Ashwini Gangal
Points of View

Learning from the SpiceJet dance

A recent in-flight dance performance by SpiceJet's cabin crew has fetched the brand a little flak, no doubt, but lots and lots of earned media. What's the takeaway for service brands?

When was the last time you were given that 'extra something' by a brand? Something like a memorable gesture, a freebie, a well-timed gift or special experience... something that goes beyond the scope of the product level transaction.

SpiceJet treated its passengers to an unexpected in-flight dance routine on Holi, which saw flight attendants dance to a popular Bollywood number for little over two minutes. The entertaining effort has fetched the brand a lot of earned media; videos of the choreographed performance are being posted and shared online at a rapid rate. All because the brand tried to make its consumers feel special.

What's the lesson here for the Indian service industry? (Aside from, of course - 'don't get into trouble with the airline authorities.')

We spoke to ad-marketing professionals and asked them to answer the question as consumers and not as custodians of the various brands they handle while at work. Here's what they had to say.

Edited Excerpts.

Ravi Kiran, angel investor and former media veteran

Learning from the SpiceJet dance
Learning from the SpiceJet dance
Learning from the SpiceJet dance
Learning from the SpiceJet dance
Learning from the SpiceJet dance
Learning from the SpiceJet dance
In my view, the old labeling of brands as product or service brand is over. All brands have to fight to deliver an experience. What SpiceJet did was the most basic experience delivery - cute and catchy, but not relevant unless it reinforces what the brand stands for and is done consistently.

As far as getting earned media is concerned, some people get carried away believing that everything about a brand that's shared socially is good. Again, I would say, if it does not start from and reinforce what the brand stands for, it's just a stunt and stunts alone don't build brands. Think of a Richard Branson stunt, a Red Bull stunt and now think of SpiceJet. What do you see?

Customer delight involves exceeding expectations. So it's simple. Brands needs to figure out what customers expect and then go ahead and exceed it. It's no rocket science. In practice though, most services in India fall short; they don't even satisfy the customer, forget delighting.

Call centers, which were once set up to deliver a better service, have become nightmares. Store attendants are indifferent and often abusive. Salesmen have become so pushy, that prospective customers are scared of them. I don't believe Indian brands know what customers want, period.

Ameya Desai, assistant account director, Bang in the Middle

Things like these have been done internationally several times, so it's a repeated formula. It's something which works because it's not been done on an Indian airline before. It's new. And of course, it's a little exciting because you don't expect the cabin crew - that's otherwise very professional - to just jump into a jig. So it's exciting, it will definitely draw eyeballs. But I don't know how effective it will be, going forward, for the brand. Does it help them in their service? Does it help people to know more about SpiceJet? Perhaps... perhaps not.

We don't see enough of this. I think the lesson is - why not experiment? Why not give it a shot? If you have a good idea and want to do something different and new, something not many people have done in the past - why not? Give it a shot. It will definitely get you attention, there's no doubt about that.

Sabuj Sengupta, executive creative director, Hakuhodo Percept

I think the lesson is that we can make mundane things exciting, if brands get just a little innovative. And you don't need money to be innovative; I think that is the biggest thing here. People think we need money to be innovative but it's really all about creating a little delight. That can make the mundane really interesting.

Rajiv Pal, GM, sales and marketing, Reliance Industries, Textile Division, and head, branding and communication

Such things have already been done by airline brands in Western countries, for some sort of celebration, in moving aircrafts. But this is a first-of-its-kind move in India. It is very interesting. It has caught a lot of attention. A lot of people must have already heard about SpiceJet's crew having done this. So, SpiceJet has obviously got a lot of attention from this.

I think this was a harmless gesture. It was a positive thing. Such surprises, apart from catching the eye of the consumers who were there at the time, get a lot of attention on social media too.

A few minutes' jig got such a lot of attention; it was more than worth it for them. And it got the attention of the right target audience - people on social media are a good class of audience. It was a good surprise. Such new ideas and innovations help service brands. Such promotions are okay provided security is not compromised in any manner.

Mahesh Chauhan, co-founder, Salt Brand Solutions

If you were to tell me about the SpiceJet dance, without naming the company, and ask me to guess which airline did it, my first reaction would have been "IndiGo", second - "Jet", third - "GoAir". SpiceJet is the most unexpected airline to do this; therefore it is an interesting shift in perspective and character.

Looking at the reactions on social media - on Twitter and Facebook - you'll see that almost everyone is unanimous in their praise for what's been done by SpiceJet. This basically brings it down to the little pleasant surprise, the unexpected, the little 'plus' factor, the little 'X' factor, the 'wow' factor that we can bring into service. That's the lesson for the service industry.

From an agency-client relationship perspective, we tend to do a lot of this when we're pitching - an unexpected visitor, a song and dance show, drama, the whole 'let's bowl them over' attitude... in courtship we do it but very few do it in routine relationships. Those who do do it are the real heroes.

Just yesterday someone from the ad industry tweeted that he was unable to do his web check-in before flying to Goa. In no time, the airline got in touch with him and the job was done. Everybody in the service space can learn from such things.

The hotel industry has been doing this. I think Taj has been legendary in its own way; a lot of hotels are learning. If you're a regular customer, Taj knows almost everything about you. The room is set to your liking based on your specifications, after just one briefing. So, it's happening, but there's a huge gap that can be filled.

Shubho Sengupta, digital brand consultant

I have been traveling on SpiceJet for a while, and I like their unusual pronunciations - 'Kipper dhyan dijiye' - and often make fun of it on Facebook. So what happened on Holi, in a sense, is the same; airhostesses deepened the fun, spontaneous relationship I have with the airline. They laughed along with me, and said 'Hey, we are like you only'. I like that as a consumer - when a brand demonstrates they can dance with me. And not expect me to dance to their tune - which most brands try hard to do and fail.

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