Sohini Sen

Asian Paints: Memories Etched in Wood

With a new digital campaign around Onam, Asian Paints WoodTech Emporio is trying to raise awareness about the wood finish category.

What makes a house a home? Memories, of course; memories that make one nostalgic. Asian Paint's campaign for its wood finisher brand WoodTech Emporio, based on this insight, talks to Malayalees who are away from home during Onam.

WoodTech Emporio is a kind of polyurethane (PU) finish from Asian Paints which, the company claims, doesn't just make the wood shine, but also more durable and scratch, stain and heat resistant. The fact that Kerala homes usually have a lot of wooden furniture seems to be the starting point for the campaign.

Asian Paints: Memories Etched in Wood
"Traditionally, families in Kerala paint their homes just after Onam. This is also the end of monsoon, so once the rain decreases, people feel more comfortable in investing money for a makeover for their homes," says a spokesperson from the brand.

The long-format film, made in Malayalam with English subtitles, is about an unhappy city man who is burdened by everyday tasks and chores. He just takes off to his childhood home in Kerala, nostalgic on seeing his son playing with a wooden car. As memories come rushing back, he decides to repaint his house and gives all the wooden furniture a coat of Emporio, which makes them shine like new.

The timing and the setting of the video was perfect, coinciding with one of the biggest festivals celebrated in Kerala. The fact that Kerala is also the top market for Asian Paints in the wood finish category makes the video even more pertinent.

"In Kerala, as in other parts of the country, Asian Paints is a known brand. But, wood finish as a category is something not many people talk about. Our aim was to create awareness about the category. With the 'tharavad' house's association with wood - be it for swings, pillars, doors or carved ceilings - Kerala naturally became a big focus market for the brand," explains Simon Jacob, director, marketing, CampHire Worldwide Partners, the creative agency behind the ad.

Onam brings with it a sense of nostalgia for Malayalees away from their homes. Thus, the 'Take Me Home' film seems to have struck a chord with viewers.

Talking about the brand's TG, the spokesperson says, "While there are a lot of affluent Malayalees who have grown up in Kerala but have now gone to different cities for work, there are also a lot of people who are settled abroad. This is the time when these people, irrespective of their religion, come back home for Onam. It is not a religious festival; everyone from Kerala celebrates it."

Interestingly, Kerala is one of the biggest markets for Asian Paints even in the exterior and interior paints category. The spokesperson informs that people there are investing in marbles, tiles etc, for their homes. Kerala happens to be a good market for any luxury range of product. Asian Paint's Ultima was first launched in the Southern state, before being rolled out to the rest of the country.

In the Rs. 1,000-1,200 crore organised market for wood finishers, Asian Paints has the lion's share of around 45-50 per cent. Its market share is in line with the overall paints category. With a 10-12 per cent increase in ad spends, Asian Paints hopes to tackle the challenges the category faces.

However, according to the company, the challenges have a lot to do with perception and behaviour.

"Firstly, the application of wood finishers is considered to be a specialist job. It actually takes a contractor around five years to learn the proper method. But, more importantly, people do not care for their wooden furniture as often as they do for their walls or curtains. While a house may be painted every few years, wooden furniture is left without a polish for around 10-15 years. When we see the wood lacking shine, we just call a 'polish-wala' and get it to shine for the next two years. But, using a specialised product like Emporio can take care of the wood for at least five to six years," says the spokesperson from Asian Paints.

The online video is just the first part of the campaign. According to Jacob, this would be followed up with a book launch. The book, 'Ormacheppu' ('Orma' means memories and 'Cheppu' means box), will be divided into three parts. The first will talk about Kerala and revive the memories of the hometown, the second will show how to care for different furniture and the third will teach how to recreate a traditional Kerala house in a different city, without changing too much of the interiors.

Nostalgic Much?

Asian Paints: Memories Etched in Wood
Asian Paints: Memories Etched in Wood
Malayalee at heart, Prathap Suthan, managing partner and chief creative officer, Bang In The Middle, likes the film for its story. However, he feels that, overall, the story was a little forced and amateurish in a market that's cinematically educated and aesthetic. "Please understand that the short film culture in Kerala is very lively, and there are some fantastic filmmakers out here. So, in that context, the film pales," he says.

Sarvesh Raikar, unit creative director, Lowe Lintas + Partners, found the film to be "needlessly long," while the script and direction meandering a lot - trying too hard to add depth to the story.

"The flashbacks get repetitive after a point, the portrayal of the man, who doesn't even bid his son goodbye, almost makes him look like a recluse. Kerala's away-from-home youngsters, big ancestral homes, traditional wooden furniture, the trust of Asian Paints, and, of course, the link with Onam - there are many things in the film the TG can connect to. But, only if they can pull themselves through the video's length," Raikar observes.

Suthan appreciates the storytelling which brings to the fore dormant memories. "It's a good thing to go back to your roots. I wasn't quite bothered about the wood polish product; it was incidental. It almost overtly came through as a paint ad. The Asian Paints phone call took me to that conclusion. Overall, for a larger mass audience, this film works and works well. Too many Malayalees are away from Kerala, and homecoming is always a sweet detour," he states.

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