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Today many marketers are crazy about signing on popular celebrities to endorse their brands and are spending billions on them. This appears to be the easiest way of drawing consumers' attention, especially in the context of fierce competition in the consumer goods category, where there is a clutter of alternative brands and their advertisements, vying for consumer attention. This article takes a look at the conceptual background to the subject and delineates contemporary examples of celebrity endorsements on Indian television. Testimonials by celebrities are below average in their ability to change brand preference. Viewers guess that the celebrity has been bought, and they are right. Viewers have a way of remembering the celebrity but forgetting the product. – David Ogilvy on Advertising, 1983 Conceptual Background In the context of marketing, celebrities come under the broad category of `reference groups.' A reference group is defined as an actual or imaginary individual or group which has significant relevance to a consumer's evaluations, aspirations or behavior. The presumed perspectives or values of the reference group are used by the consumer as the basis for his/her behavior. Celebrities constitute a non-membership reference group. This is to mean that consumers do not belong to this group themselves, but it provides a standard of reference for their behavior. A single celebrity is considered to be an individual referent. Celebrities constitute a positive or associative reference group, as consumers normally find their values and behavior attractive, and look to them as role models. Celebrities can also be considered to be identification groups as consumers identify strongly with their behavior and try to incorporate the same in their own behavior. Celebrities have a credibility influence on consumers, i.e., consumers tend to believe the source of influence as accurate and unbiased. They also have comparative influence which means that celebrities do not set or enforce any rules of behavior on the consumers, but serve as a standard to choose for comparison. Depending on the context, celebrities can have informational, value-expressive or utilitarian influence; or even a combination of these. Informational influence refers to knowledge and expertise; value-expressive influence is about feelings and image; while utilitarian influence is based on one's own preference and experience. A celebrity can also be considered to be an opinion leader, especially when he/she commands informational influence. The `expert', `executive and employee spokesperson', `spokes-character', `the common man' and `professional organization' are all forms of reference groups. However, on occasions, they can also play the role of celebrities. Definition of Celebrity Endorsement
According to Friedman & Friedman (1979), a celebrity is an "individual who is known to the public for his/her achievements in areas other than that of the product class endorsed." Friedman & Freidman found empirical evidence that celebrity endorsers lead to greater believability, more favorable evaluation and more positive purchase intention in the case of products with significant psychological and/or social risk. McCracken (1989) defined a celebrity endorser as "any individual who enjoys public recognition and who uses this recognition on behalf of a consumer good by appearing with it in an advertisement." Types of Celebrity Endorsements The `endorsement' by a celebrity can take one of various forms. A celebrity can provide a testimonial, where it is suggested that the celebrity should be a user of the product and endorses it based on his/her experience. An example of a current television commercial is the testimonial for Veet hair remover by Katrina Kaif, where she is mentioned by name and shows how she is confident of herself because of Veet. In the Reid & Taylor advertisement, Amitabh Bachchan talks about the merits of the suiting. Sachin Tendulkar had been endorsing Boost, nutritional supplement drink, stating – "Boost is the secret of my energy." Other examples of this genre are the television commercials for Garnier hair color (Simone Singh) and Himani Navratna Tel (Amitabh Bachchan). Testimonial may be considered to be an implicit mode of endorsement, where the message is "I use this product." Alternatively, the celebrity could state or imply "I endorse this product" (explicit mode) or "You should use this product" (imperative mode). The most common situation, however, is that the celebrity merely plays the role of a character in the advertisement, just as any other model would. But there is much more to this. The celebrity is well-recognized by the audience and is associated with certain attributes and characteristics, which are meant to strengthen the communication by way of brand-celebrity fit. Further, the celebrity is often engaged in the larger role of a brand ambassador and participates in product launching and other events associated with the brand being endorsed. There can also be many variations and combinations of the endorsement types described above. For example, in the television commercial for Aegon Religare pension plan, Irfan Khan plays the role of a character who advises others to invest in the pension plan. He is, thus, making an imperative statement, which is addressed to other characters in the advertisement, but indirectly to the audience. Another example is that of the Boro Plus ad, where Amitabh Bachchan is a priest conducting a marriage and he recommends Boro Plus to the groom having an itchy skin! Special Types of Endorsers One variant of the celebrity endorser is the expert endorser. This concept is, however, contradictory to Friedman & Friedman's definition, which states that a celebrity is one who is known for achievements in fields other than that of the product class being endorsed. The alternative view, therefore, is to designate an "expert endorser" as an individual referant and not as a celebrity. Semantics apart, when Sachin Tendulkar endorses Nike's sports shoes, his influence on the audience can be much stronger, as in this context, he is not just a popular
celebrity but also an expert in the field related to the endorsed product. The television commercial for Sugar Free Natura shows the renowned chef Sanjeev Kapoor in the role of a celebrity-cum-expert (Exhibit 1). An organization too can play the role of a celebrity endorser (or that of a reference group, depending on one's view). For example, Dettol soap advertisement uses approval from IMA (Indian Medical Association), while Pepsodent toothpaste claims approval from IDA (Indian Dental Association). Currently we have a television commercial for Orbit Sugar Free chewing gum (The "khane ke baad" advertisement) which states that the product is accepted by the Indian Dental Association. Actual consumers are often seen providing testimonials for products in commercials. For example, Aswini Hair Oil uses this form of advertising. Though this is a testimonial advertisement, it cannot be considered to be a celebrity or reference group endorsement. While popular actors, sports persons and musicians/dancers are the most common celebrities used in commercials, we also have people from other walks of life, being engaged for endorsing products. Sanjeev Kapoor referred to above is one such example. We sometimes have the promoter or an executive of the firm coming in as a celebrity. For instance, Shahnaz Hussain herself makes an appearance on the television commercial for Shahnaz Hussain herbal beauty products. Celebrity Power versus Brand Power Though the use of celebrity endorsement is on a growth path, marketers are worried about their drawbacks and side effects. The first of these is that celebrities often overshadow the brand being advertised. People tend to remember the celebrity and not the advertised brand. Another problem is that the image of the celebrity may get diminished or tarnished, which could have a negative rub-off effect on the brand. Top celebrities such as Amitabh Bachchan, Sachin Tendulkar, Shahrukh Khan, etc., endorse several products leading to scope for confusion and possible dilution of effect. The success of celebrity endorsements depends on two aspects – reach and brand linkage. Reach leads to visibility. The combination of visibility and brand linkage results in the response which has two dimensions. The first is behavioral change, which results in short-term sales. The second is change in attitude, which leads to brand equity building. Celebrity Endorsements on Indian Television Commercials with celebrity endorsements have been appearing on Indian television since a long time. The trend has picked up quite substantially since the 1980s, when television broadcasting became more widespread in the country. The total number of celebrity endorsement commercials on Indian television till date would run into thousands. There are hundreds of them which may be considered significant and memorable. Among the ones that stand upper most in the minds of many is Ustad Zakir Hussain's "Wah Taj!" advertisement. There is an explosion in the number of products and brands available in the Indian market, accompanied by increasing number of television channels of various categories and in numerous languages. Correspondingly, there is also a dramatic increase in the number of television commercials and, in turn, in celebrity endorsed commercials. In some instances, the
advertisements of a given brand keep changing from time to time, but the celebrity endorsing it remains the same. There are other examples wherein the celebrity or brand ambassador has been changing with time. Without much ado, at Exhibit 2, we present a selected list of around 50 television commercials with celebrity endorsements, that were running on national (i.e., Hindi and English channels originating from India) television channels as of February 2009. This list is far from comprehensive in any manner. Nonetheless, it provides a representative snapshot of the diversity of products advertised on Indian television with celebrity endorsement, and also the wide range of celebrities who are engaged by the marketers. Conclusion Celebrity endorsements are used extensively today by a variety of brands. However, the presence of a celebrity alone cannot attract today's smart consumers who can discriminate and judge the brand with or without the association with celebrities. Hence organizations must also strengthen their brands so that celebrity power may not overshadow brand power. In the long run, product performance and services offered always stand ahead of the selling power of celebrities. Companies should understand that celebrity endorsements come with risks attached. They should ensure that benefits of celebrity endorsements are not outweighed by the risks.
