Cup Ads: Putting brands hot on the lips of consumers

Much to Fans, Tamil blockbuster, Baahubali, promoted, Cup Adverts, Indian Raliways
Much to the delight of fans,Tamil blockbuster Baahubali promoted through Cup Ads in Indian Raliways

NEW DELHI: One of the greatest challenges faced by many consumer-facing brands today is pick and choose advertising outlets to invest their marketing dollars at a time when traditional media, such as newspaper, television, social media, radio, yellow pages and outdoor billboards are becoming a little passé.
In the quest to help businesses cut through the media clutter and persuasively engage with consumers, Hyderabad-based offline marketing company Cup Ads is being hailed as a breath of fresh air for the conventional advertising industry.
As a champion brand builder, it has set every message that resonates conspicuously in the hands of consumers through its trendsetting tea and coffee cup advertising vehicle.
Over the last few years, the company has helped many top-notch brands to broadcast their call-to-action messages across long-route train travelers with its visually interruptive and physically interactive transit advertising medium.
A young entrepreneur bursting with a strong passion for innovation, Manoj Urlam, Founder and CEO of Cup Ads has transformed the face of the out-of-home advertising industry. His story is quite emboldening, and his pursuit of creativity has helped him attain huge milestones.
In a freewheeling chat with Business Trajectory, Manoj shoots the breeze on how offline advertising using space on disposable paper cups is fast evolving as a cost-effective and formidable advertising medium for many leading brands in India. EXCERPTS:

Q: Tell us about the birth of Cup Adverts and the conception to market brands via tea and coffee cups.
A: I am a second-generation entrepreneur, and I am greatly inspired by my father who is considered as one of the distinct entrepreneurs of India. During my formative years, I was constantly amazed by various innovative advertising ideas that were used to hit it off with consumers who are time poor. It’s a fact that attention is an indispensable quotient for effective advertising. The market place for consumer eyeballs has become so gung ho that attention is regarded as a currency.
This led to an idea to set up Cup Ada. Disposable tea and coffee cups are a popular form of advertising in countries like Australia and the United States where brands are positioned on the cups and dispensed in various offices, cafes and coffee shops. In India, the trend is fast catching up because the rising cost of this medium is causing marketers to fork out money on pricey attention sources and reduce their investment in promoting their brands. As an alternative, many brands and now turning to cup advertising which is irresistibly attention-grabbing and effective.

Q: What is differentiates Cup Ads from the conventional advertising medium?
A: It is quite surprising that print media, television, yellow pages, online search engines offer no real-time exclusivity to advertise brands as competitors’ ads are found positioned adjacent to your advertisement.
Let’s face it. Most online search engines list competitor advertisements next to each other, which is similar to newspaper classifieds, real estate booklets, TV real estate channels and telephone yellow pages. By the same token, the print media does not offer standalone advertisements because they can’t. Other media such as radio, TV (excluding the real estate channel,) bus and billboards do offer exclusivity, and are extremely expensive.
Cup Ads helps in streamlining and making you brand visible through high quality ads on tea and coffee cups served in the passenger trains of Indian Railway. In the process, the brand message is glimpsed by hundreds of travelers every day in passenger trains. Our ads are non-intrusive and clutter-free because we make people perceive every brand in their relaxed long journeys and offer them an opportunity to talk about the brand. Advertisers can choose and pick their customers and destinations, without having to worry about their brand getting overshadowed by their competitors. This brings exclusiveness and unambiguousness in reaching out to a massive chunk of masses traveling in various long-route trains, every day.

Q: With many brands jumping on the bandwagon and have begun to put the consumer at the heart of their innovation strategy, how does Cup Adverts help brands reach out to its target audience?
A: Cup Ads delivers brand message in an unimpeachable and visually stimulating environment. We target captive eyeballs of long-distance train travelers with non-interruptive transit advertising. It helps in reinforcing brand messages throughout their journey. We tap into a relaxed and receptive audience by exclusively promoting single brand in a specific passenger train. This has helped us in creating a unique proposition and engage with potential customers.

Q: What according to you makes tea and coffee cup advertisement a potential medium?
A: This medium is an effective way to broadcast your brand because disposable paper cups allow consumers to touch and feel a brand advertisement printed on the cup, thereby creating multiple touch points.
The advantage of our alliance with the Indian Railways is that the cup size is fixed at 170 ml, contrary to the normal size of 150 ml. These unique sized cups have larger space and special identification.
On the surface area of 322cm2, Cup Adverts has the authorization to print ad in around 226cm2 (which is 70 percent of the area). The remaining 30 percent space is occupied by several safety and social messages of the Indian Railways and Cup Ads logo, without disturbing the content of the brand advertised. Our Cups travel over 140 cities across India, offering a prime advantage to our clients to reach out to all possible corners of the country. Every day, the potential viewership is estimated to be over crores that is based on the plan, trains or stations the client choses for marketing its brand.

Q: Tell us your idea behind solely targeting long-distance train travelers?
A: We are the only out-of-home advertising company in India to have an exclusive contractual relationship with the Indian Railways to promote various brands on tea/coffee cups served in various passenger trains. We zoomed on Indian Railways to promote brands because of its colossal customer base, and nothing can match it. Every day, Railways ferry over 23 million passengers in about 12, 617 trains, which is akin to moving the entire population of Australia. Hence, we fostered a unique advertising medium through an exclusive tie-up with the Indian Railways which is directed at specific target groups at different timeline.

