Global downturn, loss making airline brands, a wallet-watching traveler – not exactly the best of times for the tourism business. Nation Branding too would be impacted in such times. On Indian TV channels, Korea is advertising with their ‘Korea, Sparkling!’ campaign. Apparently, the slogan is not too popular back home in Korea and may be dropped soon. Advertising for a nation as a brand does play a role in creating perceptions. But that is not the only trigger for creating ‘strong country brands‘. In light of this, the impact of our Incredible India campaign is truly commendable.
Amitabh Kant, former Joint Secretary, Ministry of Tourism, Govt of India recently released his book Branding India – An Incredible Story recently. He, along with V Sunil (then Creative Director at O&M, Delhi) conceptualized the Incredible India campaign. Prior to this project, Mr. Kant was also instrumental in the Kerala Tourism’s ‘God’s Own Country’ campaign. Herewith tracing the key phases of the Incredible India campaign:
Thanks to the 26/11 attacks, global tourism was on a decline. Several countries had cut down their advertising budgets. India’s promotion abroad was left to the tourism offices with each one of them coining their own tag lines – from Spiritual India to Unbelievable India. The visuals promoted the cliched imagery of India: saffron-clad sadhus and snake charmers. All this attracted high volumes, but low value. It was then decided to position India as a ‘premier holiday destination for high-yielding tourists’.
One of the early campaigns simply focused on highlighting the Incredible India logo. The exclamation mark that formed the ‘I” of India was used creatively across several visuals.
In the second year, the campaign focused on spiritual tourism. The content and execution were designed to appeal to the upmarket individual traveler – a far cry from the low-spending charsi jholi type tourist.
Buoyed by the encouraging response of the first campaigns, the 2006-07 campaign went beyond showcasing the logo. It showcased the diversity of India alright but did so in a tone & manner that was full of wry wit.
There was also a quiet confidence on display – almost the ‘we are like this only’ tone – in the 2007 India Now campaign in London. Some of my favourite ones:
The Incredible India experience was also brought alive in several exhibitions and events: Internationale Tourismus Bourse in Berlin, India@60 campaign in New York to mark India’s 60th year of Independence among others. The 2007-08 campaign continued with the jaw-dropping diversity of India, featuring breathtaking images and a clever pun as headline.
The 2008-09 print campaign features portraits of people who came in as tourists but stayed back to make India their home. It conveys how strong an impact India can have on an individual motivating a foreigner to make it his or her motherland.
A new TVC also made its way into the Indian television, showcasing the experiences of a foreigner in India, prompting him to describe it as ‘Incredible India’.
The campaign is a truly concerted effort ensuring that there isn’t a huge gap between expectation and delivery on the ground. It can’t always be controlled since one errant cab driver can undo all the goodwill created by the campaign. It is also a testimony to the power of focus. A single-minded message was brought alive on the Internet, through events and exhibitions, press ads and TV. Public sector advertising is usually seen as dull, boring and offering no scope for creativity. Thanks to individuals like Mr. Kant who had the vision and the wherewithal to see the campaign idea through, that perception too was broken. As Indians we may still be cynical about our poor infrastructure, attitude of many stakeholders in the travel business and the hype around the Incredible India campaign. But what is undeniable is that it put India in the consideration set of international tourists.