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Quibbles On Media Piggybacking

The visual assault such a flyer-cloth makes on flyers erodes, I believe, Spicejet’s own value

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There are times when brands who are doing well suddenly careen off their category racetracks and head towards a wobble. Overconfidence, like in the proverbial hare vs. the tortoise story, could be one reason for this. The exhilaration that comes from success blinds them from taking care of the small details, and — broooom — the control on the reign slips from their grasp!

In the Indian arena, Spicejet has emerged as a fresh force in the airline industry of late, surpassing its closest rival on several core parameters of performance. One saw this coming over the last two years when turnaround in operational efficiencies swung back customers to reconsider the airline in strife.

From a branding point of view, the refreshed look of the airline livery, uniforms, literature and promotional campaigns exuded a new energy and confidence, lubricating trust. However, on my latest flights to and fro Delhi to Hyderabad, I was pained to see the vibrant red of the Spicejet seat headrests disturbed by horrendous handbill-like designs from a public-sector insurance company which hung from there.

These eyesores permeated and overpowered the pristine branded nature of the aircraft and had, in one fell swoop, converted it from the sublime to the ridiculous. I squirmed right through my two-hour journey each way and preferred to keep my ‘eyes wide shut’!  

It would seem that the airline has allowed the insurance company to contribute to its exchequer, and ride on the visibility the reverse of the headrest provides, without any thought whatsoever on the impact the activity creates on its own brand! The visual assault such a flyer-cloth makes on flyers erodes, I believe, Spicejet’s own value. So does the audio spot of an RO marketer, that plays all of a sudden and the familiar voice of a film star wakes up passengers who are concentrating on a snooze.

I am not against renting out prime real estate (billboard ad space) and earning revenues from the earned eyeballs of any domain, but I am against brand hijacking by a user from the owner. I recall when 40 years ago I worked in advertising space selling, my magazine used to offer back covers to prospective advertisers specifying that it would only feature an ad if it had the publishing house management’s approval. Which means that the publication saw its entire cover — front and back — as its own, and reserved the right not to feature an ugly typeset ad that would detract from its look on the newsstand.

What are the yardsticks by which even the management of an airline carrier approves or rejects an advertiser’s ad, if it so chooses? This is a tough, but pertinent question, especially when there is, prima facie, nothing objectionable about its content but it is just about the way the design aesthetically interferes with the airline’s livery.

I believe Spicejet’s branding department ought to take that call. And if audio spots need to be played, the timing of this needs to be sensitively orchestrated as an adjunct to a cabin service announcement and not as a surprising intrusion.

At the end of the day, the power of the host brand is the ultimate determinant of how much power it can wield over other brands wishing to ride piggyback on it.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

Tags assigned to this article:
branding Magazine 2 September 2017 spicejet aviation

Indranil Gupta

The author is Founder Director & Chief Executive Officer of BrandNEW Associates Private Limited

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