Brand Saga: 6-minutes that shaped the Gujarat Tourism advertising journey

Sneha Yadav
Nov 26, 2020 10:48 IST
Gujarat Tourism advertising journey

Piyush Pandey had only 6 minutes in hand to pitch the ‘Khushboo Gujarat Ki’ campaign to the then CM of Gujarat, Narendra Modi. How those 6 minutes defined the Gujarat Tourism Advertising Journey through a successful campaign, we find out!

Ad veteran Piyush Pandey was quoted recalling his experience working with PM Narendra Modi, who was then the Chief Minister of the state, for the Gujarat Tourism project. "The PM, on a lighter note, had then said that I will keep on speaking about Gujarat but you have to give a story only in six minutes.” The rest as they say is history which formed the Gujarat Tourism advertising journey.

Branding ‘Tourism in Gujarat’ – How & When?

The initial push to garner foreign attention and domestic tourists came when the Ministry of Tourism kickstarted an umbrella destination branding of the country under ‘Incredible India’. The campaign portrayed the scenic beauty of Bharat along with vivid moods of the dynamic culture and traditions housed for centuries.

Supplemented by a strong narrative and attractive branding elements, the campaign touched a significant success ratio and generated tremendous recall value. However the central ministry’s ‘Incredible India’ saga along with aggressive marketing of ‘Kerala Tourism’ as ‘God’s Own Country’ posed a competitive ground for states like Madhya Pradesh, Goa, Gujarat, and Rajasthan who were gazing opportunities to standout.

It was also the time when international tourism boards like Australia and Thailand entered the Indian tourism market. Cannibalization posed a great threat for the domestic states that were keen on building their niche and don a differential image.


Tourism Corporation of Gujarat, operating under the brand of Gujarat Tourism, a government undertaking, was formed in 1978 to promote tourism in the state. In the initial years, the promotion was restricted merely to policy formulation, a few brochures, pamphlets, and a string of print ads referring to Gujarat as a vibrant tourist destination which alone wasn’t enough.


Gujarat Tourism

Advertising Journey

Imbibing a rich history of ethnic treasure and culture with precious archaeological specimens, Gujarat has always been an affluent state in terms of heritage. The entrepreneurial acumen of the state was one of the highlights along with its food assimilating delectable flavors of Undhiyo, Thepla, Khakra, and Jalebi.

Apart from that Gujarat wanted to be known for its enticing white desert festivals, abundant folklore, vibrant colors of its cities, wildlife, and aimed for a special place in the global map of tourism.


The need of the hour was to bring in a new perspective to the state of Mahatma and reach out to people not only domestically but across countries to deliver a strong message that Gujarat is much more than just business and economics. It was time for the state government to lure in the potential tourist population to Gujarat this time for its immense joie de vivre, exuberant beaches in Kutch, spiritual locations, and loads of traditional food.

Enter - ‘Khushboo Gujarat Ki’

There was a lot to promote and sell but Gujarat Tourism still needs the big campaign.

From 2006- 2008 Tourism Corporation of Gujarat Ltd ran a print campaign informing people about various tourist attractions in the state. However, they were not very catchy and couldn’t deliver the expected results. In January 2009, the 5thVibrant Gujarat Summit hosted by the government in Ahmedabad aimed at addressing tourism building in the state. It was here that the seeds for a well-planned and single-minded focus on branding initiative for propagating the state as a tourist destination were sown.


TCGL had allocated over INR 600 crore for tourism promotion in the State during 2013. While a chunk of the funds was utilized for building tourism infrastructure at various places, a substantial amount was spent on marketing initiatives. Reportedly, INR 55 crore was invested in advertisements in 2012.

Also Read: Brand Saga: Of making India Incredible

The challenge was much bigger than it seemed and to meet the requirements, Amitabh Bachchan was signed as the face of Gujarat Tourism. Bachchan was and is the most sought after brand ambassadors for his wit, unmatched charisma, and persuading skills. The other reasons for choosing him were ensured attention, PR coverage, and a higher degree of recall.

