Culture and brands work unfailingly. Most often when content, experience and design meet at the corner.
UNWTO says more than 40 per cent of all international tourists are ‘cultural tourists’. Today cultural festivals have become brand mnemonics for their countries. St. Patricks day in Ireland, Oktoberfest in Germany, La Tomatina in Spain and Rann Ustav in India. And does it translate to business? According to statistics from Oktoberfest.net, in 2015, the total number of visitors around this 17 day iconic beer festival was around 7.2 million (And, that was not a typo, not in the least). As per Oxford Economics the revenue generated by tourists for music festivals in UK accounted for £1.9 billion. Stories of “province of origin” brands and their re-inventions are legendary. Burberry rebounds and how into a “not so plaid” world with a reinvented British story with digital, social and brand allies.
Now imagine a land like ours, incredibly young and yogic at 5000+ years, of fabled experiences, that tells stories in 22 languages (unofficially the figure runs into a 1000 and more with dialects), housing an infinite number of storytellers and kitchens that stir up magic on every square meal. This is content true, pure and genuine. It is in this context that today’s brand, content and marketing gurus and even development architects, must get cultural branding, experience architecture and storytelling. Digital creations, social propagation are vital yes, but experiences and stories if built on ground, between youand me, in the realm of touch and feel, and then amplified with social and digital allies carries it much further both in the brand kingdom and the boardroom. Always and absolutely, resoundingly yes!!
Fabindia is an India centric brand story today valued at 239 stores (including outside India) and INR 1100 Crores worth of consumer votes annually. Good Earth uses the rich backdrop of India’s imperial legacies to create a range of cutlery, crockery and more, that is bound to jumpstart a conversation around the table before or after the food. Nappa Dori today tells a rooted story, using craft and design that is indigenous and takes it to audiences wrapped in a neat little trunk that has walked shows from Milan to Paris and wows clients from Eva Longoria to Naomi Watts. However, there is also vast content and story telling that often needs more help and passionate ambassadorship or even reinvented brand storytelling at times to preserve and propel them.
I am sure all of you have had your mining moments and trysts with that gold that shines a wee bit more, while building your brands, your business or simply carrying a conversation. For, all of you are foremost, storytellers and in that you hold a precious gift. Of discovering, polishing and passing on the gold of content.
Some of our earlier adventures in switching on a rainforest at Coorg and re-imagining luxury resorts, was all about interpreting the local culture of a land and building experiences for guests that make them immerse in the local stories and take them back home.
Apart from micro marketing predominantly in the neighbourhood of Bangalore first and then have word of mouth and digital legs take it to select markets in and outside India, as Coorg was not an itinerary destination, to formally launching this resort and its foresty secrets, probably the first time without any guests except about 30 writers, bloggers and travel partners – it was all about staying true to telling a leaner but sharper story of a rainforest spilling its local secrets.
Staid operating standards, manuals or “by the done” rule books of opening hotels don’t work beyond the line of normal. Experiences, story and content had to be reimagined, built on ground and painstakingly brought alive. Be it the Conservatory we created with culturally steeped, JJ school exponents, historians, craftsmen (and a metal scrap vendor’s magic intervention – that story is for another day) now helmed by the ram rod straight Col. Muthanna as the chief storyteller, be it a 3000 sq feet pottery studio in partnership with Clay Studio, the Gudda bath spa experience rooted in its copper bottomed local history, the in-room Little Book of 21 compendium with Mini, the farm to table organic food story, the star bird trail and compilation with a pair of binoculars created with the local dentist cum ornithologist, the forest cocktails with Tim the invitee mixologist, the history table experience of Coorg narrated with the famous son of the Coorg soil CP Belliappa, the 101 lanterns and nook dining experience, the rainforest boot-camp course created with Muddy Boots or conjuring the Deep India tour with Sony Music, bringing Grammy winners Deep Forest to India, collaborating with music icon Rahul Sharma and creating an album and track as a tribute to our resort in Madikeri called Viva Madikeri (we almost pushed the geog. coordinates in ?). And finally, the “secrets of the rainforest” campaign without featuring a single shot of the resort, came later, tying up the tale.
Since then the resort has topped the reviews and charts in average rentals, raked in revenues, got customers from as far as the US, UK, Germany, won 12-14 global awards including from Conde Nast, T+L and Trip Advisor, and more importantly hailed the beginning of the rainforest story in “till-then” plantation country, Coorg
One of the headlines of a UK paper summed up the efforts collectively saying – The Rainforest Checks In. Personally, it was one of the most fascinating “back to school” adventures we co created with passionate individuals, partners, storytellers and cultural missionaries. Humbling and truly gratifying. And realizing that when one starts to dig in this magnificent land of tales, fables and mythology, one could come up with content that works for the brand and board. That is 28 carats Gold.
Yes, I realize I overshot by 4 carats. But couldn’t help it!!