Surrogate Advertising in India
In India, it is perfectly legal to manufacture liquor and cigarettes and sell them freely, but it is illegal to advertise them through the public media. And this is precisely the context in which we are faced with surrogate advertising. Though the law bans surrogate advertising, there is no practical enforcement as it is difficult to establish clearly that a particular product being advertised is indeed a "surrogate product" and not a "legitimate business." The solution perhaps is to explore the possibility of a ban on the further extension of alcohol and tobacco brands into other categories. Audiences joyfully applauded when Tamil film actor Rajnikanth flipped his cigarette in the air before lighting it up, or empathized with Shahrukh Khan when he consumed liquor in the movie Devdas. However, audiences might be deprived of such opportunity in future, if the Ministry of Health's proposal to ban the depiction of actors smoking on the silver screen (and also on television programs) is implemented. Several popular heroes, role models for the youth, depict addiction on screen, thus, spreading wrong signals to the youth and children who tend to imitate the same in their own lives. But the government's notification was squashed by the courts as it scuttled creative freedom. The above proposal has to be seen in the context of the prevailing laws in India which do not permit the advertising of cigarettes and liquor on public media. However, it is quite legitimate to manufacture and sell these products. Interestingly, liquor and cigarette sales are the major revenue generators for the government by way of taxes and duties levied on these items. As public advertising of these products is not permissible, marketers of cigarette and alcoholic products have for long been using the path of surrogate advertising to provide them with the requisite marketing exposure. Indian audiences have, therefore, been exposed to surrogate advertising for quite a long time. In view of this fact, some watchdog organizations started complaining that these ads were perhaps encouraging people to consume tobacco and liquor, indirectly. Surrogate advertising is one where a product which is different from the main product (parent brand), is advertised and promoted with the same brand name as that of the main product (parent brand) to camouflage the later. The product, thus, advertised is called "surrogate product" and such advertising referred to as "surrogate advertising." In order to prevent surrogate advertising, the Government of India issued a notification amending the Cable Television Networks Rules, 1994. The notification was issued on February 25, 2008, to the effect that no advertisement shall be permitted which promotes directly or indirectly, sale or consumption of cigarettes, tobacco products, wine, alcohol or other intoxicants. The then Information and Broadcasting Minister P R Dasmunsi had said, "failure to comply will entail action as per the provisions of the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995, and rules framed thereunder." Through this, the Government of India hoped to clamp down on advertisers and the media that have been using surrogate advertisements to mislead consumers and encourage the consumption of liquor and tobacco products.
According to the Press Council of India's norms for journalistic conduct, Article 13 (2)(b) of the Press Council Act 1987, prevents advertisements in print media from directly or indirectly promoting the consumption of cigarettes, tobacco products and other intoxicants. However, surrogate advertising continues. As indicated earlier, surrogate advertising is resorted to as a means of circumventing the rule that prevents the open advertising of certain products. While there is a ban on surrogate advertising, there are problems in implementing the same which we shall discuss later in this article. There is one more view about how to respond to the problem of surrogate advertising. Some feel that this amounts to double standards as there is no ban on selling the products, so why should there be a ban on advertising the same? The government wants the enormous tax revenue that it gets from these industries, but wants to strangle their legitimate marketing efforts. This is of course a controversial stand, and this article does not intend to debate this aspect. Different Forms of Surrogate Advertising The Government's rule states that advertisements which lead to the sale, consumption and promotion of liquor and cigarettes should not be allowed. In response, the marketers of such products spend their promotional budgets on alternative products of the same brand name and, thus, indirectly build the liquor/cigarette brand. The budget is often used for advertising surrogate products. It is also used to sponsor sports and other entertainment events or to engage in co-marketing with other products and services, thereby, enhancing the parent brand's visibility. Surrogate advertising for liquor products, for instance, is commonly resorted to by advertising complementary products such as soda, bottled drinking water and fruit juices. Other commonly advertised surrogate products include music CDs, apparel and accessories, and sports goods of the same brand name. Many liquor and cigarette companies also engage in sports sponsorship as a means for promoting their brands. For instance, United Breweries Group's IPL (Indian Premier League) cricket team "Royal Challengers" has been named after its premium whisky brand "Royal Challenge" (Exhibit 1). UB also sponsored a four-leg national "Royal Challenge" Grand Prix. One can also find UB's presence in international sports events like Formula 1 racing. Of late, there has been an increasing trend of liquor and cigarette majors sponsoring events and award ceremonies, such as the "Smirnoff International Fashion Awards." These companies have also launched their own version of awards for bravery or lifetime achievements, such as the Teacher's Achievement Awards! Another example is that of "The Red and White Bravery Award" instituted by Godfrey Philips. In the year 2002, at the tenth "Red and White Bravery Awards" ceremony that took place in the national capital, Dr. Verghese Kurien (the father of India's white revolution), was felicitated for his social service (Exhibit 2). This went well with everybody though it was a open secret that "Red and White" is a cigarette brand. On the November 4, 2006, Parthasarathy (mridangam player), Louis Banks (pianist), Shankar Mahadevan (singer), Karl Peters (bass percussionist) and Shivamani (drums player), all
performed for "Seagram's 100 Pipers' the Legends" live at Hyatt Regency, Kolkata (Exhibit 3). Seagram's 100 Pipers is the brand name of a scotch whisky from the stable of Seagram's. Advertising of Bacardi Blast album and parties, music cassettes from Bacardi Rum or from Seagram or even business case studies from Johnnie Walker are all instances of liquor brands resorting to surrogate products for their promotion. Johnnie Walker's "The Keep Walking" series of business case studies from Leo Burnett was meant to advertise the whisky brand, as it is illegal to advertise alcoholic beverages. Ironically, Johnnie Walker also uses a `do not drink and drive' variety of social message advertisement to promote its own liquor brand (Exhibit 4). From Exhibit 5, one can observe that almost all the liquor and cigarette majors have taken recourse to surrogate advertising. These are just a few examples of surrogate advertisements for liquor and cigarettes that one has been coming across over the past one year. This clearly shows that there is a loophole in the current law which has been successfully exploited by the industry in its own favor. Banning Surrogate Advertising – Issues & Problems As always, banning anything has an economic angle to it. It is estimated that banning surrogate ads would lead to an annual revenue loss of Rs. 200 cr for television channels and Rs. 250 cr for the print media. Private broadcasters had appealed to the Government for repealing the ban on surrogate advertising (vide notification dated 25th February 2008) on the ground that it would affect their revenues. This request was turned down. However, the advertising fraternity unanimously says that the industry at large is following a responsible code of conduct. They also accept that there could be a few exceptions which obviously will have to be addressed individually. The fact is that surrogate advertisements are banned. The problem lies in implementing the ban. One can consider the advertising of such products "surrogate advertising," if these are not genuine businesses, but are only used as a façade for promoting the parent product, i.e., liquor or cigarettes. But quite often, the non-genuineness of the "surrogate business" becomes difficult to establish. For instance, Director's Special and Kingfisher bottled drinking water are also sold in the market, in howsoever a small quantity it may be. Therefore one cannot categorically establish that these are "surrogate products," though the prime objective of marketing these bottled water brands is evidently to promote the parent liquor brands. In some instances, one could also have a genuine business. The case of Kingfisher Airlines would drive home this point. United Breweries promoted Kingfisher Airlines, wherein Kingfisher is also the name of its flagship beer brand. The airline was set up with the brand name, color scheme and logo that were the same as that of the liquor brand. Today United Breweries has a legitimate airline business in the name of "Kingfisher" and one cannot prevent it being advertised. But at one time, there was a view that the airline business was a "surrogate product" for promoting the beer business. Thus the fine line between the actual products and the façade is somewhat blurred today.
