Brand Saga: A Boat of drinks, memories, and storytelling

Sneha Yadav
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Paper Boat advertising journey

Paper Boat advertising journey has been a resounding one where the brand went on to achieve the extraordinary letting us breathe our past merrily, one ad a time.

‘Forget the Brand’ - not very often clients brief their agency with such a line.  Paper Boat did just that. If we closely follow the Paper Boat advertising journey, their advertising across mediums has been very subtle and the product presence minimal. The nostalgia-triggered marketing with a modern-day twist to everyone’s favourite aam panna and jaljeera - defines Paper’s boat’s brand journey.  



Amidst heavy domination from Colas of the world, Hector Beverages helmed by Neeraj Kakkar, Neeraj Biyani, Suhas Misra, and James Nuttall went on to introduce Paper Boat - a fruit pulp based beverage brand gearing to focus on the ethnic drinks segment in August 2013. Starting with two variants – aam pannaa and jaljeera the product was positioned aiming at bringing back traditional drinks of India albeit with a contemporary touch.

Soon aamras, kalakhatta, kokum, golgappe ka pani, imli,  Chilli Guava, Neer More, Lychee Ras, Coconut too joined. What made Paper Boat also standout is its packaging - the drinks are packed in squishy pouches that are easy to carry and are part of the brand’s appeal in urban India. The company earned INR 15.95 cr in 2014 and approximately INR 25 crore in 2015 according to the financial filings.


Digital Start


According to Ashwini Deshpande, Co-Founder & Director, Elephant Design, Brand Paper Boat was built with passion and conviction to do something truly unique. She informed, “As far as I remember, there was no print or TV for at least two years since its launch. But there was consistent use of social media to spread the goodness of the name, products & packaging design”.

Paper Boat joined hands with Elephant Design for product design, packaging and the agency also played an important role in its naming ceremony.

For Paper Boat, digital was the priority as making video commercials in the starting years came with heavy financial investment. It kicked off by creating illustrations on Facebook depicting childhood memories.

From curating and transforming people’s stories into beautiful illustrations and doodles to playing around various themes, Paper Boat utilized Facebook and simultaneously Instagram at the core.  


“Paper Boat was born in the digital age and that has been our first medium to tell stories and interact with our consumers. We have listened to our consumers carefully and the feedback has allowed us to make great strides in the direction of positive change. ” shared Parvesh Debuka, Head-Marketing, Hector Beverages Pvt Ltd.

Debuka told Social Samosa that a number of flavour were experimented basis consumer inputs on social media. Further, the landmark change in the cap of the packaging was also the result of social listening.

Also Read: 6 Juicy Ingredients from Paper Boat for an Outstanding Content Strategy

In an earlier interaction with Social Samosa, Neeraj Kakkar, Co- Founder, Hector Beverages had mentioned that on Instagram, the brand indulges itself with creative liberties. “We have an in-house team who work with exclusive partners to create stories. The design language takes a front seat when it comes to this visual medium. Innocence forms the base of almost all our communication.”

To sum up, while its Facebook sparks illustrations celebrating childhood, Instagram and Twitter feed boasts of creatives and doodles around #lifeisstillbeautiful #FloatABoat, visual stories, and more to narrate the Paper Boat story.


Mainstream Advertising

While the brand was slowly but steadily reaching heights, two of its co-founders, Misra and Nuttall quit in 2014 and 2015 respectively. Kakkar and Biyani helmed the company since and it started using traditional advertising mediums.


Launching its 10th variant in the market in October 2015, Anar, Paper Boat rolled out 20 seconders conceptualized by Lowe Lintas depicting how grown-ups often tend to remember their ‘bachpan’.  

Also Read: Social Media Strategy Review: Paper Boat

Whether it be Maa teaching her kid how to peel an anar or her cutting kairis to prep up for fresh aam panna the ‘chatpati yaadein’ were supported with apt traditional music score.

After building a strong presence in the North, Paper Boat moved its focus to the south while promoting its Aamras and Chilli Guauva variants, rolling out TVCs in Tamil, Telegu along with Hindi- from defining bachpan wali dosti. 


