27 Aug 2017

Ask the Trivago guy how to turn bad publicity around

"Kya apne kabhi online hotel search kiya hai?" Maybe you don't spend much time on TV or YouTube, but if you have seen the Trivago ad once, you will remember it.

What makes it stand out is the person speaking. You can tell he's not a model, and speaks weirdly. He wasn't loved.

But now, the 'Trivago guy', Abhinav Kumar, is a sensation.

Let us introduce you to Kumar, Trivago Country Manager

Kumar is far from a model. The man from Jharkhand is, in fact, Trivago's Country Manager for India. The 29-year-old lives in Dusseldorf, Germany. He first appeared on screens earlier this year in Trivago's ads. Social media immediately took notice.


The beginning of the Trivago journey

The beginning of the Trivago journey

Trivago, an online hotel search portal which is present in 56 countries, follows a similar campaign everywhere: instead of roping in a famous face, they prefer making a face famous through their association to the brand.

That's where Kumar comes in. "Initially I was reluctant to take on this role but in the end, I am happy it got people curious about Trivago," he says.

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Negative feedback

Despite the unique campaign, people weren't happy

Publicity soon made the Trivago guy famous. Memes started trending. Social media threads revolved around him.

Soon, he was making heads turn in India. Cab drivers and people in queues started taking notice.

However, most comments were negative: he was mocked for his 'irritating' and 'weird' diction, his "odd demeanour" and "not so TV-friendly" appearance.

Even before, "annoying" faces have made brands famous

In 2015, it was Airtel's Sasha Chettri who disrupted lives like the Trivago guy. In fact, according to BARC, ads featuring Chettri were aired 54,506 times between September 19 and November 20, 2015: almost 475 hours of screen time.


But Kumar knew how to turn the tide around

But Kumar knew how to turn the tide around

What made Kumar even more popular was his amiable response to trolls. "We have 300mn internet users; do you expect me to feel bad about 20-50 negative comments?" he asked.

He followed through. He responded jovially to memes and even re-tweeted jokes on himself.

"I now get messages from people who couldn't stand me earlier, confessing they've had a change of heart," he says.


Kumar is happy, and so is Trivago

Compared to last year's first quarter, Trivago's earnings for this year's Q1 went up 68% to almost $320mn. Though India revenues haven't been mentioned separately, we can assume it isn't doing badly since Kumar has been roped in for the second ad campaign too.

For Kumar's friends and family in Jharkhand, he is a star. But in Germany, life continues to be normal.

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