Why is DHL emotionalising its brand campaign?

Sandeep Juneja, Vice President - Commercial, DHL Express India, talks to exchange4media about the challenges of advertising a logistics brand to consumers

e4m by Venkata Susmita Biswas
Updated: Feb 19, 2019 7:55 AM

Leading logistics brand DHL has has turned sentimental to develop a deeper connect with consumers. 

In its ad campaign during the Indian Super League (ISL), the brand spoke right to the end consumer to highlight how DHL not only delivers shipments but also delivers joy, delight and most importantly hope. The brand’s communication moved from ‘Right place, right time’ during the 2017 ISL to ‘Where there is a will, we are the way’ in 2018. 

Explaining the insight behind the new approach, Sandeep Juneja, Vice President - Commercial, DHL Express India, said, “Today with e-commerce, the consumers are intricately connected with the shipping experience as they eagerly await their packages. Our current campaign allows us to directly connect with the emotions of these e-commerce consumers.” The brand has taken this emotional route in a quest to drive a deeper connect with consumers. 

In fact, DHL is not the only logistics brand to craft communication around the joy of receiving packages. FedEx too used the same insight for its September 2018 campaign ‘We deliver possibilities’. Logistics companies struggle with communicating their brand promise to consumers because they “don’t have a physical product to sell. It is a service and thus an experience that we are selling,” says Juneja. So the approach for a logistics brand is to convey “imagery of the experience and our brand promise.”

DHL ISL 2018 Ad: 

FedEx 2018 Ad: 

DHL ISL 2017 Ad: 

Juneja spoke to exchange4media about the logistics market, the challenges of communication, and compared associations with cricketing events versus non-cricketing sports like football.

Here’s the edited excerpts of the conversation:

Tell us a little about how your marketing activities have evolved over the last 2-3 years, both in terms of media mix, tone and tenor of communication.

Up till two to three years ago, our media mix largely consisted of print and television. The mix has now moved towards digital. We’re present across the digital landscape through search, programmatic, social, phygital and more. Our sponsorship baskets too have changed and today include an array of properties ranging from football and rugby to new age sports like drone racing and electronic sports.

In terms of our marketing and communications strategy, we have always kept ‘Excellence, simply delivered’ as a fundamental element of our proposition. Also, the very reason of ‘being’ a DHL employee hinges on how we ‘connect people and improve lives’, which as you can see gives us a purpose of being in business. 

In the last few years, we have veered towards taking our promise to the living room of our customers and connecting with them at an emotional level. Our latest campaign is an extension of ‘Excellence, simply delivered’, wherein we are emotionalising the brand and connecting with real and basic human emotions. Thus the extension ‘Where there is will, we are the way’ was born! 

The latest ad campaign during the ISL took a rather sentimental route. Does the core value proposition of a brand take a back seat in this content-driven communication approach that many brands are trying to use?

If we observe the business that DHL Express is in, we are delivering emotions with every shipment. When we deliver important component across many seas, machines can run and aircrafts fly – thus we deliver Delight. When we deliver a medical shipment for a patient, we deliver Hope. When we deliver a gift to someone, we deliver Joy. The list goes on and on. The campaign is therefore aligned with our purpose of ‘Connecting people and improving lives’, and our key message of ‘Excellence, simply delivered’, remain fundamental to our core proposition. 

We have chosen to emotionalise our brand in order to develop a deeper connect with consumers. And this is something we do in reality all the time, when we deliver shipments and the emotions that are tied to them. This is a perfect segue in to our latest campaign ‘Where there is a will, we are the way.’ Our core values of speed, passion, team work and can-do spirit are also woven in the campaign. So, we are extending our core proposition in an emotional approach.  

Today with e-commerce, the consumers are intricately connected with the shipping experience as they eagerly await their packages. Our current campaign allows us to directly connect with the emotions of these e-commerce consumers. Fact is, in an increasingly globalised world, where millions of consumers are shopping across borders, DHL makes the shipping experience superlative – ‘Where there is a will, we are the way’.  

What are the main challenges of marketing a logistics brand to consumers?

In my view, the main challenge for a logistics brand is that we don’t have a physical product to sell. It is a service and thus an experience that we are selling. For consumers who have used logistics services, or DHL Express services, and to those who may utilise our service in the future, we are trying to create an imagery of the experience and our brand promise. 

