Brand Saga: Of making India Incredible

Sneha Yadav
Nov 07, 2019 14:10 IST
Incredible India adverting journey

Boasting off rich cultural heritage and a mosaic of remarkable art and architecture, Incredible India advertising journey depicts a snowball of serious endeavors to market India to the globe.

From the snow-clad Himalayan Mountains in the north to the sandy serene beaches of the south kissing the coastal lanes of Andaman- Nicobar and Lakshadweep Islands, India is no less than a rich amalgamation of multicultural experiences and myriad range of cultural heritage – we all could vouch for.

Home to one of the Seven Wonders of the World, imbibing acres of natural vegetation and distinct fauna species, the country has been a popular tourist destination. India improved its ranking by 6 places since 2017 and now is ranked at 34th out of 140 countries according to The Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report 2019. The report also ranked India's tourism sector 13th out of 140 countries in terms of price competitiveness. Hence, sans doubt one of the fastest-growing sectors and is therefore known as one of the high points of ‘Incredible India’.

This week’s Brand Saga deep dives into the making of one of the historic campaigns that later took the shape of the country’s most chanted slogan and further went onto become a brand for every Indian to resonate with- Incredible India- has been mesmerizing us with its portrayal of one of the oldest civilizations of the world and we couldn’t have asked for more.

The Birth of Incredible India 

Even after years of independence and abode to the

iconic Taj Mahal, Red Fort, Jama Masjid, the Golden Temple et al, India’s

tourism industry’s growth was at a standstill wherein countries like China


According to the information available online, in 1972, late actor Sunil Dutt launched a campaign to promote India as a popular tourist destination followed by the phrase "Incredible India" getting adopted by the ministry. In the quest to promote Indian tourism and reach every nook and corner, the Indian government had regularly formulated policies and prepared pamphlets and brochures for the promotion of tourism, however, it had not supported tourism in a concerted fashion.


Source: Federico Evangelista

It was only in 2002 that the campaign caught serious attention of the tourism ministry and conscious efforts were made to bring in more professionalism in its attempts to promote tourism.

The Tourism Ministry of India thereon came up with an integrated communication strategy with an aim to promote India as a destination of choice for the discerning traveler. In a bid to redesign the communication strategy and take it to another level, the ministry joined hands with Ogilvy & Mather India to recreate the magic of ‘Amulya Bharat’ through traditional advertising and increase the foreign footfall.

Of Branding ‘Incredible India’

The campaign ‘Incredible India’ was launched with print advertisements and a series of TV commercials in the year 2002 positioning India as an attractive tourist destination by featuring aspects of rich Indian history, culture, and traditions, yoga, religious beliefs, and spirituality- basically all things defining ‘Bharat’.

With an objective to positioning India from a low-cost destination to one of luxury, the campaign was managed by Amitabh Kant, Joint Secretary at the Ministry of Tourism, Govt. Of India. Post the campaign launch on a global level, it is also reported that the tourist's arrival in India rose from 2.65 million to 5.38 million resulting in the campaign resulted in the Forex earning which grew from $3460 million in 2000 to $11747 million in 2008.


However, the campaign fell for a bit of criticism from a few experts who believed that it failed to cover several aspects of India which would have been attractive to the average tourist. A small section of the observers was of the view that India was not on the itinerary of millions of tourists not so much because the country was unable to market itself, but more because of poor connectivity, exorbitant taxes, visa problems, unsanitary conditions, and shortage of affordable, good quality accommodation. While a few others also rose question on the usage of the word ‘Incredible’ arguing that a single word to describe India as a whole was not appropriate.

Rising above criticism- Marketing galore

Taking into consideration both highs and lows

of the campaign, the ministry moved on and built a strategy to make the

campaign and India truly incredible with powerful visual impact and advertising


From 2002 to 2003, the ministry –agency duo used the exclamation sign of the logo across visuals in early campaigns. The thought behind the exclamation mark replacing the letter ‘I’ in the logo was used to create additional effects and establish India as a high-end tourist destination.


Source: Ads of The World

Marching ahead, the advertising campaigns focused on the spiritual aspects of the country and solo travelers. Later adventure and history took the spotlight in 2006.

The campaigns in 2007 were more personalized and catered to the diversity of international countries like London and New York, also amalgamating the rich Indian culture followed on the videsi land.