Likewise, Indian Tobacco Company (ITC) has set up a chain of lifestyle stores under the brand name "Wills", the cigarette brand owned by it, and one cannot say that this is a surrogate business. The same argument could be logically extended to all "surrogate products." As a result, the ban on surrogate advertising becomes ineffective and toothless in actual practice. A Possible Solution to the Problem Leveraging trademarks and umbrella branding are proven corporate strategies, as evident from the success of LG and Samsung brands across a wide range of product segments. Companies follow these very same strategies for surrogate advertising and marketing. It is said that the government is ready to put companies under a scanner to determine whether their umbrella branding strategy is transparent and genuine. But brand extension across products has to be permitted except when the purpose clearly is to encourage the consumption of a product whose promotion is prohibited by law. One must clearly understand the difference between `brand extension' and `surrogate products'. The possible watertight solution to the issue would be to clearly ban future `brand extensions' of existing tobacco and alcohol brands to other product categories. The same rule should apply to any new liquor and cigarette brands that might be introduced in the market. This would prevent the use of liquor and tobacco brand name and identity while branding and advertising CDs, cassettes, soda, packaged drinking water, a fashion store or any other product, without providing any loopholes or scope for misinterpretation. The law would also have to prevent the reverse extension of brands established in other categories into the liquor and cigarettes business. However, in framing such a law, care should be taken to ensure that legitimate businesses based on brand extensions are not prevented. The main reason why the ban on surrogate advertising is not working today is that it is confusing and unclear, and falls within the loopholes of law. Until this issue is resolved with clarity, whether we like it or not, liquor and cigarette marketers will continue to rule the media through surrogate advertisements.
Case Study Big TV's Take-Off on Digital TV's Teaser Ad Is it Ethical?
-- Sandhya E Sr. Research Associate, The Icfai Research Center, Bangalore. The author can be reached at email@example.com -- Anu K Former Faculty Associate, The Icfai Research Center, Bangalore. The author can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org The year 2008 witnessed remarkable growth in the Indian direct-to-home television services market. At the same time, increase in the number of players made the situation more competitive. This led to the adoption of unconventional advertising strategies to attract and retain customers. Reliance ADAG's Big TV made a sequel to the teaser ad campaign of Airtel's Digital TV, which made it look as through Digital TV's teaser advertisements actually came from Big TV. Digital TV's advertisements had not carried any information about the brand and product; and moreover, the brand color of both the players was red. These aspects prompted Big TV to mimic Digital TV's teaser ads and take the opportunity to promote its own brand of direct-to-home television services. Big TV's ad hijack posed a set back to the effectiveness of Digital TV's pre-launch campaign. Nonetheless, Digital came up with a powerful post-launch campaign, which helped in strong positioning of its brand and services. However, the tactics played by Reliance's Big TV prompted a debate among advertising analysts. Was it ethical on the part of Reliance to hijack the competitor's teaser campaign? Would this have a negative impact on Reliance's brand equity and business? Or was it a smart and prudent move and should it be commended as good advertising strategy? How would this incident influence the future of teaser ad campaigns in India? On October 8, 2008, The Times of India reported that Reliance ADAG's Big TV (BTV) mimicked Bharti Airtel Digital TV's (DTV) pre-launch teaser advertisement and released a strikingly similar teaser ad to promote BTV's Direct-to-Home (DTH) service. In the late-2000s, the DTH market in India was budding as an alternative to cable television services. With increased number of players in the DTH segment, there was growing competition to capture the market by being cost competitive. And advertising became a catalyst to grab customers' eyeballs. Reliance and Bharti Airtel, the prominent rivals in the telecommunications industry, had drawn battle lines in the DTH segment also. BTV ran a television commercial by hijacking DTV's teaser advertisement (Ad), thereby taking advantage of the curiosity created among viewers by DTV. To grab viewers' attention and for better market positioning of BTV, Reliance took the cream out of DTV's campaign, leaving the viewers confused and thinking that the teaser ad belonged to BTV. This act also raised doubts regarding the ethics in the minds of analysts.
Ad Campaigns: Airtel vs. Reliance In 2008, the Indian DTH market saw significant growth with four players, namely DD Direct, Dish TV, Tata Sky and Sun Direct in the market. Three more players – BTV, DTV and D2H were also expected to enter this emerging market. Due to stiff competition, DTH players were striving to capture the untapped market potential. The DTH market in India was in a nascent stage, experiencing an exponential growth, and was estimated to touch 60 million subscribers by 2015 as against 6 million in 2008. The DTH service providers focused on cost competitiveness and provided more choices to the subscribers. They tried to attract and retain subscribers by being economical and providing high quality service. Reliance Communications', a dominant player in the Indian telecommunications market, launched its DTH service named Big TV (BTV) on August 19, 2008, with 202 channels. It targeted to add four more channels by the end of 2008 and planned to capture 40% market share within the first 12 months of its launch. BTV used MPEG-4 technology to provide the best audio and video quality along with special features such as 32 customized movie channels and a built-in library of 600 films offered at either a charge per view or on subscription basis. The starting price of the subscription package was INR 1,490 with three months free subscription. Customer care centers were set up at two locations with a capacity of 50,000 calls per day in 11 languages. BTV's marketing strategy focused mainly on communicating the product's features and differentiating its services to gain market leadership. The service was made available to subscribers through 100,000 outlets across the country. Reliance planned to capitalize on the strengths of its telecommunications, energy and entertainment arms, and focused on exploiting its retail network to widen its DTH presence. Reliance mobile customers were provided with a special offer, while beneficial offers were also made available to customers of Reliance Insurance and Reliance Energy. BTV had an innovative strategy wherein it offered discount on a 26 inch LCD TV set along with the DTH subscription. Reliance's deeper retail presence was an added advantage for its DTH business as compared with the other players. The service offering was planned to be cheaper than cable TV service in the long run, and was also intended to provide high quality service to retain the subscriber base, which in itself was a challenge. BTV's key differentiator was its pricing scheme with different starter packs devised to reach all segments of the DTH market (Annexure I). As part of its marketing strategy, BTV partnered with the Indian Premiere League (IPL) for four years starting from 2008 with an intention to support IPL and simultaneously promote its DTH service. Reliance and Airtel submitted bids for partnering with IPL, but the bid was eventually won by Reliance (Annexure II). Reliance used aggressive advertising campaigns to promote its DTH service. It appointed the Mudra group as the primary advertising agency with Leo Burnett playing a secondary role. Mudra believed that the product was quite superior, and the focus of its advertising was, therefore, on better positioning of the features. Mudra began with an integrated campaign comprising a teaser and a main TVC. The teaser featured television soap celebrities conveying the message to the viewers that something big would happen on the entertainment arena. 15,000 spots of the main ad were planned to be aired on TV during the 1 st week of BTV's launch. The main TVC was conceptualized to convey the brand's propositioning – `Ho to BIG Ho', i.e., `If it is to be, it better be Big' (Exhibits 1 & 2). Though the creators felt that it was a
communicative ad, other advertising professionals felt that while the ad was well executed, the idea was not all that creative. BTV's advertising campaign to support its launch was spread across several media such as 10,000 outdoor hoardings in tier-1 cities, 70,000 radio spots aired in 50 to 60 top cities, regional print advertisements in tier-2 cities, 500 full page inserts in the print media over 14 days, 80,000 retail signages, and advertising at Adlab cinemas across the country. BTV also developed an internet-based application `My Big TV' that allowed one to create videos and then transmit the same across social networking sites. Apart from these attempts, it also forayed into web advertising through the placement of ads on various online networks. Airtel, on the other hand, was all set to venture into the DTH market in India through its DTV by the end of 2008 with over 175 channels. The services were planned to be made accessible to customers through 21,000 retail points across the country. This DTH player was targeting 20% market share during the first year of its launch. DTV, like BTV, also adopted MPEG-4 technology, and offered special features including 20% larger antenna (which ensured good performance even during rains), World Space Radio, knowledge and interactive applications, home shopping services, games, on-screen account meter, low battery indicator, uniform audio control, a memory that would save the last viewed channel, etc. A customer care center was set up to provide customer support in eight different languages with a team of 800 service personnel. DTV's marketing strategy was oriented towards capitalizing on Airtel's strong brand equity and wide distribution network. Airtel focused on using its existing distribution channels to market DTV along with its mobile phone and internet products. Different starter packs were devised for catering to subscribers of all segments of the DTH market (Annexure III). DTV believed that long run sustainability depended on being cost competitive and providing high quality service, which is a challenge for any player. Airtel emphasized on promoting DTV as the DTH service that supports all entertainment genres. It appointed JWT to conceptualise its ad campaigns. The other ad strategies devised by Airtel were – advertising at Airtel's retail points, use of outdoor hoardings, print media, and advertisements on online networks. Reliance and Airtel were, thus, all set to capture subscriber base in the competitive DTH segment by adopting aggressive promotional strategies. Ad-Hijacking: The Ethical Issue DTV started its pre-launch campaign on television with a four-ad teaser campaign that did not reveal any information about the brand and the product. Each teaser ad lasted for 12 seconds and showed specific human/animation characters. After the characters were shown, a red sofa landed in with a thud and then the ad ended with a voice over saying – `See you at homeSoon.' In the first teaser, a Masai warrior was hitting his weapon on the ground, when a red couch flew in with a thud, and finally he is seen to say to the viewer, `See you at homeSoon.' While in the second teaser, a cowboy who struck the gun said the same punch line after the red couch landed. Similarly, in the third teaser, a music band sang the same lines, prior to the flying in of the red couch followed by the voice over. Lastly the fourth teaser
