she has sweetly slipped Ranveer a bar of the same kind that he discovers upon reaching his flat. This makes the Heart Pop bar double up as a synchronised trinket that couples are known to share; an association further reinforced when Jasleen later opens her box of trinkets to an untouched bar.

Both scenes establish the chocolate in two fresh ways: one, chocolate as a lasting symbol of love rather than as something consumed and forgotten when the occasion arose. And two, of chocolate not just as a way to express your feelings to someone else but also to yourself.

Interestingly, these scenes are the only points in the video where the couple actively acknowledge the loss they feel, as opposed to other times when they passively experience the other's absence.

Wrapping up

So, finally, how strong is this connection between the Heart Pop bar and the young lovers?

Strong enough for the purpose of circulating the Cadbury Dairy Milk variant in popular culture.

The makers took a concept that viewers are well-accustomed to and made a slight but significant alteration through the bar's placement. Making it any more overt or different would have disturbed the sense of familiarity and comfort created by other signs in the video.

It also works because the brand doesn't want to tell viewers to eat more of their chocolate or establish how chocolate must be consumed. It instead wants to make them aware of the variation being offered, why it's different and how that difference can occupy the lives of consumers in a way they didn't imagine before.

The author, Hamsini Shivakumar is a semiotician, brand strategy consultant and the founder of Leapfrog Strategy Consulting. In her weekly column for BuzzInContent, she and her team will analyse interesting content pieces done by brands in terms of their cultural leverage and effectiveness of brand integration. According to her, the content has a symbiotic relationship to popular culture; it helps to form culture and draws from it. It works as part of a simultaneous and virtuous cycle of mutual reinforcement.