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How an agency missed the train but then sped past it with the campaign #KeralaIsOpen.
It’s probably the first time that a luggage and travel accessories brand has shifted from the category status quo of the durability/ ease-of-use fashion narrative to create an ad campaign that’s slightly off-road but, nonetheless on-track. Samsonite’s latest ad campaign #KeralaIsOpen - aims at reviving the tourism industry in the state post the devastating floods caused by heavy rainfall this year.
While entities from around the world and all over India pooled their resources and aid, the state government had to cancel official Onam celebrations and divert funds toward rehabilitation
The title of the campaign #KeralaIsOpen - echoes like an invitation from a popular and muchloved restaurant that’s just reopened after renovation. But here, it’s the state’s tourism industry that has thrown open its doors; an industry that accounts for around 10 per cent of the state’s GDP. This year, tourism was drastically affected by the deluge leading to a major spike in cancellations thus affecting all things connected to the tourism industry.
The ad opens up with Mr Nambiar, a guesthouse owner, awaiting guests and is soon followed by Jancy, a cabbie waiting to pick people up at the airport. The film also covers others stories like that of one Mr Nair, a Kathakali dancer longing for applause and Fatima who needs customers for her Karimeen (fish) fry, a Kerala delicacy. Finally, in a dramatic turn, it’s Fatima’s son who breaks the news - ‘They are coming!’ - i.e. tourists. And all of this happens in just 1.40 minutes.
Apart from the subtle branding and the glance of a Samsonite Evoa suitcase at the end, the ad mostly highlights how tourism generates employment, commerce and opportunities in the state.
So how did the campaign happen? afaqs!Reporter spoke to Anushree Tainwala, executive director Marketing, Samsonite South Asia, to find out more about the campaign. “The discussion began sometime around World Tourism Day (September 27) when we were planning our yearly communication. We were ideating about what can be done this year; something a bit different, perhaps. The agency brought up the Kerala idea. Insights were two-sided - one was about Kerala as a travel destination in recovery mode, where tourism actually drives the economy. We were trying to capture that. On the other hand, there were charities and donations by big corporates and others. Our campaign is about how everybody can bring Kerala back on to its feet without charity or preachy messages,” Tainwala says.
“Moreover, the holiday season is just around the corner, with people already planning holidays around Diwali, Christmas and other festivals. The campaign aims to make Kerala a part of their plans and not let it be forgotten,” she adds.
What’s also quite interesting is the background story of how the ad agency missed the brief but still made the best out of it. Bodh Deb, vice president and branch head at Autumn Worldwide, the agency that crafted the campaign, tells us how.
“I have been reading reports of how Kerala’s tourism industry was affected and business was down, with people cancelling their trips. I just felt that in a time like this, the last thing one should do is cancel on people. And in such a situation, people cancelling on ‘God’s own country’, doesn’t add up,” Deb outlines.
“We also had a little bit of luck. One, we had a travel-based brand like Samsonite by our side and two, we already had a month-old World Tourism Day brief which we were unable to crack; I even got an escalation call about it. But then, the news reports, the tourism-day brief and the escalation call - all the dots connected and it clicked,” Deb explains excitedly.
“We made it a point that this wouldn’t be another product campaign, but the message and the thought would be at its core. Since the story is about Kerala and its people, apart from a few members on the team, most of the workforce was from the southern state. It’s a people’s campaign first and we are happy,” Deb concludes.
Nima Namchu, chief creative officer, Havas Worldwide, considers the campaign a great idea; especially
The ad highlights how tourism generates employment, commerce and opportunities.
“Our campaign is about how everybody can bring Kerala back on to its feet without charity or preachy messages” ANUSHREE TAINWALA
for a brand to take it upon itself to support Kerala on its journey back to recovery.
“I like the quiet, understated and dignified mood of the communication. The only thing I would change is - remove that shot of the Samsonite luggage. While it fits in perfectly with that shot, it just felt too much like a plug,” Namchu says. “It’s a very smart move on the part of the team to wait for the noise in the media to die down before releasing this film. While other brands seem to have forgotten Kerala and moved on to other more lucrative causes of the week, the placement has definitely made Samsonite’s communication stand out,” Namchu adds.
About the benefits the brand would reap from the campaign, Namchu states, “For the people of Kerala, Samsonite will move from being seen as just a marketer of luggage to a sincere and mature member of the community concerned not just with the immediate but the long-term wellbeing of the community that they are a part of. You want brand love? This is one of the ways to win it,” Namchu signs off.
Jaideep Mahajan, nation creative head, Rediffusion Y&R, says, “While Kerala picks up the pieces and rebuilds itself, it is clear that rehabilitation will take more than just money. A sense of normalcy or ‘back-to-business’ is needed. This film is a small but powerful step in that direction. The messaging is crisp, the tone of voice is honest and the call-to-action is clear. The cause is much larger than any brand or strategic intent and this reflects in the execution of the film. The hashtag could have been different as it is very similar to a popular overseas campaign from 2016.” ■