New ads for the hotel booking platform are out - without the trivago guy, who moved on a few months back. So, what did he take with him?
"Kya kabhi aapne online hotel search kiya hai?"
This pet statement, the "average guy" looks and common features of trivago's face for India, Abhinav Kumar, aka the 'trivago guy', became fodder for memes and jokes for internet-savvy millennials. His simple, every-day appearance and comical dialogue delivery went viral. From TV to digital, Abhinav's face and his trolls, were all over the place, so much so that it became hard to ignore.
Kumar, the internet sensation, was the country development head (India) at the hotel price comparison website, based at the company's HQ in Dusseldorf, Germany. He has now moved on, taking up the role of country manager-India at Bettzeit, an online bedding company. Reportedly, he is also on the advisory board of BookBySlot, an online platform to book hotel rooms on a slot basis and PaisaDukan, the India-based peer-to-peer lending marketplace.
Soon after Kumar moved on (February 2019), trivago released a series of ads for India. The four 'multi-character' spots feature an intern, a dad, a businesswoman, and a group of friends. Featuring fresh faces in the new campaign, the brand stuck to its 'local and relatable' face policy.
All the creatives by trivago India are produced in-house. The brand does not have a media buying agency.
Interestingly, in a recent tweet by BookBySlot, the brand tagged Kumar as the 'trivago guy', even though he's no longer with the hotel price comparison site. In another tweet by the brand, Abhinav is seen talking about it.
Since the moment Kumar made his first appearance on television in March 2017, eyebrows were raised. More often than not, people asked - Who is that guy? Kumar instantly rose to fame for his non-model looks and his inimitable voice. Being a good sport, Kumar himself retweeted memes that he found humorous.
Globally, trivago's ads are identical in format - although, in the international market, the ads feature paid models. In the Indian market, for better relatability, the brand chose to go with a local spokesperson. However, using an employee to endorse the brand was not a plan but a result of an instant discussion.
Earlier, in an interview, Kumar was quoted as saying, "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, no different from the people who use trivago, is more telling than a celebrity endorsement."
We spoke to our industry experts to better understand what happens when the brand's well-recognised face is replaced.
Ananda Ray, creative head, Rediffusion
Initially, when the face of the brand changes, there might be a disconnect between the audience and the brand. If people are attached to the endorser, it may get a little difficult to introduce a fresh face. However, if the brand continues to speak in its own voice and finds common grounds to connect with its audience, it will gradually recover. What can pull a brand out from a situation like this is its core personality and relevance.
Despite the fact that Abhinav is no longer associated with trivago, if the brand maintains consistency in its tonality, the consumers might not miss him. Also, whichever brand he endorses next (if), that will also need to re-establish his image. The brand just needs to integrate the endorser's personality well into the communication.
Suresh L, independent brand consultant
Over the years, people remembered and recalled the name trivago, but the brand that was being built was clearly Abhinav Kumar. One didn't know much about trivago except that it stood for hotels. Since the ads were popular, more because of brand Abhinav than for brand trivago, the online community will miss him like mad. I won't be surprised if the 'trivago guy' has a few fan pages with all his ads featured there.
Trivago has surely lost its recall value. The ads were never cutting-edge by themselves in terms of concept, execution or creativity. But since they featured Abhinav, they became famous because he went viral. Without him, the current ads have lost that 'social media buzz'.
Perhaps it's time to hand the 'trivago guy' over to his fans and trolls and focus on building brand trivago. For a change, let the brand be the hero of its communication.