Online travel platform Cleartrip has unveiled a campaign with an unconventional narrative, away from competitive pricing and discount promos. Titled ‘Invest in Travel’, the campaign asks consumers to invest their money in friendships, love and thrill.
The travel sector of India is filled with competitors who base their brand communication upon low prices and discounted package deals. This has been the go-to marketing roadmap that online travel agencies (OTAs) have built their advertising strategies on. But with its latest campaign, Cleartrip is aiming to depart from the regular run-of-the-mill narrative.
The campaign includes three ads that position ‘travel’ as an investment, contrary to how it’s generally perceived – as an expense. The ads address three generations – a man is seen advising his mother, wife and son to invest their ‘extra’ money. He is then surprised to find out that they’ve all invested their money in ‘travel’, through Cleartrip.
The comic mise-en-scene and definitive dialogues deliver the message across to the audience – that spending money on friendships, fun or love isn’t merely an inessential expenditure. It’s an investment.
The ads also play off as a lighthearted parodic dig at the copiously prevalent fintech ads that promote investments, with a quirky one liner – ‘it is not subject to market risks’.
During the COVID pandemic, OTAs suffered more than any other sector. With everyone locked inside, travelling seemed like a thing of the past. This, coupled with the domestic and international SOPs to prevent the spread of the virus, pushed the entire travel industry into a devastating plunge.
It has only been a solid year, post the havoc wreaked by the pandemic, and the OTA sector appears to have covered ground. Is the new campaign Cleartrip’s expression of a shift in its philosophy, following the pandemic?
Shubham Khurana, brand head, Cleartrip, talks about the predicament OTAs found themselves during the covid lockdown.
He said, “It’s fair to say that the first COVID wave in March 2020 took the entire travel industry by surprise. As an industry, we were not prepared for what turned out to be a once-in-a-century disruption. Overnight, the entire industry went to zero revenue, when the country went into a complete lockdown, and it was a double whammy because costs spiked massively, as customers started reaching out to us in massive numbers to handle queries, cancellations and refunds.”
Cleartrip, at the time, was dealing with its own issues.
“As a brand, Cleartrip wasn’t doing enough at the time. We were not talking enough to the consumer. Somewhere in that journey, the out of sight became out of mind, and that did hurt the brand,” Khurana mentions.
To cope with the impact of the pandemic, the brand had to lay off around 500 employees. In the FY20, Cleartrip’s revenue plateaued at Rs 318 crore, with Rs 14 crore in losses. In 2021, the travel agency was acquired by Walmart-owned e-commerce platform Flipkart for $40 million. It has since worked towards rebuilding its philosophy.
“We re-focused on what we stand for. We knew we wanted to build the brand around the four key pillars – trust, transparency, simplicity, and affordability. We spoke to our consumers, our employees, and the industry to understand what are the gaps in the market in order to assess the customer pain points and accordingly arrive at the parameters we should focus on,” Khurana explained.
Speaking about the conception and the objectives of the campaign, Khurana reveals, “The idea stemmed out of a core insight – ‘Like sleep is the biggest enemy of people binging on Netflix, investments are the biggest enemy of travel’.”
“Travel is often considered an ‘expense’. It’s ironic, as when you travel, you invest time with your loved ones in experiencing something new. You invest in memories, friendships, desires, bonds, thrills and more which, one may argue, gives you better returns than any investment possible. Hence, it’s the ‘only’ investment which isn’t subject to market risks.”
The ads, even with their unconventional overtones, talk about discounts and other price-based offerings.
“We aim to disrupt the OTA space by ‘differentiating on value and experience, while maintaining parity on price’. Great offers on flights and hotels are one way to give consumers value,” adds Khurana.
On the campaign’s TG, he responds, “We’re reaching out to three key target groups – people with an intent to travel, students and senior citizens.”