Benita Chacko and Shreyas Kulkarni

Want to get into the consideration set of families says Mayur Hola, Oyo’s global brand head

Its aim to win over families and shed the image of a go-to spot for young couples is arduous. Its new campaign's success is a good start, can it finish this marathon journey?

Young, flirtatious, and bathed in shades of red. He made men and women swoon when he first appeared nine years ago and it did not take long before a lot of people began to spend time with him. Not everybody was happy seeing this new guy. Envious rivals accused him of making young couples paint the town red; he didn’t say anything and kept on charming people off their pants.

Over the years, we noticed a few changes in him. Ever the gentleman, he helped young students get a quiet room to study if their homes were noisy stadiums, would pop in to assist business travellers with an affordable room for a night, and ensured old couples find glam holiday accommodations. Despite this character growth, he never lost his devilish charm. Ever so often, he would shoot a wink at us and we’d swoon once again.

McDreamy? Na. How about McOyo?

Hotel chain Oyo has come a long way since it entered our lives nine years ago as a roguishly young brand. Today, its relationship with us came full circle after it released three new ads of which one became the talk of the town because it showed us how the family journey towards a holiday destination has changed in the last two years.

Young Kukki won all our hearts with his one innocent question: “Assi reach gaye?” Kids were stuck inside their homes for the good part of 24 months, we doubt they’d manage to stay put inside a car for eight hours. What is more interesting is the ad’s targeting of families from Oyo for booking nearby hotels; not many expected it.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Mayur Hola</p></div>

Mayur Hola

“We've to widen the pool of people who consider us, families for instance. They plan so we're going early now and getting into their consideration set,” says Mayur Hola, global brand head, Oyo.

The “Assi reach gaye?” copy was not part of the original script. Hola’s team brainstormed and decided what they’d originally come up with was “too correct” and that kids do not speak in such a manner. “Let's just do something half silly and half spontaneous,” was the action plan and the rest is history.

He, referring to this three-ad campaign, tells us the brand wanted to put its product i.e the app at the forefront. Adding to this, Oyo wanted to show people what they’re unaware of in the hotel chain. “It was about time the work we did was reflective of the premium supply we have here and the properties we offer here in addition to everything that people know about us already: There is an Oyo right next to you.”

Oyo, for the longest time, was and is considered the Tinder of hotel chains. It holds the perception of being a young couple’s destination. Type Oyo in the YouTube search box and you will find scores of videos on this topic from content creators and random bloggers but not the brand’s official channel.

But, the new ads, are an attempt to move away from that image of the brand. Hola tells us people have “gone ahead and made Oyo their second home.” You can easily find one near highways and business centres and he revealed true instances that attested to how people consider the brand; a lady told Hola’s team member that she and her husband book an Oyo room to fight because they live in a joint family.

A producer was driving to a destination and was delayed so he decided to book an Oyo room from the app, spend the night, and restart his journey the next day. “My gym trainer revealed to me that the electricity goes where he lives and he can't miss training. I just go to the Oyo next door, it has air conditioning, clean, I get ready, take a shower, and get to work… an attempt to reflect what the customers have gone ahead and done.”

Also Read: Middle-aged, and yet looking hot; OYO’s latest spot is an endearing retort to “Log kya sochenge”

If the aim is to reflect what people have done and refine the image, we think the start didn’t happen with this campaign but the one featuring Neena Gupta and Swanand Kirkire last year. Regardless of what one makes of the ads, Oyo always had an interesting casting choice. In the three ads from ‘22, we see Gul Panang, Kalki Koechlin, Chitrangada Singh, and Kunal Kapoor.

Hola, speaking of the Gupta and Kirkire’s campaign, reveals they “needed the best choice for the role and not some glamour. We all live in the OTT generation where you appreciate the series which have great actors.”

And coming to the latest campaign, the global brand head stresses they wanted to reflect what’s being watched… “Gul is a supermom. Kalki played a role with a precious few words and has friends who tease her but she can respond without saying a word. She fit in like a glove.”

Was Kalki chosen because of her name? “That's serendipity, to be honest. We needed the film on flexibility and cancel and so on and when we got her, we rewrote the film for her.”

“... wanted a really tall guy and Kunal had come off a series where he's done, Babur. He looks good. Chitrangada would be great pull his leg because she's done the movie ‘Bob Biswas’, got this fun vibe…” he added.

But why the ads now? Is it keeping the end of the third wave in mind and that Oyo’s brand recall should remain potent? Hola agrees because there is not too much chatter about the brand in the media and with “ not too many hospitality brands talking, it helps us get an inordinate share of voice.”

Also Read: "Leisure travel will be a huge focus for us this year": OYO's Mayur Hola

And while this is a logical marketing move, Oyo has to balance its steps because it cannot end up encouraging travel whilst the Omicron variant is still kicking but it cannot sit and do nothing as well.

“We don't urge people to travel and neither do you notice that in the ads at all,” remarks the brand head and adds that “there is no CTA, there is no book now. There's no deal, no offer, it's a consideration building campaign and it would be stupid to urge people to step out.”

The brand is clear it does not encourage people to book but when people do make a booking on the app, why is it that it is mostly a man? Oyo’s new campaign has strong women but don’t they take charge of the booking process?

Hola tells us a bunch of ladies from his team spoke to people who used the app in the past and to frequent users and we realised women take the call about picking the property but let the men do the hard work of booking.

Regardless of who does the booking, Oyo has its work cut out because winning over families ain’t easy. Will its charm work like it did on young couples? Let’s sit, order a drink, and see if the brand has the goods to pull it off.

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