showed three meerkat cartoons dancing around as the red couch flew in and the voice over announced, `See you at homeSoon.' Each character in the teaser was indicative of an entertainment genre (Exhibit III). The Masai warrior was indicative of the infotainment genre, the cowboy represented the movies genre, the music band stood for the music genre and meerkats were indicative of the kids' entertainment genre. According to industry experts, DTV's teaser ad campaign left the door wide open for BTV. BTV's advertising agency, Mudra group found out through its market intelligence that the ads were actually those of DTV and thought of exploiting the opportunity to publicize the features of BTV. DTV's ad was not carrying any information about the sponsor and the product being advertised. The brand color of both the players was red and thereby, Mudra thought of building on JWT's creative concept. Mudra group conceptualized BTV's teaser campaign overnight, filmed the ad in two days and finally aired the teasers on television. BTV ran a three ad campaign on television that was almost similar to DTV's teaser ad. BTV spoofed the ad and the punch line. The first ad showed a red couch landing in, followed by the sound of breaking glass and an announcement that said, `See you at home with digital picture and sound.' The second teaser ad had numerous red couches with a voice over, `See you at home with over 200 TV channels'. The third teaser ad had a red couch that flew in, a popcorn pack that landed on the couch and a voice over announcement, `See you at home with 32 cinema halls.' (Exhibit IV). The major difference between the DTV and BTV teaser ads was that BTV's ad showed the BTV logo highlighting its features. Reliance's Big TV thus busted Airtel's DTH pre-launch teaser ad campaign in an aggressive way that kept viewers thinking that the entire ad campaign actually belonged to Big TV. Bobby Pawar, Chief Creative Officer, Mudra group said, ``Marketing is war. Competition presented us with an opening, and we took it and capitalized on it very quickly. It was done in a matter of hours, in fact, overnight." BTV continued to air its three teaser ads on television as long as Airtel's teaser ads were being aired. Airtel, however, remained silent and refused to comment on the ad hijack act of Reliance. The viewers were initially confused, but later realized that BTV had created a take off on DTV's teaser ads. DTV launched its service on October 9, 2008 with a post-launch ad campaign to position it as the DTH service that caters to every entertainment segment. DTV's ad campaign to support its launch took off with a multi-starrer TVC created by JWT that featured the most popular celebrities from different fields of entertainment namely Bollywood, TV serials, TV reality shows, sports, cartoon characters, etc (Exhibit V). The amazing point in the ad was that the celebrities were not projected as endorsers. Rather, they were used as representatives of the various entertainment genres offered by DTV. A day after the multi-starrer DTH ad was featured, an IMRB study conducted to measure its reach revealed that 47% of those surveyed recalled the brand. Such a large percentage of recall just a day after its launch made it clear that the advertisement had made its targeted impact. On the second day of ad launch, the third most searched word on Google was Airtel DTV and it was viewed 10,800 times on YouTube. The ad communicated the message that DTV offers all the entertainment genres. The advertisement was well liked by the viewers.
Airtel's Digital TV was associated with the India-Australia cricket series that commenced in October 2008 and also with the TV reality show, "Big Boss". The other advertisement avenues used by DTV included outdoor hoardings, print advertisements across various cities, advertising at retail points and also online advertisements. As a counter strategy, the second phase of advertising for BTV began with a humorous TVC that used the iconic dialogue `Mere paas maa hai', from the movie Deewar. The TVC was conceptualized by Mudra group which came out with a humoristic version of this sentimental movie dialogue (Exhibit VI). The ad communicated the message that the impact of BTV's 32 movie channels had led to a drastic change in the mindset of the young guy featured in the ad. Jagdish Acharya, Executive Creative Director, Mudra said, "Outrageous transformation is the theme of the brand and hence, is the theme of the campaign as well. The philosophy is `Ho to Big ho, varna na ho,' which means `it isn't worth it, if it isnt big." This advertisement was launched in various media namely print, TV, electronic and radio. Both advertising experts and the general public felt that the ad was entertaining, but that it failed to convey the message clearly. A major criticism was that the regional language translations of the ad were not conveying the meaning that was intended in the Hindi version that was used for the national campaign. By the end of 2008, the aggressive rivals Reliance and Airtel were fighting it out strongly to grab a foothold in the DTH battle ground. Bharti Airtel positioned DTV as the DTH service that offers all the entertainment genres, while Reliance positioned BTV as a `Big' service provider. As a strategy to win over competition, BTV resorted to unconventional advertising practice and hijacked DTV's pre-launch teaser ad campaign to promote its own brand name and features. Industry experts criticized the ad hijack act by Reliance saying that it copied the competitor's idea in the very first stage of its entry into the DTH market. Airtel sources felt that the ad spoof showed that Reliance was short of ideas. Chandrasekhar Radhakrishnan, Brand and Media Head of Bharti Airtel condemned the ad take off as an incoherent approach by Reliance. Was it ethical on the part of Reliance to bank upon a competitor's teaser advertisement for its own positioning? Also, the bigger question is whether this would have a negative impact on Reliance's brand image and business.
Communication Sells! Lessons from Airtel's `Big Idea'
There has been a lot of research, debate and argument on what should be the `Big Idea' or the communication theme to promote a brand. Many companies have successfully maneuvered Big Ideas well and strategized their communication to become the world's most successful brands. Nike started with "Just do it", BMW has its tagline, "The Ultimate Driving Machine", Tata Steel says, "We also make steel" and so on. This article takes a look at the communication strategies of Airtel and other telecommunication service providers in the Indian market. Companies have often used ce- lebrities to enhance their brand values. Knowingly or unknowingly, celebrity values get transferred into the brand to develop Image Connect, and the brand, thus, enhanced will ultimately get connected with the consumerswe call this Mental Connect. Successful companies use Image Connect and Mental Connect with a lot of maneuvering skills and create successful brands that make history. Many companies try to achieve image differentiation. They create unique or differentiated image to pull the crowds. People buy certain products absolutely based on some distinct images. In India, Kingfisher has created a unique and distinctive image, and consumer preference is very strong for Kingfisher Airlines. The Kingfisher brand is recognized even by its jingle which has been made memorable, lyrical and distinctive. In a similar way, Marlboro created the "macho cowboy" image through a mesmerizing advertisement and millions liked the cigarette primarily because it had a distinct and unique image. The protagonist who appeared in Marlboro advertisements was brawny, adventurous, and gave a new dimension to communication. In India, Airtel is no different. Using its Big Idea, "Express Yourself," Airtel has launched several advertising campaigns from time to time. These have received much acclaim and also tremendous consumer response. Though the content of the campaigns keep changing depending on specific needs and circumstances, and may also be targeted at different consumer groups, all the communications hinge on a common theme, "Express Yourself". Most of the campaigns are supported by good creative ideas and are executed well (Exhibit 1). The Big Idea Good advertisement campaigns start with a communication theme or the "Big Idea". Airtel created its unique Big Idea – "Express Yourself" and every communication from Airtel hovers around this. Whether it is two boys across a fenced border or a romantic Saif and Kareena, Airtel's Big Idea has always kept us glued to the television screen watching how people express themselves and how Airtel helps them express their emotions developing stronger bonds in the process. Airtel has, thus, created a unique identity with the help of this "Big Idea" and stuck to it unwaveringly, thereby, making it an integral part of the brand. Its communication strategy encompasses this Big Idea and develops very strong mental connect with the consumers (Exhibit 2). The company has used the Big Idea to develop diverse communications (or advertisement campaigns with different messages) from time to time, all of which strengthened the brand's connect with the consumers, enhancing its brand equity.
