Sohini Sen

"People buy only one greeting card at a time, but it's different with stationery": Youhan Aria, Archies

The greeting cards and stationery brand has launched a campaign for Mother's Day which is starkly different from its earlier ones depicting joy and celebrations.

Mother's Day is around the corner. For greeting cards and stationery brand Archies, the day is not just about celebrating motherhood, but also about raising awareness about issues that mothers may face. And thus, moving away from its usual, sunshine-happy campaign, the brand has released a film on the widows of Varanasi who have been left alone by their children.

"There are a lot of women who have been abandoned by their children because of poverty in the cities of Varanasi and Vrindavan. The 'mataaein', as they are called, have either been left behind or have come on their own after being deserted by the family. We wanted to not just highlight the plight of these widows, but also start a conversation about this," explains independent brand associate Vishal Sharma. Sharma worked with a team of creative individuals from Mumbai and Delhi to create the campaign in his personal capacity.

"People buy only one greeting card at a time, but it's different with stationery": Youhan Aria, Archies
The film highlights the plight of the 'maataein' and tells the story through their eyes - financial difficulties, physical hardships and, most importantly, the feeling of not having anyone. However, strikingly enough, the mothers in the film do not harbour any anger towards their children. The brand, therefore, has requested people to come forward and adopt a mother.

A customer can either donate for the cause by adding whatever amount he wishes to, to his bill, and the brand will match his donation; or he can directly reach out to an NGO that is working in the field to help the Vrindavan widows. According to Sharma, it is all the more important because, demographically, India has more women living alone than men, since men tend to live shorter lives. The youth especially have to be sensitised about the topic, he feels. Which is why, along with the digital film, there would be tent cards kept in all the 237 company-owned stores of Archies.

The activity is being held only in the company-owned stores of Archies across the country. With a presence in 70 cities, which includes metros as well as tier I and II cities, the brand also has 240+ franchise stores. However, a bulk of its sales comes in from the metro regions like Mumbai, Bengaluru and Delhi NCR.

"People buy only one greeting card at a time, but it's different with stationery": Youhan Aria, Archies
"People buy only one greeting card at a time, but it's different with stationery": Youhan Aria, Archies
"Our company-owned stores see a lot of walk-in customers, young parents with their children for Mother's Day, who wouldn't usually come to an Archies store. They probably want to buy something for their mothers or want to help their children get a card for their mother. While for this campaign, we are targeting the youth and teenagers, our TG is varied, thanks to the wide range of products we have," says Youhan Darrab Aria, head - corporate communications, Archies.

A few days prior to any occasion, Archies sees a sudden increase in sales. While Aria claims that there still are people who buy cards, how does the social media generation impact the brand which went the e-com way 15 years back?

Aria shares that, of the total sales, the company-owned stores contribute 70 per cent, while online sales account for only 2 per cent. The rest comes from distributors, franchises and retailers. But, understanding the importance of e-commerce, the company has been pushing online by relaunching the site and putting in more money. The 2 per cent sales contribution is likely to double this year, Aria hopes.

"The guy who sent out 30 cards for Diwali is not there anymore. And teenagers are also wishing each other on social media. But then, while that has decreased, the demand for value - in the form of musical cards, light and sound cards have increased," adds Aria.

Archies spends around Rs. 2.5-3 crore on advertising and marketing in a year. According to its financial results, in the Oct-Dec quarter of 2014, of the total revenue of Rs. 51.91 crore, around Rs. 11.6 crore came from greeting cards, Rs. 10 crore from stationery items and Rs. 30 crore from the sale of gifts. However, while the revenues from greeting cards and gifts have decreased quarter-on-quarter, stationery has increased its strong hold in the company's portfolio.

According to Aria, the focus for the company has, for the last couple of years, been on growing the stationery segment. "We wanted to look at what is growing, or what has potential to grow. You cannot force someone to buy a greeting card. If he has already bought one, he has no need for another. But, people like to buy stationery. That said, we have noticed that sale of cards have gone up year-on-year, during Mother's Day, because, while people wish friends on social media, they cannot do that with their mothers. For Friendship Day and Daughter's Day, which we started in 1995 and 2007, this is not true because Friendship Day is more of a teenage celebration. And teenagers nowadays wish each other on WhatsApp and Facebook."

"People buy only one greeting card at a time, but it's different with stationery": Youhan Aria, Archies
Abhijith Shetty, brand strategy director, Orchard Advertising (a division of Leo Burnett), was indeed moved by the film and its refreshing approach towards a Mother's Day campaign. "First up, it is brilliantly made - the first-person narrative makes for very gripping storytelling. While most brands would opt for an idea that revolves around the target consumer and her mother, Archies has brilliantly chosen to shift focus to the needs of a completely different set of moms...the ones who need the most help and loving," he says.

He adds, "I am of the opinion that successful brands of the future will increasingly weave public good and social responsibility into whatever they do. But, will it compel the WhatsApp generation to go to a store to donate/buy a card? No, it won't. This generation is far too busy to be inconvenienced to physically go looking for an Archies store. However, the heartening thing is that they need not go to a store - there is, after all, the option of going to the URL of the page to make the donation. In conclusion - would this make more people buy more Archies cards? Probably not. But, would it make more people feel for the brand and contribute to a cause? Perhaps, yes."

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