Research made us privy to the information that it was the celebrity’s condition that the campaign would be accepted only if Piyush Pandey of then Ogilvy & Mather (O&M) was signed on. And thus was coined the termed ‘Khushboo Gujarat Ki' which went on to define the Gujarat Tourism Advertising Journey.

As mentioned earlier, Pandey only received 6 minutes- to be precise- to pitch for the idea in front of Narendra Modi. While recalling the discussion at a forum, Pandey said making an advertisement was not "rocket science", but not "common science" either. "It is about imagination and creativity to touch consumers in a simple but effective manner," he said.

His ideas and beliefs were reflected in the campaign, released in 2013, that was initially flagged off in May 2010 amid much fanfare by the state tourism department but had managed to bring in just 2 percent foreign tourists and 1 percent NRI tourists to Gujarat in 2012.

The premise that served as a preliminary base for the campaign brief shares that the state of Gujarat was grappling with the challenges of a conservative brand image. The average national perception connected to it was that of a culturally affluent state more recognized for its spiritualism and tradition rather than its diversity as a tourist destination.

Gujarat Tourism board was conscious of the fact that the state had all the prospects and potential to be a wonderful tourist destination. They were proud of the places they wanted to promote. However their major concern was ―we have a lot to offer, but how can we showcase it?

Pandey was also quoted saying that creating a market for things that already exist but no one has any knowledge of is always a challenge and overcoming this could only have been possible by launching a powerful branding campaign showcasing the hidden potential in the State. They needed to depict places like Gir, Somnath, Mandvi, Sabarmati Ashram amongst others, making Gujarat a melting pot of culture and traditions.

However, Pandey envisaged ― when there is no knowledge of something, then there is absolutely no need to be overly creative. Do it in a fashion that people will find interesting.

Bachchan offered to shoot the entire campaign pro bono. The campaign was shot in 17 destinations and spread across a period of 3 years. Executed in 3 major phases through varied communication platforms, the first phase was launched in September 2011, where the key destinations in focus were the Lions of Gir, the ethereal beauty of Kutch, the sanctity of Dwarka, Somnath, the historical significance of Gandhi Ashram, Dholavira and Porbandar.

Later in January 2012, with a focus on traditional gems and lush nuances, it captured the magic of other major attractions like the vibrant festivities of Navratri, RannUtsav, Modhera, and Patan.

With the campaign culminating in September 2013, the focus was shifted on culture and architecture, showcasing Saputara, Ambaji, Adalaj, Buddhist trail, and also promoted sites of interest to Parsi, Sikh, and Jain communities.

The impact of the campaign was so that the TCGL was awarded the India Pride Award 2013 as a state PSU under the category 'India Image Enhancement/Creating a Global Brand'. Apart from the ad film, TCGL had adopted a multi-pronged strategy to promote some of the world-class tourist destinations in the state. It organized road-shows in cities like Mumbai and Kolkata; hosted festivals like Saputara Monsoon festival, Rannotsav and Kite Festivals. As a result of this campaign, the number of tourists coming to Gujarat rose by 54% in two years.

On the successful standing of the campaign, Sanjay Kaul, Managing Director of TCGL, the executive wing of Gujarat Tourism Department was quoted saying, “The 'Khushboo' campaign has made people sit up and take notice of Gujarat. This is especially true for people inside Gujarat and also from other states. Tourists' arrivals in both domestic and international sections have been major drivers that have pushed up the tourist numbers. But there are a lot of people traveling internally and that kind of movement adds to the numbers.”  

The destinations were seeing double-digit growth in tourist arrivals, including a 30 percent increase in the number of foreign tourists. In one of his blogs, Bachchan had stated that the growth rate in tourism in Gujarat has been higher than the growth rate in Indian tourism that resulted from the Government of India’s ‘Incredible India’ campaign.