Reasons behind Airtel's Strong Brand Equity Kotler & Keller have given a comprehensive marketing communication model for developing brand equity (Exhibit 3). The quality of Airtel's communication program is considerably superior to that of other telecom service providers. It has created a differentiation in its communication which is a cut above the rest. The quality of Airtel's communication is highly strategic and methodical as well. Airtel never diluted its communication theme and its campaigns have been primarily based on the "Express Yourself" theme. Airtel conducts large promotional campaigns and is part of all kinds of popular events. It even goes to college campuses to promote its services. Airtel's public relations are quite good too and the company projects a very aggressive and proactive image at the retail points.
If we consider brand equity, Airtel would score over other competitors on all parameters awareness, image, brand response and brand relationship. Airtel's bond with its customers is especially strong, and customers' relationship with the brand is quite palpable and discerning. Creating Imagery No telecom company in India has built as strong a brand imagery as Airtel. Other telecom operators cried hoarse about the reliability and quality of their "network." They sold their brands as a necessity, based on tangible benefits, and to that extent sidestepped the emotional angle. In 1991, Dr. Manmohan Singh, the then finance Minister, liberated the Indian economy and provided a new economic landscape to the Indian consumers as well as the Indian industries. Thereafter a slew of multinational corporations, particularly from western countries, began coming to India; and Indian culture was gradually influenced by the occidental effect. People started shedding their age-old food and dress-habits, etc., and also began looking for more in their relationships. While the traditional arranged marriage continued to hold sway, a bit of
courtship before marriage became more common, especially among the urbanites. Airtel has rightly captured the aspirations of young couples and communicated the same without diluting the core value of its Big Idea. Two recent campaigns, one with Vidya Balan and Madhavan in the role of the lead protagonists, and the other with Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoor, mesmerized the audience by their excellent display of romanticism. Airtel gave a new twist to its tale of "Express Yourself" and added some emotional value around the brand through the couple – Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoor – who are shown to be going through a romantic intrigue. Saif's expression of "I miss you, it hurts" literally jabbed the hearts of many girls. And the campaign became an instant hit. In this campaign, the pain that Saif goes through because of the absence of Kareena can easily engulf the mind space of youngsters who nurture a dream of romance. The same pair now appears in an advertisement for voice-activated hello tones. In the earlier campaign too, Airtel communicated a strong emotional display by the romantic couple protagonists – Vidya Balan and Madhavan. Avoiding Low Price as the Selling Proposition While the poorest among Indians cannot afford cellular phone services, there is a substantial population in the next higher rung (the lower middle class) for whom these services can be within reach, if economically priced. Tata Indicom, with its rock bottom pricing, wanted to capture this market with its communication of low price. Hutch (now Vodafone) also communicated its low price recharge options to the mass market through Irfan Khan. Reliance too plays the low price card – highlighting low-priced handsets and services. No doubt, for a large chunk of the population in the lower socioeconomic classes, "low price" becomes the prime criterion for selecting a cellular phone service provider. Knowingly or unknowingly, the service providers have segmented the market quite sharply based on the price criterion, and majority of them are trying to develop their businesses based on the "low price" plank. Airtel has been among the exceptions to this rule, as it normally does not highlight low price as its main selling proposition. Relevant and Contemporary Communication Communication has gone through a paradigm change. There was a time when companies would communicate directly. Today many companies would prefer to communicate in a subtle way, depending on the target customers. They also like to attach appeals and associations to the products depending on the type of product and the customer category. But the sole objective of any communication is to win the hearts and minds of the consumers. The telecom companies adopt diverse communication strategies to achieve this objective. But Airtel adopts a strategic approach making its communications more relevant, topical and contemporary. People in today's world value romance and relationships which Airtel has understood well. In today's paradigm, it is not adequate to just have a Big Idea. It is extremely important to create superior communication based on the Big Idea that can actually attract customers. Vodafone's Communication Strategy
Vodafone has always been quite strategic and focused in its marketing communications. It has segregated its communication into three parts: 1. Communication for the Brand (Vodafone) Vodafone's communication is primarily aimed at promoting its brand backed by white lettering on a prominent red background. The color has become synonymous with the brand, making it easily recognizable. In its earlier avatar, Hutch also adopted a similar strategy, and used its logo – initially in orange color, and later in pink – to good advantage. 2. Communication for Customer Care Vodafone's marketing communications strongly emphasize customer care which is exemplified by the lovable pug that is shown to be extremely helpful and caring. The communication theme is based on care and loyalty which is driven home through numerous episodes involving the pug and the little girl (Exhibit 4). The storyboards and the execution of the advertisements are indeed excellent. It may be recalled that the pug has been continued from the "Hutch" era and the earlier advertisements from Hutch showed a pug with a little boy. 3. Communication for Price Irfan Khan has become an integral part of price-related advertisements for Vodafone. Whether it was the ten rupee recharge (chhota recharge) or the advertisement regarding STD for Re.1/- or the latest advertisement for lifelong prepaid, Irfan Khan is the person. There is no doubt that Vodafone's advertisements are more impactful. communication is more strategic, but Airtel's
Communication by other Telecom Companies Other telecom service majors in the country include Reliance, Tata Indicom, BSNL, MTNL and Idea. If we take a close look at their promotional activities, it is evident that most of them have not built strongly cohesive and consistent advertising campaigns as done by Airtel, based on one `Big Idea'. Some have excelled at communicating their pricing strategy and others the reach of their network or both. Sometimes they have focused on other features of their services or the specifications and prices of handsets offered as part of their service packages. But much of the time these have turned out to be "me too" offers available from most of the service providers. Idea Cellular has achieved a substantial degree of awareness and Image Connect by using Abhishek Bachchan in its advertisements. The recent advertisement has more punch and fun, and is enjoyed by the audience. But this approach has not succeeded in building a strong Mental Connect. USP, Image and Positioning
The renowned American advertiser Rosser Reeves propounded the concept of "Unique Selling Proposition" (USP) in 1960 and many of his advertisements were focused around this idea. However, with lots of also-ran products claiming the same USP, it has become difficult to use this concept in modern day advertising. With many competitors claiming the same USP (e.g., excellent network or low price), consumers get confused as to which option to choose. A few brands, like Mercedes Benz, Rolls Royce, Marlboro and Coca-Cola succeeded in creating exceptionally distinct image and consumers had no hesitation in buying these brands. Problems arose when parity products or undifferentiated products came to the market with almost similar promisesUSP then had to take a back seat. Then came the Image Concept. Companies tried to develop their image, through corporate communication, by creating awareness, and by building trust and relationships with customers. And there was a buying spree for products that came from high image companies. But again, many companies began adopting the same technique, leading to many competing companies having the same image. Consumers were again confused when for example "Ariel" from Procter & Gamble and "Surf Excel" from Hindustan Unilever had the same image. Al Ries and Jack Trout emphasized the concept of positioning and this helped many companies distinguish themselves in this cluttered or over-communicated society. Ries and Trout did not say anything particularly new; they only emphasized the importance of occupying mind space. Airtel, Vodafone, Reliance, BSNL, Tata Indicom all these companies have been trying to increase their market share. But it would appear that Airtel has an edge, thanks to Al Ries and Jack Trout. Conclusion Most of the telecom service companies in India thought that low price and extensive network would rule the game. These aspects are no doubt extremely important, but they are only the basic `hygiene' factors and would not provide strong differentiation. Airtel's unique communications built around the theme "Express Yourself" have strengthened it with a distinct advantage.
