Paper Boat floats stories as brand’s core identity

MUMBAI: There are certain fragrances, sites, and flavours that appeal to us just by virtue of the nostalgia they evoke within us. Three friends realized this over a lunch table on a hot Indian summer’s day, and one of them later went on to conceive Paper Boat, the popular beverage brand that served old favourites like aam panna, aam ras and chilled rasam in a new avatar.

“While the regular ‘sharing-the-dabba’ ritual was underway, my American friend tried the aam panna that had come from one of our homes,” narrates Paper Boat founder and CEO Neeraj Kakkar. “We realised that raw mango ale, a.k.a aam panna, is not available anywhere in a ready-to-drink format. We were instantly married to the idea, and that was the inception of Paper Boat.”

A product of Hector Beverages, Paper Boat found its brand identity in the indigenous flavours that we are oh so familiar with, and yet have a refreshing appeal.

Since its inception in 2013, the brand has kept its advertising strategy very simple. “We believe in life and how easy it is to be happy. There are always plenty of opportunities for simple pleasures and we just want to bring that alive. And it’s through these little joys that we wish to connect with our consumers. That basically forms the key premise of all our communication,” states Kakkar.

Explaining that their campaign focus is mostly skewed towards social media and television, Kakkar also shed light on the brand’s currently airing 20 sec TVCs. “The three 20-second TVCs are being aired on prime time across a host of English lifestyle, news as well as Hindi and English general entertainment channels with a focus on top cities. We’ve taken special care in the channel mix that we have chosen. The attempt is to make our presence felt across markets in a very targeted way,” says Kakkar, thanking Paper Boat’s creative agency Lowe Lintas,  for the innovative campaign ideas.

Further explaining the concept behind the TVCs, Lowe Lintas executive creative director Rajesh Ramaswamy adds, “Memories are not merely an advertising concept. ‘Drinks and Memories’ is the DNA of the brand. Every beverage of Paper Boat are recipes that are more than a 100 years old. Every drink has a lot of memories associated with it. So we aren’t selling drinks, we are selling memories though drinks.”

The agency has mostly stayed away from the ‘celebrity’ route with Paper Boat with the exception of singer Usha Uthup, but rather kept the faces in the TVC fresh and relatable. “We just go about casting people who suit the role. They need to reflect a certain personality. Innocence and an inherent niceness are the qualities we look for in adults. Also, kids are invariably a part of the concept,” he adds.

Regarding Uthup, he says, “Usha Uthup as a person is contemporary and full of joy, and she has a childlike innocence to her which will never ever fade away. The minute we suggested her name, the client had a big smile and said: ‘She is Paper Boat.’”

‘Stories’ are the core of every promotion that the brand does. “Early this year, as a part of our promotional program, we decided to reprint a classic, Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K Jerome. People were pleasantly surprised and so were we,” says Kakkar.

Having a USP doesn’t lessen the fierce competition in the FMCG sector. Surely Dabur’s Hajmola Yodley poses a direct competition to Paper Boat? To which, Kakkar says, “We feel our real challenge is the distribution and the only way we can compete fairly with our rival brand is by reaching out to as many consumers as possible. We are growing at a very fast pace but the key challenge for us is distribution. We are working very hard to work out the right distribution channels. The ultimate aim is to expand the category and it is always good when the consumer has choice,” he says.

Till now Paper Boat has been adding mainstream flavours such as aam ras, aam panna etc to its mix, but Kakkar shares that the company has plans to bring in regional flavours targeted at a niche consumer base as well. “We plan to get some local gems from smaller towns and bring them closer to our consumers. We are putting an extra effort in the North Eastern region. Recently, we launched Anaar and we are aiming to launch flavors like Neer More, Chilli Guava, Kanji etc. in the next year,” Kakkar informs.

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