New Delhi: It’s unusual for a beverage brand to brief its creative agency as follows: You may not talk about our drinks, just build something around the memories associated with the drinks. “Drinks and memories," as you may have guessed, is the tagline for Paper Boat, maker of traditional Indian drinks like Aam Panna, Jal Jeera and Jamun Kala Khatta.

So it wasn’t a surprise when a similar communication reached Humour Me, the boutique creative agency that has created Paper Boat’s new ad for digital media.

The new ad, Rizwan—Keeper of the Gates of Heaven, tugs at the heartstrings through the memories of its central character Rizwan. The 3-minute-30-second film combines animation to narrate the story of an old man Rizwan who is blind and is shown to be living alone in a secluded home in the hills. “I wanted him (Rizwan) to be old so he could depict a different time. I wanted to show a man untouched by time and a world view which was unadulterated by anything. This can be attributed to the child-like quality that Paper Boat brings to people," said Dhruv Sachdeva, founder of Humour Me. The video has crossed more than 1.5 million views in a week. The ad is for Paper Boat’s new drink Chilli Guava.

“When it comes to drinks like Aam Panna and Jamun Kala Khatta, we are competing with the memories of these drinks. These memories of taste are perhaps more vivid than the drink itself. So memories as a benchmark keep appearing in conversations," said Neeraj Kakkar, founder and chief executive at Hector Beverages Pvt. Ltd, the company that runs Paper Boat.

Rizwan is Paper Boat’s start to keeping the audience at the centre of their content.

Rizwan is Paper Boat’s start to keeping the audience at the centre of their content.
Rizwan is Paper Boat’s start to keeping the audience at the centre of their content.

“Brands need to work as entertainment companies," said Sachdeva, founder, Humour Me. “I wanted to treat the communication as the end product itself. Paper Boat is more than a drink, it’s a feeling. We wanted to be as imaginative as the packaging and bring alive that child-like quality associated with them," he added.

The new ad film is in line with Paper Boat’s earlier ads like “Hum honge kamyab" and “Jab hum bachche the" that reflect upon and refresh childhood memories. With creative briefs like “forget about the product", the brand is both creatively liberating and willing to take risks.

According to Kartik Sharma, managing director (South Asia) for Maxus, a GroupM India company, Paper Boat will focus on increasing brand awareness in 2016. “With new flavours getting launched and distribution steadily increasing our focus, this year is going to be more multi-screen. While we will continue to focus on TV, we will skew part of the budget to enhance investment in relevant HD channels given the nature of our target group. This will also be coupled with an increased focus on both digital and cinema," he said.

For Paper Boat, mainstream advertising started only last year, but the brand has been using different formats of digital media since inception. It started out by creating illustrations on social networking site Facebook as part of its advertising. “In the beginning, to do videos was difficult and this was the cheapest thing to do. But our most salient marketing tool has been word of mouth," said Kakkar.

The company spends close to 5 crore on digital advertising that’s worked well for the brand. But with scale and growth, its television campaigns, three so far, have reaped benefits. “Each TV campaign for us has resulted in double sales on the ground," claimed Kakkar. At present, Hector Beverages has an estimated annual advertising budget of 15 crore.

Founded in 2010 by former Coca-Cola India employees Kakkar and Neeraj Biyani, Hector Beverages is growing at more than 100% a year, Kakkar claimed, admitting that the company is not yet profitable. Last year, it raised $30 million in fresh funding from existing investor Sequoia Capital and new funds such as Sofina Capital and Hillhouse Capital Management, boosting the company’s valuation to $100 million.

Kakkar is also getting ready to market Kanji, a fermented drink made out of black or purple carrots found in north India during winters that gets its kick from coarsely ground mustard seeds. He’s been working on it for three years. Expect Kanji in retail outlets by Diwali this year.