Kerala Tourism At a Glance!
This article provides an overview of Kerala's tourism industry and explains the developmental initiatives taken by the state to showcase tourism products like ayurveda, backwaters, festivals, etc., as well as to market Kerala Tourism as a super brand. It explains marketing and advertising strategies adopted by the state with the intention of emerging as a preeminent tourism destination in the world. It concludes with the impact of tourism on the state's economy, threats faced by the tourism industry in the state and the expectations and prospects for the future. Kerala is hailed as one of the must-see tourism destinations in the world. With the Arabian Sea on the western side, Western Ghats to the eastern side and with numerous beaches and an extensive network of backwaters, the state has exclusive ecological features and natural diversity that have made it one of the world's acclaimed tourist destinations. It is also one of the most advanced states in India with the most literate population, lowest child mortality and highest physical quality of life. Moderate climate, rich art and ethnic traditions are the encouraging aspects for the development of tourism in Kerala. There are 14 districts in the state and majority of them provide exciting tourism opportunities. The potential of the state in tourism and hospitality has been well recognized. The super brand "Kerala - God's Own Country" was registered and adopted for marketing the state as a tourism destination. This epithet eventually turned out to be synonymous with the state itself. The first tourism board to list its brands and sub-brands in India was the Kerala Tourism Board. Tourism is a key element of contemporary society which has developed as a profitable activity of enormous significance worldwide. Possibly, there is barely any other sector where so many people are engaged either directly or indirectly. Now-a-days, tourism is considered one of the major emerging industries across the globe because of high profit generation, job opportunities, investments, foreign exchange earnings, societal and cultural advancements and tax payments, which, in turn, help in the overall growth of the economy. An Overview of Kerala's Tourism Industry India is one among the early nations that realized the scope of the tourism sector and promoted tourism and hospitality through government initiatives. Kerala is the fastest developing tourist destination in the country with more than 4 lakh foreign and 60 lakh domestic visitors every year. The Tourism Department, started as the State Hospitality Department during the 1950s, began its operations formally in the 1960s. But the role of this department was initially confined to the administration of government guest houses, maintenance of the residences of ministers and providing hospitality and other services for state guests. It was only during the Seventh Five-Year Plan period that activities to promote tourism were included in the department's agenda. At present, tourism has developed as the most stable and high performing sector in the state. From the beginning itself, Kerala had a stable growth in this field. A distinctive blend of intrinsic advantages, new tourism products, a vibrant tourism-trade oriented society and
continuous government assistance made the state the most favored destination in the country within a short span of time. Kerala's tourism industry magnetizes around Rs. 1000 cr of investment each year and offers jobs to more than 10 lakh people. The size of the state's tourism sector is estimated to have increased by 25.28% during 2007-08 which was Rs. 11,433 cr more than during the preceding year. There was an increase in the number of foreign tourists by 20.37% and, at the same time, the number of domestic visitors increased by 5.92%. Foreign exchange earnings improved by 32.82% to reach a figure of Rs. 2640.94 cr during 2007-08. By recognizing the significance of tourism in invigorating the socioeconomic growth of the economy and the people, nurturing of traditional performing arts and handicrafts, the Government of Kerala declared tourism as an industry during the year 1986. At present, tourism is one of the thriving industries in the state that is generating immense profits and creating exciting job opportunities. World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), an international organization for the promotion of tourism globally, has chosen Kerala as a `Partner State'. National Geographic Traveler, after conducting a two-year study, selected Kerala as one among the `50 must-see destinations' in one's life span. Travel and Leisure-UK, categorized it as `One of the hundred great trips of the 21st century.' The state is also considered to be "One of the best 10 paradises of the earth." Kerala is the favorite destination for celebrities Paul McCartney and Heather Mills. Paul shares his experience as "Truly God's Own Country''. The New York Times quoted that this is the place ``where India flows at a relaxed pace.'' The state has won a number of awards and recognitions at national and international levels in the field of tourism. Refer Exhibit 1.
Tourism with the support of IT-enabled services and biotechnology can be the driving force for the future development of Kerala's economy. Expanding at a rate of 13.31%, tourism is a key contributor to the development of the state's economy. Kerala attracts the attention of tourists by virtue of its exclusive features such as abundance of greenery, a rich and vibrant culture
and the personal achievements of its people in various forms of arts and crafts. The state is, thus, gifted with distinctive natural, cultural and societal resources. The government authorities endeavor to market and promote Kerala as a destination brand overseas and various promotional activities are being implemented backed by innovative and exhilarating tourism products. The officials of the state tourism department along with private parties are taking initiatives to perk up the amenities and transportation facilities at various tourist spots. They are also trying to reduce the negative impacts of tourism on the natural environment and enhance the cultural enrichment of the local people. From the time when tourism was designated as an industry, numerous incentives have been extended by the government to investors in other sectors to attract them towards investing in the tourism sector also. The incentives comprise financial assistance facilitating loan approvals, infrastructure support, marketing and advertising support, exposure through government publications, etc. Developmental Initiatives The recent growth in tourism has made the government realize the importance of undertaking various development programs to market the state as a tourism brand. Commenting on the state's endeavors to brand the destination, Prahalad Kakkar, highly acclaimed Indian ad-film maker stated, "Kerala does not need to take any extra effort to gain popularity or to establish itself as a hot destination anymore." In recent times, Kerala has effectively marketed itself as a renowned brand for a variety of options from ayurvedic massage to its festivals. The Ayurvedic Way to Holistic Well-Being In an effort to catch the attention of international tourists, Kerala began promoting medical tourism along with its exclusive Ayurvedic treatment which originates from 5000 year old Ayurvedic manuscripts like the Charaka Samhita, Sushruta Samhita and the Vedas like RigVeda and Atharva Veda. The combination of two facets-Ayurveda and tourism-has extended several opportunities and provided a boost to both the fields. More than 40% of the international travelers who visit Kerala include patients for Ayurvedic treatments such as herbal cures and spa tourism in their tour package. This has become a vital element in the tourism industry since the number of tourists arriving for the treatment has increased as compared to the previous years (Exhibit 2). Kerala, with its strong tradition in Ayurveda, is sought-after particularly by German tourists. The arrival of visitors from Germany, the fifth leading market for Kerala, rose at a fabulous rate of 18% during 2004-06. EK Bharat Bhushan, former Principal Secretary of Kerala Tourism had said, "We are looking at Germany as a big market for Kerala, especially for our wellness product - Ayurveda. A print and TV campaign along with road shows promoting Ayurveda will be launched in Berlin and other major cities in Germany." In order to maintain its competitive advantage in Ayurveda, the Kerala Tourism Board and the State Government had to tackle a host of problems like introducing quality control and certification programs, and re-configuring the Ayurvedic treatments provided in the state to match with the requirements of modern society.
