How redBus captured the market one ad at a time

redBus has rolled out a large scale, 360-degree integrated marketing campaign, featuring MS Dhoni. Conceptualised by McCann Worldgroup – Bengaluru, the campaign highlights key propositions of the platform with a strong narrative, delivered by Dhoni, who was recently appointed as the brand ambassador of redBus.

The campaign brings to the fore, specific aspects of bus travel that inconveniences passengers, impacting the overall experience of the journey – from booking tickets, all the way to completing the trip. Most traditional and unauthorised ticketing agents offer little choice to passengers on seat selection or extra leg room, yet charge exorbitantly, resulting in a journey that is uncomfortable or distressing. Passengers booking their seats on the redBus platform, however, are spared from such turmoil, as redBus not only offers passengers the option to select a seat of their choice, but also at best prices, apart from a host of other features that make bus travel convenient. The campaign vividly highlights these aspects with two entertaining and creative films, featuring the cricket icon.

The latest integrated marketing campaign hits TV screens during the 2019 Lok Sabha Elections period as the brand ramps up its advertising efforts and consolidates its business proposition to customers.

Creative Credits: 

Agency: McCann Worldgroup – Bengaluru

Creative Director: Puneet Kapoor

Production House: Keroscene Films

Director: Rajesh Saathi

DOP: V. Manikandan

Pallavi Chopra, VP and Head of Marketing, redBus, elaborated, “The objective of this campaign is to strengthen our engagement with customers, while also attracting a large group of offline ticket purchasers across the country to our fold. An off-centre portrayal of Dhoni, as Balbir Singh, as the flag bearer of the platform in a hilarious and entertaining narrative, strongly communicates our proposition to the audience. redBusgiri as opposed to netagiri couldn’t have happened at a better time. I am extremely excited and look forward to its reception among customers and fans across the country.”

Speaking on the campaign thought, Dileep Ashoka, Executive Vice President, McCann Worldgroup, Bangalore, said, “redBus is the undisputed leader in the online bus booking market in India. The redBus-McCann partnership has been an exciting and rewarding journey and this campaign is the latest product of this partnership. With this film we are seeking to reinforce the brand’s offering among its audience, while also attracting new customers. The decision to feature MSD was driven by the need to resonate across markets, with a challenge to show him in a refreshing and unprecedented manner. We feel that apart from the humour, cast and storyline, Dhoni’s new avatar as a hockey team captain, will break clutter and drive conversations.”

redBus will reach out to its audience across the country through various media channels, both online and offline, and is investing heavily in marketing promotions, in line with its ambitious growth targets. The campaign will be aired on all leading national and regional channels with an extensive plan to promote on digital and social media, apart from cinema and outdoors.

The advertising journey of redBus

redBus began with the vision of ensuring that anyone who wanted to book bus seats on a short notice had the opportunity to do so. Conceived in 2005 by Co-Founder Phanindra Sharma, who was vexed with the unavailability of bus tickets during Diwali season, redBus has become a national and international business that serves a customer base of 20 million, works with 2,500 operators and has sold over 180 million tickets till date.

Today, redBus is recognised as the go-to platform for booking bus tickets online and its advertising journey closely mirrors the growth of the brand. It launched its first national advertising campaign – “When you gotta go, you gotta go” – in 2013, which was conceptualised by Lowe Lintas.

In the same year in October, the brand released another ad film that depicted a story that closely related to co-founder Phanindra Sharma’s own frustrations with booking travel services during Diwali season.

2013 was a momentous year for the startup that had just been acquired by the Naspers backed ibibo Group in a deal valued at $135 million. While competitors like Paytm and Ola were eyeing the online bus ticket market that was growing at a rate of 30-40 per cent YoY, redBus had already established itself as a market leader. Now with the backing of big money the startup set its sights outside India and geared up to take its business proposition around the globe.

Just as India was becoming a mobile country, redBus launched its mobile application and began aggressively advertising to bring customers on to its platform in March 2014. Soon, 50 per cent of their online booking sales came from the mobile platform.

redBus roped in actor Shreyas Talpade for their TVC which launched in October 2014. The TVC highlighted the simplicity of using the redBus mobile app. The TVC was aired in Hindi as well as Kannada, Telugu and Tamil as redBus began targeting the regional markets.

The company had reported that 70 per cent of its sales came from people traveling from Metro to Metro or Metro to Tier II cities. The brand had a presence in all feasible markets.

It launched its next brand campaign in April 2016, titled ‘No Tension No Fuss, Book your tickets on redBus’.

In 2016, redBus began aggressively focusing all its initiatives towards the Andhra market and launched a series of campaigns in Telugu.

It also roped in brand ambassador Allu Arjun to consolidate its position in the South Markets especially Andhra Pradesh. At the same time, the brand also began advertising its new Hotel booking feature.

The brand always ensured that they created value for customers true to their brand proposition that no one should go without a ticket and launched campaigns during months of Diwali and Christmas featuring exciting offers.

In 2018, redBus rolled out its Long Weekend Sale marketing campaign ahead of Eid. 

redBus associated with the Indian Premier League (IPL) for the first time in 2015 with a campaign titled #DontMissTheBus offering select fans the opportunity to win tickets to matches played by Royal Challengers Bangalore.

Meanwhile, the startup continued efforts to upgrade the technology on its platform and now allowing users to track the location of the bus. They launched a quirky TVC campaign highlighting this new feature.

They also began offering discounts for bus tickets if bookings were made through their mobile platform.

Soon, the startup began looking at other markets and diversified its business portfolio by venturing into the online hotel booking space that has a strong presence by other players such as Cleartrip and Yatra. Since 75 per cent of all leisure travel in India was directed at religious destinations the brand also began offering special travel packages to customers headed to those destinations.

It started targeting foreign markets like Singapore and began advertising to tap those key markets that still had an unstructured travel ecosystem. Today, redBus has a presence in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Columbia and Peru. Recently, M&C Saatchi & Saatchi Indonesia won their integrated communication mandate.

While the online ticket business in India still remains largely untapped with 15-20 per cent penetration, redBus has established its leadership position in this market with 2.1 million transactions per month. Remarkably, when the startup began in 2006 the market penetration was at about 5 per cent. A 2017 report stated that the tourism sector is looking at a YoY growth of 25-30 per cent and the market is still ripe for the taking as redBus makes its moves for the future.


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