Being an admirer of Paper Boat, Vrutika Dawda's (Director, IdeateLabs) favorite ads is where a kid secretly opens the fridge and finds mango pulp hidden by her mother.

"Few brands are able to effectively communicate their key message to TG and connect them with their roots, Paper Boat is definitely one of them.," she added.

One thing that shouldn’t be missed here is the baritone voice of Gulzar that adds icing to the cake. The poet’s narrative backed by the Malgudi Days soundtrack has been a constant in the Paper Boat advertising journey. In an interview to Livemint, Kakkar claimed that each TV campaign resulted in double sales on-ground. The article shared that in Hector Beverages has an estimated annual ad budget of INR 150 mn as of 2016.

Meanwhile, sharing her thoughts on the significance of product packaging in boosting its advertising growth, Deshpande thinks that packaging aboard indigo airlines was its biggest advertising in the initial years.

She added, “Packaging carried little stories of climbing mango trees or bring to life the warmth of granny's kitchen." There were also the tongue in cheek hidden messages at the bottom of every pack for a surprise discovery.


Also Read: Celebrating Nostalgia with Neeraj Kakkar, CEO, Paper Boat


Memories and Storytelling

Paper Boat has been one of the brands who believed in ‘Power of Storytelling’ since its inception. After narrating stories through illustrations, Paper Boat moved onto creating short films which depicted nostalgia and innocence.


Bache They

From sticking chewing gum under a school desk to pulling out pranks on our mates – childhood antics were all captured beautifully in this almost 3-minute ad film conceptualized by Fisheye Creative Services.


Of Postcards...

Whether it be a young adult realizing his father’s struggles in raising him to making children’s day extra special by keeping the child in everyone alive, these ad films are worth watching again and again.


When asked about his favorite campaign, Debuka shares its as difficult as having to pick a favorite among your children. “We fondly recollect the work we did on the train journey (Indian Railway) memories. It was a literal trip down the memory lane to be in a train shooting your memories from childhood. Hum Honge Kamyab is another such campaign which contains the core DNA of our brand."


Here, the brand joined hands with NGO Parivar for fulfilling innocent wishes. For every image of a Paper Boat shared the brand donated Rs. 20 for children education.


The Making of Rizwan

The winner of multiple international awards and a Google case study, Paper  Boat’s ‘Rizwan’ by Humour Me was a roaring success, garnering over 2 mn views on YouTube and 3500 Facebook shares in less than two weeks of release.


“The only brief was that can you knock this out of the park,” exclaimed Dhruv Sachdeva, Founder, Humour Me.

Sachdeva then got to work and once while listening to Raj Kapoor’s music, the name Rizwan popped into his head. “I googled the meaning of the name, which was Jannat ka Rakshak.  – Keeper of the gates of heaven. I think the best insights and data come from the chai shops, streets, folklore that you listen from your grandmother,” he shared.

The idea was to show an 80-year-old transforming, proving that age is just a number. "I immediately thought of Ram Sethi to play the part," Sachdeva chimes.

He explains that it was all about Rizwan’s imagination. "I narrated the story with a ukulele in my hand to the brand team and saw Parvesh sort of tearing up saying - this is what Paper Boat is all about."

The brand went onto produce gems like ‘Hope, The Boat’, topical on Raksha Bandhan and many more dashes of creativity spread across social media.


According to Dawda, the insight of using nostalgia to connect with the audience has really worked well for Paper Boat.

"By using nostalgia the brand has managed to own the space of simplicity and purity of the product. These are the strongest emotions attached to a child’s life. While the messaging is subtle, what the customer gets is that this is a safe and natural product free of preservatives, without the brand actually saying so" she elucidated.


“It has been really exciting and also a deeply personal journey for the team. Every interaction spurs each of us to go on a small walk back to the lanes of our childhood. Everyone becomes childlike during the interaction,” concludes Debuka.

And as we conclude the evergreen Paper Boat advertising journey, we leave you with this...

“Ye bachpan ki yaadein hain, Paper Boat ne jo taraashi hain,

Ye bachpan ki yaadein, humein hum se milaati hain”

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