Currently, Kerala has come to be strongly associated with Ayurveda, though this tradition is widely prevalent across India. The fame of this time-honored medical system has shown the way to the growth of numerous Ayurvedic centers in every nook and corner of the state. A number of centers like - The Arya Vaidya Pharmacy, Nagarjuna, SD Pharmacy, Dhanwanthari Ayurveda Vydia Sala, Kerala Ayurveda Pharmacy Ltd., etc., can be found in well-known tourist places like Kumarakom, Kovalam, Kochi and Alappuzha. Kerala realized the preference of tourists for taking pressure-busting holidays by opting for vacations where their health and general well-being are taken care of. Hence the Tourism Board encouraged the establishment of Ayurvedic centers and health spas by the beaches and backwaters with the intention that the blend of both will offer a good vacation at one go. The ayurvedic treatment facilities in the state help the travelers to improve their physical and mental health through the instinctive principles of Mother Nature to take them back into stability within their own selves. Backwaters - The World of Serenity Kerala receives lot of acclaim because of the variety of attractions that can be enjoyed as part of the tourism package. The most gorgeous and amazing feature of Kerala's tourism is its backwaters. The backwaters are a chain of lakes and lagoons on the coastline of Kerala, along the Arabian Sea. They extend to a length of over 1900 kilometers and offer visitors the best way to explore the natural attractions of coastal Kerala by traveling in a houseboat, which is modified from a traditional rice boat called `Kettuvallom' (Exhibit 3). Kollam, Kumarakom and Alappuzha are renowned backwater hubs of Kerala which provide the tourists a tranquil experience in a calm atmosphere. Water Sports - A Fascinating Experience Kerala hosts 44 rivers, numerous backwaters and lagoons. This makes water sports an exciting possibility. The adventure water sports provided by the state include water-skiing, para-sailing, marine fishing, wind surfing, etc. The people who visit the beach resorts cannot avoid the thrilling and adventurous experience of these activities. Various resorts provide a variety of sports depending on the situations prevailing at their beaches, as each one is different from the other, in terms of their diving conditions, aquatic life, etc. The prominent "Nehru Trophy Boat Race" is the most awaited water-based event in South India for all times. Besides, the Tourism Board also attempts to increase the number of tourists by adding on a thrilling beach volleyball or basketball game. The WTTC observes that amenities for water sports are comparatively undeveloped in Kerala. In order to draw the interest of tourists to the beaches and backwaters, private investment in water sports amenities and a greater balance in the diversity of water sports on offer is needed. Establishing requisite sporting amenities must, therefore, be the main goal of all investors, whether foreigners or locals. Kerala's Cuisine - A Prime Attraction Kerala has one of the best sea foods available any where in the world. For instance, the Malabar prawn is a much sought-after delicacy that adds to the attraction of the state's seafood menu. But unfortunately, most of the high-quality seafood is exported abroad and is not widely available to the tourists visiting Kerala. In order to promote Kerala's sea food
cuisine, necessary steps have to be taken by the Tourism Board to ensure that there is sufficient high-quality sea food available for use by tourists. This would be an added advantage and would bring in substantial earnings in the years to come. Traditional Festivals The traditional festivals of Kerala are uniquely vibrant and represent the energetic personality of the local people. The boat races in the backwaters and the ancient art forms are magnificent and fabulous. Kerala also has an affluent and remarkable cultural tradition. The festivals (Exhibit 5) act as high-priority attractions for selling and advertising the tourism destination brand. Marketing Objectives of Kerala Tourism Continuous efforts are on to promote Kerala overseas and marketing strategies are being developed together with new and exhilarating tourism products. The main objectives of the Government and Tourism Board for the development, marketing and promotion of Kerala tourism are: • To develop tourism as Kerala's prime industry. • To create employment and improve the economic well-being of the locals. • To encourage and promote Kerala Tourism nationally and globally, presenting it as a leading tourism destination worldwide. • To delineate and endorse the task of the Government as a catalyst for the development of the tourism industry. • To reduce tourism allied rules and procedures of the Government with the intention of accelerating development. • To develop a proper perception and orientation towards tourism and tourists among the local public in general and in particular among the cab drivers, police officers and others with whom visitors intermingle directly. • To encourage sustainable and green tourism based on the carrying capacities of the tourist places. • To protect and maintain the arts, ethnicity and inheritance of the state. • To promote tourism as a financially viable and job-creating sector of the state and to utilize it as a medium for physical, communal and economic growth. • To guarantee the well-being and safety of travelers. Promoting Kerala as a Tourism Brand and Destination
The marketing of Kerala as a tourism brand began with introducing the destination under the tagline "God's Own Country" during the late 1980s. It was during this time that the first national campaign was released. Primarily, the campaign portrayed the spectacular splendor of the state. With the development of diverse tourism products catering to international and domestic visitors, the campaigns were gradually made product oriented so as to promote houseboat holidays in the backwaters, ayurvedic treatment, etc. Later on, there was increased demand for these products among the foreign and even local tourists with the brand having achieved an incredible equity in the tourism market. The Kerala Travel Mart Society has planned to further strengthen the marketing of Kerala tourism. A representative of the KTM Society said, "Kerala Tourism is growing and has already attracted an investment of Rs. 1,500 cr in the past two years with Northern Kerala poised to become a major tourist destination." Branding and Advertising Campaigns Kerala Tourism is renowned for its creative and market-oriented advertising campaigns. These campaigns have won various awards for the Tourism department. Attractive mottos and new designs were treated as brand marks for Kerala Tourism. Tourism promotion by celebrities is also utilized to catch the attention of more travelers to visit the tourist spots. Currently, the tourism department is also advertising and promoting tourism brands through mobiles by using a Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) portal, and by giving out striking wallpapers and ring tones related to Kerala. Kerala Tourism Board also started a 24 hour toll free number, developed an enlightening website and opted for web banner advertisements in important portals. The official tourism website maintained by the state government forms a significant element of the tourism marketing strategy. The official website of Kerala Tourism - www.keralatourism.org - was analyzed on various criteria such as sociability, graphic design, aesthetics and attractiveness, functionality, navigation and links, search options, interactivity, website updation, significance of content, inventiveness, integration, etc. Most of the visitors strongly agree that Kerala's tourism website satisfies all the criteria that are used to assess a website. It is commonly visited by both domestic and foreign tourists from across the world and it has also received numerous awards for its popularity. Kerala Tourism Board has initiated one of its most triumphant campaigns - a campaign that was centered about "How Kerala works on you, makes you beautiful, turns you into a poet and gives you a new lease of life." This 60-second advertisement campaign was nominated for the ABBY Award for its ingenious quality and it won the ABBY silver award. The state's multipronged advertising along with vigorous public-private joint venture and combined involvement in all the key global travel and trade fairs have played a vital role in building and maintaining the brand image. The usual road shows have also facilitated Kerala Tourism's investments. Promotional trips are hosted for top tour and travel agents. Further, several writers and artists have gone a long way to launch the tourist destination nationally and internationally. Support from well-known artists like MF Hussain and Yusuf Arakkal, who did a series of paintings on the beauty of Kerala, added to the improvement of the state's brand value and image.
KC Venugopal, the state's former Minister for Tourism, said, "Kerala is a destination that has attained success through carefully planned development of its inherent strengths. Road shows and trade meets are part of our marketing strategy to ensure visibility and to showcase the best of the state to the outside world." During 2000, Kerala Tourism launched the biennial global travel mart - the Kerala Travel Mart (KTM) that promotes the state as Asia's new destination of the era and as India's tourism super brand (Exhibit 6). It is the only tourism event in the sub-continent that brings trade alliances and business magnates towards the tourism products and services of a state. It is a major meet intended to aid gatherings that connect customers, sellers, media, government organizations and other parties. Slowly, as Kerala's marketing and promotional campaigns picked up swiftness, international and national tourists became aware of the state's prosperous ethnicity, customs, craftworks, fine arts and cuisine. KTM 2000 attracted numerous holiday customers from 32 countries including France, Malaysia, Singapore and Hungary. Kerala became one of the most preferred holiday destinations of the millennium. The subsequent travel mart conducted in 2002 also received good response with numerous nations such as Belgium, Holland, the UK, Germany and Brunei taking part in the event. In an endeavor to transform Kerala into a focal point of tourism centric movement, the Tourism Department started the India International Boat Show, the exclusive boat show in South Asia. This boat show has drawn the attention of exhibitors and potential customers from all over the world. The state also enthusiastically took part in the trade fairs like International Tourism Bourse (ITB), Berlin and World Travel Market (WTM), London. The state tourism secretary said that Kerala tourism industry would explore new foreign markets, apart from building on the present ones. The Tourism Board also conducts road shows periodically in various countries across the globe. Kerala's Tourism Development Strategies A responsible marketing strategy is essential to enlighten tourists and generate pragmatic expectations. Kerala's tourism marketing strategy is credited with focused marketing and good networking with travel, tourism and trade in selected markets. In recent times, Kerala is the most demanded and recognized tourism brand in India. It is adored for its incredible natural finery, the abundant greenery, eternal harmony and pioneering tourism products. The state is also trusted for its crystal clear quality control systems, eco-friendly programs put into practice and the enduring move towards tourism and tourists. Considering the downturn in the industrial and farming sectors in the state, the Kerala tourism authorities recognized the importance of tourism as a vehicle of economic growth. During the early and mid 1990s, the Kerala government developed various marketing strategies in order to draw the attention of tourists towards lagoons, lakes, inland waterways, backwaters and houseboats around its 600 km coastal area. The state government created the Bekal Resort Development Corporation Ltd. (BRDC) in 1995 to commence the mission of improving the backwater, coastline and the picturesque land at Bekal with participation by private tourism and hospitality companies.
