Has DHL ditched the speed proposition for sentiment?

By Deepashree Banerjee , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Digital
Published : December 21, 2018 04:52 AM
We asked Sandeep Juneja, VP, Commercial, DHL Express India about the brand's ISL spot.

Lately, brands are often seen toasting good old family bonds and relationships. From the largest selling biscuit brand - Parle G to a home-grown tyre manufacturer like JK Tyre, all and sundry seem to quite happily be riding the wave and we can't help but notice a pattern here.

Are we missing the bigger picture (if there is one)? Has showcasing blood-bonds now become a part of an advertiser's mandate?

International courier and logistics brand, DHL Express, a division of the German logistics giant Deutsche Post which also operates the domestic courier service Blue Dart in India, thinks that a diverse market like ours can be won only through localisation. However, the service standards have to be international.

The latest commercial, developed as a part of its 'DHL is the Way' campaign, is conceptualised by The Digital Street, A Social Street Group Company. It showcases an endearing relationship between a father and his injured son. The father goes out of his way to get a pair of football shoes autographed by a famous football player. He then trusts DHL to carry the shoes across continents and delivery the package on his injured son's birthday.

Interestingly, this is not the first time DHL Express has gone this route as evident in their 2015 global commercial that also captured a father-son relationship (although not a long distance one), albeit with a different twist.

The international express services provider launched its 360-degree interactive brand campaign with a minute-long TVC that draws parallels between football and the business landscape. This new brand campaign rolled out during the Indian Super League (ISL) 2017 season for which DHL is an associate sponsor.

Globally, the brand has always stressed on the speed factor. The latest spot is seemingly high on sentiment. What triggered the shift?

Sandeep Juneja Sandeep Juneja

Talking about the company's marketing and business plans in India, Sandeep Juneja, vice president - Commercial, DHL Express India, tells us, "There are two ways to position a brand. One is by focusing on our core values of speed, passion, teamwork, and can-do spirit. The other aspect is to connect with our end consumers and take a slightly elevated positioning in their minds which is what we did through our latest campaign 'Where there is a will, we are the way'."

The goal was to appeal to its diverse audience of emerging enterprises - SMEs, as well as established players based in metros and Tier II and III markets. Therefore, the brand focused on enhancing the communication by going beyond just business conversations with an attempt to strike an emotional chord.

At what percentage has the product category been growing?

The company gets a majority of its business from the B2B segment. Now, with the high penetration of e-commerce in India, the B2C segment is also contributing significantly.

Given the fact that the Indian express industry is the fastest growing market globally, the industry is "...expected to grow at a CAGR of 17 per cent and reach a size of INR 48,000 cr. in the next five years," Juneja predicts.

"This growth will primarily be driven by the growth of cross-border e-commerce and a significant demand from SMEs. Through this 360-degree brand campaign, we aim to engage with over 200 million people and reach out to our target audience, i.e. SMEs and young entrepreneurs based pan-India," he states.

Challenges/opportunities in the segment

In 2017, the express logistics industry saw two significant changes - the implementation of GST, along with the lesser known migration to electronic clearances for express shipments. Juneja says that this transition was challenging initially, "It affected our entire systems and processes and required us to retrain our teams. The change was especially huge for our customers - manufacturers, exporters and importers, SEZ units, and Export Oriented Units (EOU) alike."

However, an optimistic Juneja maintains, "It is good to see a continuous dialogue between the industry and government policymakers towards incorporating all points of view and making revisions that suit all stakeholders involved."

Speaking about the creative brief to the agency, he says, "Our single line brief to the agency was to communicate DHL Express' customer centricity."

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The 360-degree brand campaign launched with this TVC and will also leverage multiple avenues spanning print, radio, Out-of-Home, In-stadia football matches, ambient, and digital mediums.

The 'International Specialists' campaign (2011), created by 180 Amsterdam with media planning and buying by Vizeum, included TV, print, radio, and digital advertising. The ad shows key events being completed across the globe including a designer putting the finishing touches on a dress in New York, and a circuit board being delivered to space. The TV and radio spots also feature a modern cover of the song 'Ain't no mountain high enough', which first featured in DHL ads in 1991.

So, did the point hit home? Over to the experts...

While speed and predictability have always been the cornerstones of express delivery brands worldwide, Vishnu Srivatsav, creative head, DDB Mudra Group thinks there's already a shift to the softer side of the delivery industry, which is care and careful handling of your package.

Vishnu Srivatsav Vishnu Srivatsav

Varun Khullar Varun Khullar

"I believe this attempts to occupy a higher emotional ground and the impact that delivery could potentially have. I'm not sure if it has anything to do with parallels between the game of football and the business landscape," he observes wryly.

He takes note of the fact that while the thought is powerful, the storyline is a bit predictable and the execution seems a little contrived. "Maybe there was potential to keep the acting and casting far more real and the emotions much more visceral," he adds.

Varun Khullar, creative director, Happy mcgarrybowen, has an interesting take, "It's the foreigner's approach to India, the way I see it."

He feels the need to infuse emotions is akin to saying it the Indian way. "It's a perception that Indians react better to emotion rather than information. And I see that being the reason for the brand to re-look at their communication strategy," he explains.

It's a simple story of a far-from-home father sending some love back to his son in India which, in itself, is a touching sentiment. But the overuse of tears and typically emotional moments seemed a little out of place. About the execution, he concludes, "I felt that the emotional quotient of the film could have been dialled down a little."

Agency Details:

The Team

Client: DHL Express India Pvt. Ltd.
Client team: Sandeep Juneja, Sarin Nair, Abhishek Sharma & Harsh Shah
Creative Agency: The Digital Street LLP, A Social Street Group Company

ACD: Smriti Shadra
Head of Films: Arya Gupta
Account Management: Priyanka Phayde
Film Director: Siva Remero Iyer
Line Producer: Rathi
Producer: Uppalapati Narayana Rao
Production House: Introupe Films

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