It is not about controlling the experience within four walls of a factory, where the product comes out after a quality control check. It is about providing an experience in a big global world of more than 220 countries and territories. And our customers are a part of our production cycle, as we are picking up, processing, navigating complex customs in various countries, flying the goods and delivering in far off countries. As we are manufacturing our product (aka service), the consumer is simultaneously using our product. Hence, to market services and that too complex international logistics services, becomes a challenge. 

Thus our communication vehicle has to be simple and impactful. This helps us build a powerful imagery. So you see ‘Excellence, simply delivered’ or ‘Where there is a will we are the way’ as routes for us to communicate our proposition and also create trust at an emotional level with our customers. The other benefit is, these routes also become great motivators for our employees too. 

In 2018 and 2017 you were associated with a sporting event like ISL. For a brand that wants visibility, are sporting events, even if they are not cricket-related, the only best bets?

We embrace the spirit which sports celebrates – the determination to perform and to achieve the best results. There is no doubt that cricket is the number one sport in India. However, we also see a growing number of kids playing football, taking football lessons, or talking about international and Indian football clubs. This is where kids also determine what runs on the television when they go back home. Therefore, it is a great alternative for us to be associated with football globally. 

Beyond our most prevalent global football partnership with Manchester United, DHL Express works closely together with a number of high-profile clubs and leagues around the world. This includes FC Bayern Munich, Copa Libertadores, Leicester City (England), Chinese Football Association Super League (CSL), and Football Association of Ireland. 

Brands can use multiple mediums to garner visibility through television, digital, OOH et al. But sports sponsorships like ISL not only help get the eye balls but also help deliver experiences, thus creating affinity for the brand.

How do you compare the ROI of money spent on associating with non-cricket sporting events vis-à-vis cricket events?

It is a fact that non-cricket sporting opportunities like football are far less cluttered in India. There are huge potentials for us to be associated with football – which appeals to the international audience. 

Let me tell you some facts that we have observed closely from our association in our last season (Season 4) of ISL vis-à-vis the earlier season. With around 683 hours of exposure on air, it helped us reach out and create visibility amongst its 200 million+ TV viewers and in-stadia audience. There has been a jump of approximately 51% in our ROI. 

As football is increasingly growing in popularity pan-India, ISL is a perfect platform for us to collaborate with, to build brand visibility among our intended audience. 

What is the size of the logistics market in India and what's the rate of growth of the industry?

The Indian express industry is the fastest-growing market globally. According to the report ‘Indian Express Industry – 2018: A multi-modal play in building’ by Deloitte, the ecosystem is expected to grow at a CAGR of 17% and reach a size of Rs 48,000 crores in the next five years. This growth will be primarily driven by the growth of cross border e-commerce and a significant demand from SMEs. 

What are the developments that have spurred growth in the industry in India?

The logistics sector in India has witnessed a steady growth trajectory over the years. There have been various factors that have fuelled the growth of the sector. The revival of the manufacturing sector and an overall growth in the economy has given a boost to the express industry. 

The introduction of Goods and Services Tax (GST) has made India one nation. With growing global trade, people want to shift their supply chains from warehousing and supplying to just-in-time supply chain. DHL Express’ services and extensive global network make us the ideal service provider, enabling the express industry to grow faster.  

Now let us take the example of e-commerce. It is the world’s buzzword. Typically you would have people visiting countries, setting up processes and warehouses. But today, a small businessman sitting in the corner of a street can start shipping to more than 220 countries because e-commerce has opened up so many doors. But who does he use for shipping? The delivery promise is speed. The presence of the express industry in a network is in turn building the fortunes for many as the global e-commerce industry booms. 

Urbanization and increased disposable income levels have led to rapid growth in the e-commerce industry.  The Deloitte report states that e-retail has been one of the key growth drivers for the Indian express industry in the past five years. It has transformed the express industry landscape due to the distinct nature of operations for e-retail order fulfillment as compared to the traditional deliveries and the fast-paced growth of the sector. 

Express delivery players have evolved their business models, to better engage with consumers and to provide a varied range of value-added services. Additionally, the advent of social media, e-commerce, digitization and affordable data has provided consumers with greater buying choices and bargaining power. To meet customer expectations and to increase visibility over their supply chain, businesses are increasingly adopting express services. 


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