Making ‘Brand Gujarat’

While ‘Khushboo Gujarat Ki’ laid the foundation for a robust brand campaign, it was time to leverage the reach and recall value of the campaign to attract newer audiences.


The communication followed was devised in a manner that positioned Gujarat as a holistic tourist attraction that not only offered the conventional tour of the state but specialized in every category including business tourism, spiritual, wildlife, archaeological and heritage, cultural, religious, fairs & festivals and medical tourism.

To portray the same, the teams leveraged the growing popularity of YouTube to signify what brand Gujarat stood for. The multiple video formula reflected what Gujarat aimed to convey in a simplistic manner, mostly including travelogues for television on the suggestion of Big B. It showed the state’s legacy, magnificent sculptures, culture, and ethnicity, while print ads were executed in the advertorial format.

The Bachchan phenomenon added credibility to the brand personality of the state as a trustworthy tourism brand.

The objective behind conceptualizing ‘Khushboo Gujarat Ki’  was to highlight Gujarat as a unique mix of varied tourism destinations and festivals.

As per a case study, the word – Khushboo (Aroma/ Fragrance) was a conscious effort to metaphorically signify the diversity in the state as the core value proposition generating an enduring association with the brand. The state tourism board also donned a bright orange color and a logo portraying a lion packaged with a constructive tagline.

Internationally too, Gujarat Tourism was present in the major in-flight and travel magazines. The campaign was run on channels such as CNN, Sky News, et al. In order to take brand Gujarat to international markets, the government invited proposals from multiple ad agencies, which were asked to provide their creative strategies for a period of three years. Sobhagya Advertising was the incumbent agency.

Gujarat Tourism advertising journey however adopted a strategy that banked on tapping different agencies for different communication initiatives. The onus of a weaving creative strategy and translating the brand’s vision across major mediums like print, TV, Outdoor, and Radio was put on the shoulder of Ogilvy while the media plans were charted out by GroupM Kolkata.


The campaigns were strategically planned to be aired around the festive season to lure in the customer's interest towards the state and grab a pie of the competitors’ aggressive selling points in tourists’ minds.  

Also, in the first such case ever of a State Tourism Board taking over an entire Reliance Metro Airport Express train, Gujarat Tourism ads covered the coaches for a period of three months, spreading the flavors of Gujarat across Delhi.


Gujarat tied up with Karnataka and other states for co-branding and joint promotions joining hands with hoteliers in the State to come up with more innovative tour packages. Gujarat was soon to surpass Singapore in Medical Tourism where tourists thronged to the state for treatments related to radiology, nuclear medicine, orthopedics, cancer cure, renal transplants, cardiac and GI surgeries, IVF, and cosmetic surgeries.

Since then there was no looking behind. Brand Gujarat propelled to new heights of growth and garnered tourists’ attention like no other. Gujarat Tourism advertising journey to date has been about presenting to the world the many facets of the state’s affluent heritage making Gujarat an unmissable experience.

Digital Play

From showcasing the copious amount of ancient palaces to the prolific archaic structures and bounteous beaches to the lush wildlife and funfair across individual cities through vlogs like Road to Remember and Explore Gujarat, the state tourism board digital marketing funnel is filled with dramatic representations and strong branding elements.

While YouTube is primarily utilized to feature travelogues of various destinations across the state, new-age platforms like Instagram are leveraged to collaborate with online creators, experts, extending festive visions and posting video blog of certain travel spaces across Gujarat.

The company cross-posts similar content on Facebook and Twitter while churning a few platform-specific creative and videos. Being relevant to Gen Z while also targeting a wide population has been at the core of its social media communication. Frequency in conveying necessary updates and information about state developments is a major part of its digital strategy.  

The creatives and content on social media carry with them a special regional touch including collaboration with local artists, meet and greets, and more.

Strong position, intriguing storytelling, and vivacious visual depiction along with strategic marketing plan have contributed to the successful stint of Gujarat Tourism advertising journey for decades now.

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