Kerala also has a separate `Tourist Police', especially in charge of safety, security and wellbeing of travelers visiting the state. Kerala was the first state in India that acted on a model of sustainable development of tourism and introduced a bill to control tourism-oriented actions in the state. The state also initiated the role of augmenting wayside amenities, ferry terminals and jetties. Additionally, it constructed a good quality sewage discharging system for the backwaters. T Balakrishnan, the former Kerala Tourism Secretary, commented, "The first step is concessional power tariff for approved star hotels, amusement parks, motels, restaurants, ropeway tourist centers and others. This will be followed by improving other basic infrastructure projects like roads and wayside facilities. All the projects have to conform to the state's long-term goal." The outcome of these proposals was a tremendous rise in the number of international tourists coming to the state from 69,000 in 1991 to 0.21 mn in 2000, while domestic tourists numbered five million in the same year. These accomplishments encouraged Kerala Tourism Development Corporation (KTDC) to further improve its tourism development, marketing and promotional activities during the succeeding years. Santosh Shivan, a highly acclaimed film director and cinematographer in Kerala, was engaged in creating a high profile advertisement campaign for the state's tourism. The Tourism Department of Kerala also entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Indian Airlines and Indian Railways to catch the attention of high-spending visitors. A special agreement was made with Indian Railways to set up ayurveda coaches in the trains to provide tourists an exhilarating experience. An MoU was signed between Kerala Tourism Board and Mahindra Holidays and Resorts (MHRIL) to market and promote home stays for international tourists in the state. KTDC has come out with an innovative, wide-ranging insurance cover for people visiting tourism destinations in Kerala. This was launched in association with the United India Insurance Co. Ltd., to cover possible eventualities during the period of tourists' stay in any of KTDC's six first-class hotels for at least three nights. A variety of plans like `Personal Accident Scheme,' `Medical Expense Scheme,' `Baggage Cover Extension Scheme,' and `Loss of Passport Scheme' were also included under this system. The state government had allocated an investment of Rs. 2 bn during 2002-07 for tourism. Kerala was the pioneering state in India to generate a tourism plan document - Tourism Vision 2025. This works as a guiding document for all significant tourism developmental programs over a 25-year period. It is like a well-drafted business plan with a vision statement, SWOT analysis and designed approaches to attain the set goals. The Southern Food and Catering Services (SFC) group, Abu Dhabi, agreed to invest Rs. 1.05 bn in Kerala to set up an amusement park, ropeway, resort and entertainment center. The Gulfar Group is providing Rs. 300 mn to build an oceanarium and some resorts in the state. Kerala Tourism Board had decided to start 15 mega tourism and entertainment ventures with the aid of foreign investments. This includes the construction of amusement parks with virtual reality games; bowling alleys; hi-fi theaters with video-projection facilities; movie and video parks with computer graphics studios; fitness spas and ropeways.
The state is also intending to begin eco-tourism projects to develop its hill stations such as Munnar and Thekkady. Kerala is considered to be a preferred destination that provides stimulating holidays to the tourists by preserving its inimitable characteristics. Even the home stay services (Exhibit 7) offer distinctive experience to the visitors by making them imbibe the cultural values and customs, which, at the same time, provide extra earnings and employment to the local population. Marketing Kerala Tourism - The Success Mantras Due to the focused, well-arranged and well-implemented marketing strategy and plans, Kerala's tourism sector has developed by leaps and bounds. The promotional and marketing efforts, transportation and human resources improvements have led the state to win the best tourism performing state award on numerous occasions. For several years, the number of foreign and domestic tourist arrivals to the state increased appreciably. Kerala attracted a lot of domestic tourists too, as their numbers increased quite substantially as compared to those of foreign travelers. In the book, Marketing Asian Places: Attracting Investment, Industry and Tourism to Cities, States and Nations, Philip Kotler says, "All places are in trouble now, or will be in the near future. The globalization of the world's economy and the accelerating pace of technological changes are two forces that require all places to learn how to compete. Places must learn how to think more like businesses, developing products, markets and customers..." But certainly, Kerala has been doing exactly that in recent times; facilitated by some brilliant marketing, attractive advertising, smart entrepreneurs, good travel packages and a rational government policy of least intrusion. These factors have also aided in taking the KTDC to dizzy heights of reputation. Though Kerala is becoming an increasingly expensive tourist destination, it is now thinking of a `strategic place marketing plan' to keep up its lead. Impact of Tourism on Kerala's Economy Tourism is one of the important sectors in Kerala that contributes about 4% of the Gross State Product (GSP) and this figure is anticipated to increase to 5.2% by 2013 according to the World Travel & Tourism Council. Tourism contributes indirectly to the state's Gross Domestic Product by stimulating various complementary sectors of the economy, thereby, having a significant multiplier effect. Tourism is a key export sector, as inbound tourists bring in foreign exchange to the financial system. In Kerala, the tourism industry is projected to rise by 11.4% annually in quantitative terms during the period 2004-13. It contributes to the economic well-being of the people by offering quality jobs. In 2013, the total capital investment in Kerala's tourism economy is estimated at Rs.75.1 bn. Kerala needs to reinforce its entire infrastructure considerably for the expansion of tourism which eventually leads to overall economic development of the state. The state has also decided to speed up the practice of safeguarding, nurturing and improving the delivery of its cultural heritage, through augmented financial support and the promotion of well-known tourism spots of specific cultural and heritage value.
Appropriate care must be taken to ensure that the state accomplishes this projected growth without excess utilization of natural resources. The significance of tourism in Kerala's economy is unquestionable and present estimates show an incredibly glowing prospect for the industry. However, the Kerala Tourism Board must take proper care so that upcoming tourism growth is sustainable, and the state should also promote the right kind of tourism that provides gain for all the stakeholders. Threats to the Kerala Tourism Industry Imposing lower taxes on the hospitality industry, improving infrastructure and collaboration between the Government and the private sectors are some of the actions that the Kerala Government and Tourism Board should continue for further development of the tourism industry. Tourism should be considered a part of economic priority for the state which can be used as the means for physical, societal and monetary growth. However, over importance to and concentration on the tourism industry alone can lead to serious economic downturn during periods when tourism receives a setback, or if the state loses its competitiveness to other competing destinations. Further, uncontrolled and unsystematic development of tourism can lead to problems such as contamination, biological threats, cultural degradation and so on. In the long run, due to global warming and altering of climatic conditions, it is feared that most of Kerala's low-lying places may be at the risk of sea erosion, tropical hurricanes and floods in the coming years. Kerala Tourism Market - Future Expectations During the past few years, tourism has been one of the rapidly growing sectors across the world, and India in general and Kerala in particular have also been beneficiaries of this tourism boom. This can be credited to the state's attractiveness, particularly its eye-catching backwaters and greenery, picturesque beaches and high ranging mountains, vibrant festivals, spectacular cultural and art forms, hospitality, politeness and friendly manner of the people, etc. With innovative tourism products and tour packages from the dynamic entrepreneurs, the state has made substantial progress in this sector. The growth in tourism has stimulated investments in both tourism and other supporting infrastructure. It is expected that this trend would continue in the years to come. Kerala anticipates further developments in the tourism market with numerous reputed national and international firms investing substantial sums in the coming future. Well-known hotel groups such as Holiday Inn, Crown Plaza, Ramada, Banyan Tree Hotels and Resorts, Hilton Hotels, The Carlton Hotel, The Taj Group, Casino Group of Hotels and Hinduja will be investing in new ventures in God's Own Country. Actions are also being taken by the government and other parties to attract investments into this industry from Non-Resident Indians. The future potential of Kerala as a tourism destination is anticipated to be a magnificent one. The state aims at providing an exciting experience for tourists and serve as a model for the travel and tourism industry not only in India, but also for the entire world!
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