India and Incredible STARs

In 2008, the Ministry of Tourism launched a campaign targeted at the local population to educate them regarding good behavior and etiquette when dealing with foreign tourists and roped in  Bollywood superstar Aamir Khan to be the face of it.

Titled "Atithidevo Bhava" (Guests are like God), the campaign along with educating the masses also highlighted the need for preservation of India's heritage, culture, cleanliness, and hospitality. According to reports, it also attempted to instill a sense of responsibility towards tourists and reinforce the confidence of foreign tourists towards India as a preferred holiday destination.

While shifting gears to domestic tourism in 2009, out of the total budget of US$200 million, 12 million US dollars were allocated towards the domestic program.

When Aamir Khan's statement about the growing environment of intolerance in the country in 2015 landed him in hot soup, the actor wasn’t retained for the endorsing post the contract expiration.

That was the time when Narendra Modi had emerged victorious and was sworn in as the Prime Minister of India in 2014. Owing to his travel diaries in maintaining foreign exchange relationships and promoting India at various international conferences, he soon became synonyms to Incredible India's face at the global level.

Along with Brand Modi’s magic and ‘Make in India’ proposition, Big B’s baritone voice and his enigma took the center stage in Incredible India campaigns featuring Gujarat’s mystical land followed by desi girl Priyanka Chopra exploring the lanes of northeastern states.

In 2017, President Ram Nath Kovind joined hands with Tourism Ministry, Culture Ministry and Archaeological Survey of India on the occasion of “World Tourism Day” to launch “Incredible India 2.0 Campaign”, “Adopt a Heritage” project which focused on specific promotional plans, with greater emphasis to be given to social media along with the rollout of New Incredible India Website” .

The key objective of the ‘Adopt A Heritage’ Project was to entrust heritage sites to the public sector and private sector companies and individuals for the development of tourist amenities.

In 2018, the Tourism Ministry proposed convergence of campaigns as brand-building one, enhancing perception about the country, especially on foreign shores. According to Hindu Business Line, the ministry aimed at creating a bigger impact by making Incredible India the mother campaign on which State tourism and industry campaigns can piggyback highlighting various destinations and areas such as spiritual, medical, and wellness tourism, with a budget of $46 million.

There was a fresh set of creatives around heritage and a generic TV promo conceptualized by Prasoon Joshi helmed team at McCann. 


India via Youtube

With 55k subscribers and 219 videos to date, Incredible India’s Youtube channel is as lit as India as the country and encompasses various facets of our very own Indian heritage and locals like no other.


The very first which went live in 2014 enticed viewers to board the magnificent Golden Chariot and explore India like a king and queen.

Cut to 2019, Incredible India "Find the Incredible You" campaign released globally by the Ministry of Tourism during 2018-19 was declared the winner of the PATA (Pacific Asia Travel Association) Gold Award 2019 in the “Marketing - Primary Government Destination” category. An official release from Press Information Bureau mentions that to take the campaigns to the next level, the ‘Incredible India 2.0’ shift from generic promotions undertaken across the world to market-specific promotional plans and content creation.

As part of the 2.0 Campaign, five new television commercials were produced by the Ministry, which was aired globally in the television, digital and social media. The campaign strategy was to shift the focus from the external experience of tourist destinations to the internal experience of travelers themselves. This series of transformative experiences was brought alive through unique storytelling in the format of autobiographies of travelers, with the tagline “Find the Incredible You”.

The Ministry of Tourism, as part of its promotional initiatives annually releases Global Media Campaigns under the ‘Incredible India’ brand-line in the Television, Print, Digital, and Social Media, in key and potential source markets overseas.

Other than the award-winning series, the channel also boasts of  ‘Choose your own adventure’ where a Travel Blogger names Nicole makes her way around India for the first time ever. Another set of Vignettes comprised of travel Vloggers narrating their expeditions in and around the country with #MyIndia.

From curating the best for ‘The India 100’ to ‘More stories from Incredible India’ to depicting the many vibrant facets of each of its states, Incredible India Youtube strategy has been kept strategically inclusive and cumulative of India’s spectacular diversity.  


Incredible India advertising journey has epitomized the strategic marketing landscape while truly depicting the many facets of India – with a fusion of mountains and the sea, while the contemporary world complementing the ancient land and the religions in all its glory.

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