Q: How does Cup Adverts create marketing touch points?
A: We call it a ‘Dovetail’ effect. Our powerful marketing touch points take place over an average of 5-7 minutes of tea or coffee consumption. Consumers usually raise and lower the printed cups to their eye level more than 2-3 times during consumption. We recently conducted a detailed study pertaining to consumer behavior and their brand recall while they were travelling in the long-distance trains. The consumers were interviewed post their tea and coffee consumption and disposal on whether they remembered the advertisement on their cups. The findings were overwhelming. Out of 1,000 tea and coffee consumer interviewed, the study revealed that over 90 percent could recollect the ad on their cups served by Cup Adverts. Hence, it has established that advertisement on cups is a robust marketing vehicle that allows consumers to know the brand while holding it in their hands.

Q: Tell us about your destination marketing concept and in what way it helps brands?
A: Destination marketing is all about marketing a place of tourism interest. It was introduced by renowned marketer Philip Kotler. With the prominent advantages it shows, Cup Ads is the best medium for destination marketing as trains are one of the mode by which tourists travel in a country.
Cup Adverts is unique as it has an exclusive tie-up with the Indian Railways for advertising on cups. We help in shouting the message out directly to the target group (travelers) that further increases brand visibility in a non-conflicting manner and offers them (target customers) to see, hold and touch your advertisement.

Q: What are the challenges for Cup Ads?
A: There are several challenges in our business. This is because tea and coffee cup advertising is still sneered at and overlooked by many brand advertisers as they fear the impacts of utilizing disposable coffee cups to promote their products might cause social backlash against their company or brand by environmentalists.

Q: Tell us about green measures taken by Cup Ads?
A: All our cups are eco-friendly and disposable ones. It is also because we uphold our country’s sustainable economic and environmental sustainability initiatives. We also have been using recyclable packaging material for disposable tea and coffee cups, that are biodegradable, compostable and recyclable. Our printed cups use less water to create and leave behind less carbon footprint.

Q: Does placing advertisements on cups open the door for social selling?
A: Yes it is possible. It’s nothing but a part of sales to foster customer relationship that is routed through social networks. However, the same can take place offline also. Today, offline tea and coffee cup advertising is one of the cheapest cost per message (CPM) medium compared to pay per click (PPC).

Q: How has Cup Ads effected brand marketers?
A: Today successful brands create ads that help them tap into their customers’ emotions. It is a fact that tea and coffee cup advertising is perceived as experiential marketing for promotional campaign and brand advertising. The ads on our printed cups are designed to focus on inbound marketing that allows consumers to come to the promotional ad with a call-to-action (CTA). Cup advertising has the potential to increase top line of brands and add to the bottom line of advertiser’s earnings.

Q: How do you ensure checks while maintaining an equilibrium in your operations?
A: We have a stringent checks and in our advertisement operations. We ensure to print the ad and distribute them as per the requirement of our client. We take utmost care to ensure the quality of operations. Our dedicated QA team ensures that correct cups are delivered in correct trains at any given time. Our QA team undertakes random visits to ensure the cups are correctly distributed in the trains.
Additionally, our research team picks the best train or route for every brand, based on its requirement to reach out to the desired audience. Similarly, our team helps in shaping the ad to make it visually arresting and engaging.
Besides, we regularly carry out extensive market surveys across various geographical regions across India. Using this advantage, we aim to service various industries like Telecommunication, FMCG, Healthcare, Educational institutions, Travel and Tourism, Financial Institutions, Retail, Ecommerce and any other industry whose target is Common Consumer.

Q: How do you ensure the desired brand visibility for your advertisers?
A: An estimate of 1,000 tea cups are served in trains every train a day in mail express trains, and an estimate of 5,000 cups are served in Rajdhani, Shatabdi and Duronto trains.
On an average, every day tea and coffee cups are visible for 5,000 minutes in mail express trains and 25,000 minutes in Rajdhani, Shatabdi and Duronto. The visibility of the brand is related to the number of sips by the consumer per serving. On an average, every person spends six minutes and 15 sips to consume a cup of tea and coffee that is 6-8 exposures per serving. For every serving, it is guaranteed that there are at least 6-8 passengers travelling in the vicinity, which in turn creates brand visibility not only for the consumer but also for others.
Hence, the brand advertised on our cups is not just a passing cloud, but the sky which travels along with the journey of the consumer, thereby enhancing the brand recall value.

Q: How do you keep your team energized and motivated as their leader?
A: I believe in galvanizing and mentoring leaders at multiple levels in my team. By providing opportunities to others to develop their leadership potential, one can implant a sense of ownership among team members to take forward the leader’s vision and mission. I also believe in leading from the front. At the same time, I am exceedingly result-oriented, and always open to new ideas.

Q: Is there a favourite wisdom that you would like to share?
A: In my entrepreneurial journey, my aptitude to face and learn from failures and move on has helped me stay afloat. It is a quality that most budding entrepreneurs need to ingest to climb the ladder. Failures provide the knowledge that no amount of victory can.