Satrajit Sen

VIP Skybags: Attack on Black

VIP entered the backpack category by extending its Skybags portfolio earlier this year. The colourful new range is now being promoted through a campaign called 'Back is the new front'. A look at the effort.

There's a ton of black backpacks out there. We've all owned one at some point in time. VIP Skybags, new entrant in the backpack category, thinks it's about time we added a splash of colour to our collection of boring, black backpacks.

VIP Skybags: Attack on Black
VIP Skybags: Attack on Black
VIP Skybags: Attack on Black
VIP Skybags: Attack on Black
To mark its foray into the segment, the company has launched a campaign called 'Back is the new front', that positions a so called utility product as something you can easily make a style statement with. The campaign is based on the premise that in today's India, baggage - not the emotional kind - is becoming a reflection of its owners' personality.

Created by L&K Saatchi & Saatchi, the campaign features a baffled John Abraham, who can't seem to figure out why everyone around him is walking backwards. The more he looks around, the more he sees this trend - everyone is walking, riding, and even posing for photographs, backwards. Besides moving in reverse gear, they all have another thing in common - they're all wearing a brightly coloured backpack each.

The film ends when Abraham walks into a store, buys himself a Skybags backpack and starts walking backwards too. The creative idea stems from the insight that everybody likes to show off their stylish side first.

Says Sudip Ghose, vice president, marketing, VIP Industries, "There is a definite gap in the market for stylish backpacks. Most professional bags are either black or boring. Backpacks, today, work like watches or shoes - besides being utility products, they reveal a lot about the personality of the user."

The range is primarily targeted at the urban youth in the 16 to 25 years bracket. While continuing with its 'tough luggage' imagery, the brand is trying to offer something cool and stylish for the youth, this time around. Ghose makes it very easy for us to picture a member of his core TG. The protagonist of the Bollywood film Wake Up Sid (that features Ranbir Kapoor as a cool, young brat) embodies the TG perfectly, he says.

Rahul Nangia, chief creative officer, West & South, L&K Saatchi & Saatchi, says, "The intent is to make backpacks a style accessory. Which is why, we placed Skybags in a world where everyone puts their backs in front." The film has been directed by Anupam Mishra.

Besides TV, the campaign comprises print ads and point of sale (POS) material. A Twitter contest (#BlankIsTheNewBlank) incentivised by the stylish new range of backpacks itself, is part of the brand's digital efforts. Another contest, encouraging users to share their 'reverse selfies' was also launched.

Gearing up?

Backpacks are gradually becoming 'wardrobe staple' for Indian youth, say experts. Backpacks, today, are readily associated with campus culture, college life and start-up companies - contexts in which, typically, youngsters take center stage.

VIP, known for its hardtops and big size luggage, shifted focus to small, cabin size luggage with its Skybags label somewhere along the way. Now, the company has entered the backpack segment by launching close to 50 ranges under the same Skybags brand.

In India, the backpack and duffel bags segments are growing faster than the hardtops segment, as Indian consumers are increasingly planning shorter, 'budget trips' within the country. The backpack category in India is pegged between Rs. 600 to Rs. 2,000 crore and VIP is aiming to gain 10 per cent market share in the first year itself.

International brands like Samsonite and American Tourister are also showing interest in the backpack segment of late. There are several domestic players such as Fastrack, Wildcraft and Duckback that have already found their respective places in this market. In 2012, Titan's Fastrack launched a range of patterned bags, in a move to differentiate itself from plain bags.

Ghose argues that Skybags' range of backpacks is built keeping the Indian consumer in mind. Its product propositions include rain cover, built-to-last straps and the ability to carry up to 12 kgs of weight.

The range is priced between Rs 1,090 to Rs 2,600.

VIP Skybags: Attack on Black
Ramanujam Sridhar, founder and CEO, brand-comm, a brand consultancy, believes categories like watches, vehicles, clothes and women's bags have all undergone change and have become products that are used to make a statement. "The backpack category is no different," he states, adding, "These coloured bags fit well with the taste of the young generation."

The Indian youth, he says, is an "overt" bunch that likes to show off. He reasons, that companies like VIP are experimenting with design and it' an experiment the market is in a position to accept.

Sridhar leaves us with a word of caution, though: Brands like these ought to have foresight, as with time, consumers who are on the periphery, will be part of the core TG.

"In this category, the youth is the low-hanging fruit, but I am sure young adults will also start using these stylish bags, gradually. However, to expand the market and the product's reach, brands that are targeting only the youth today, will need to expand their product portfolio such that it suits the tastes of adults as well," he suggests.

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