We spoke to Abhinav Kumar, country development - and the face of - trivago India.
When the relatable, common-man-ish 'trivago guy' first hit TV screens (March, 2017), the ad got its much desired 'Who's that guy?' reaction. It was soon learnt that the ad featured trivago's country head - 29-year-old Abhinav Kumar - who's based at the company's headquarters in Dusseldorf, Germany.
We assumed the first ad was a one-off owing to a casting problem. So, was this campaign a result of data/consumer reaction? What made the team create yet another campaign featuring Abhinav? "All our markets have a local spokesperson educating people on how to use the product," Abhinav tells afaqs!, "So far, the reaction to the spokesperson in India has been great and so naturally a second campaign is worthwhile. All we want to do is show people how easy it is to find the ideal hotel with trivago. And if people are most responsive when I am the spokesperson, then so be it. For the next campaign, will people want me to return? We'll have to wait and find out!"
By the time Abhinav became the face of the brand in India, trivago had already garnered a fair share of interest among TV viewers thanks to a single ad film - the one in which a girl in a white bathrobe is jumping for joy, while (as shown with the help of the age old split screen technique) her less prudent counterpart curses his luck. This TVC was a replica of the brand's overseas ad.
We just had to ask him: Why not get a model or celebrity for these ads, hereon? Will changing the face of the brand now hurt continuity? Abhinav responds, "We generally don't use famous faces for our advertising efforts. Our brand and what it offers people is more important than putting a famous face next to our name. We want to focus on educating people on the simple ways that trivago can save them time and money. Having a local spokesperson, who is no different from the people who use trivago is more telling than a celebrity endorsement."
In other markets, though, ads by trivago feature paid models. The ads, however, are all identical in format - the model uses zoomed in graphics to show the viewer how easy it is to use the site.
What's the most difficult part of facing the camera - and what did Abhinav do by way of preparation? "Yes," he admits, "it was difficult in the first shoot. Like most people, I too, was (camera) shy... But practice makes perfect and you can see a lot of improvement in the second batch of creatives. And it will improve more going forward. And no, I was not given any special course or grooming session. Remember the lines properly and one can do it."
The talking points of the ads (search and compare hotel prices), were zeroed in with the help of the brand's "filters and product features." Abhinav adds, "We run user tests regularly to understand the use of our new features and adapt them based on outcome," emphasising on the "power of proof." "We smell data," he says. And sure enough: "Data is the basis of all our decisions," he informs afaqs!.
Established in 2005, trivago entered India in May 2013. "India is a very complex market in terms of the geography and the number of languages people use. The internet language in India is mostly English and so is our website. But when we want to communicate our product features to the public we are testing with different languages and optimising each ad with the response. But we have a long way to go in the Indian market," he says, while discussing the challenges unique to the Indian market.
trivago's rival brands in India include ixigo, TripAdvisor, Wego and Google hotel search.
What are the biggest psychological barriers that dominate the segment trivago operates in? What keeps Indian travellers from using price comparison sites like trivago? Abhinav answers, "Ours is a free tool for hotel search and price comparison; no one can book directly with trivago. So with our new stories, we are trying to explain to the user that they can continue to be loyal to their favourite booking engine but always come to trivago to check if they are getting the best deal or not." By booking engine, he is referring to OTAs (online travel agents) like MakeMyTrip, Cleartrip and Yatra among others.
trivago India does not have any media buying agency. Also, all the creatives are produced in-house. "Our TV plans are complex and ever-changing with the market's needs. We don't follow the same strategy, when compared to our peers in India. Our target group is everyone who has access to the internet. We are trying to reach more and more new audiences with particular focus on first-time users. We want to make it very simple for anyone to search and compare hotels."
Abhinav divulges a bit more about his media plans, "We are an internet company and therefore, we use a mix of online and offline marketing efforts, but TV has been leading the way. However, as internet penetration is increasing, we have a newer audience (base) to work with."
Where does he see his next set of users coming from? "It is not easy to allocate all the new users to a particular region, as the effect differs according to our TV campaigns. Yes, there is a clear dominance of mobile users which may be because of the easy access consumers have to smart phones," he says.
A look at some of the global ads by trivago