Why Samsonite's #KeralaIsOpen ad is going viral for good reasons?

Samsonite took the initiative to launch a campaign focusing on reviving the tourism in Kerala with an impactful video capturing the essence of every individual involved in the tourist sector

It’s not unknown that Kerala tourism has been one of India’s biggest success stories. No wonder it took a long 25-year journey for it to attain the desired image. Who knew that calamitous floods would unleash their wrath and the state’s tourism will have to face a huge setback! So when Luggage manufacturer Samsonite decided to take up the initiative to launch a campaign focusing on reviving the tourism in Kerala, it incepted an impactful video capturing the essence of every individual involved in the tourist sector from taxi drivers, lodge managers, elephant mahouts and others eagerly waiting to welcome their guests.

The brand shared that till now the video has received 2.5 million views and what's incredible is 2.5 million is the engagement, 1:1 ratio. From actors to politicians, it fetched support and praise from a big number of people. We spoke to the brand and the agency on the ideation, execution and putting it together.

Pradnya Popade, Marcom Head at Samsonite South Asia Pvt Ltd reveals that the brand wasn't thinking about a campaign on these lines to begin with. “When we noticed that the whole country including individuals and corporates were chipping in to help the affected people we wanted to help as well. We contemplated many ideas, but each of them had their own limitations,” she shares.

Popade says that after seeing the on-ground situation the Samsonite team truly believed in the idea presented by the agency. Once the Samsonite team was sure that the insight behind the ad was indeed true, the team got cracking on the ad. “We had a very short window to create the ad. We risked losing relevance and momentum of the movement if we missed this opportunity,” she says.

She adds that campaigning to bring tourists back to God’s Own Country also was a great fit for a brand like Samsonite which is so closely tied to the tourism industry. “That was when in a brainstorming session the idea of connecting World Tourism Day and our brand - Samsonite - came about. Our agency suggested the idea of the importance of tourism in reviving Kerala.”

Popade confesses the idea was heart-warming and Samsonite wanted to be sure that the ad would not just be riding a popular wave. “We travelled to the badly affected areas and actually saw that despite Kerala being back on its feet, hotels, shops, and tourist destinations which are generally abuzz with tourists looking barren,” she explains.

Bodh Deb, Vice President and Branch Head, Autumn Mumbai, who had been reading headlines like ‘Kerala Floods 2018: Tourism Comes To Grinding Halt In Flood-Hit State’ said he felt that as a socially aware and responsible digital agency Autumn needed to do something about it.

“Luckily we already had a World Tourism Day brief with us for over a month from our Client Samsonite which we were not being able to crack. We decided to pitch this thought to Samsonite. They were apprehensive in the beginning knowing that it could easily backfire but eventually decided to green signal the campaign.”

Experts speak

Amit Shankar, NCD of Publicis Capital remarks that this is a clear example of fantastic advertising. “The execution is great and I personally like how it plays up on the waiting aspects and ends with beautiful message. In my opinion, it is a very good initiative, especially since Kerala has gone through such difficult period. I also feel it intelligently incorporates travelling cues and helps the brand elevate the conversation,” explains Shankar.

Athul Chathukutty, Creative Director – Copy, Happy mcgarrybowen terms it as one of the most heart-warming, well-crafted ads in recent times. “Hailing from the state, having seen a lot of the hardships first hand, this one hit home. Strong message, lovely line, great cast, beautifully shot. The placard montage was sublime,” he says.

Chathukutty is raving about the organic virality of it. “Viewers have embraced the campaign as their own, flaunting it proudly on their personal accounts. Have seen it spread like wildfire on pretty much every WhatsApp group worth its salt. Even politicians, regardless of affiliations, shared it on their own accord. Which is quite something,” he lets out.

He points out that a popular tweeter reacted by promising that his next luggage purchase will be a Samsonite. “Guess it’s a win win on all counts. One minor grouse, if I had to really scrape, was the template character names. Nair, Nambiar, come on! Otherwise, top notch,” opines Chathukutty.

Praveen Nair, Creative Director, Jack in the Box asserts that the subtlety in placing the product deserves praise. He believes that while the capitalisation on the opportunity was swift, there was also no compromise made on the quality. "First up, kudos to Samsonite for getting there first! In a nutshell, a beautiful thought, well executed. There are the nuances covered, like the one-of-a-kind religious diversity of Kerala, the emphasis placed on the viewer's role in rebuilding the state and so on. Let's just say that there's more than one leaf to take out of the Samsonite example,” he concludes.

Ranjeet Kumar, Creative Director, Isobar states that this is the kind of work that brands should do on digital, stand for something people care about. “It evokes a great sense of positive empathy, no wonder people are sharing it, and one just needs to check their timeline or feed, that’s the proof of the pudding. In an extremely cluttered travel category, to drive brand loyalty one needs to tap into the untameable force of emotional loyalty. It is scientifically proven, 78 per cent of emotionally engaged consumers spend up to two times or more on brands they are loyal to. This piece of work is a fusion of behavioural science engineered storytelling with a dash product integration,” explains Kumar.

Harshik Suraiya, Filmmaker and co-founder Vanilla Films asserts that the Samsonite film captures Kerala's soul beautifully. "Even though it taps into the issue, it doesn't make a big deal about it. It's simple yet memorable! Just like the people of Kerala," says Suraiya.

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