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In 2019, Air India is rightfully vilified as an under-achieving entity in terms of P&L, operational efficiencies and customer service. There was, however, a time, under the ownership of the Tatas, when it was a global leader, the experience benchmark for the then-fledgling Singapore Airlines. ‘Foolishly Yours’ was written by the legendary Bobby Kooka and designed by J Walter Thompson in the 1960s, a class act in every sense. This charming piece of travel memorabilia, from my mother’s collection, is a valuable inspiration for modern content marketing.

Firstly, what must be noted is the quality of craft that went behind its creation. The finest standards of writing, backed by impeccable art direction, comparable to the development of a coffee table book. It can be considered a fine convergence of literature and art, not the hurried ‘commercial’ pieces that are nowadays doing the rounds. Production values were indeed top-class, this specimen surviving for more than 50 years, as was detailing, an error impossible to find in the entire exercise. Modern managers must once again learn to pay a premium for quality, instead of flooding the environment with multiple campaigns simply because placement is easy and affordable.


Secondly, the ability to generate romance and desirability for the still-emerging culture of jet travel by intelligently integrating the brand, the balance between story-telling and product-selling intuitively perfect. Air India is certainly the pivot for this conversation, but the attraction derived lovingly from the various facets of the category itself, including the characters and the rituals. In new-age renditions, we often struggle to capture this necessary equilibrium, mistaking the brand to be the overt stimulus instead of the desired response. Credibility often comes from a charming experiential foundation that lures the reader closer to consumption.

Thirdly, this booklet plays an intentional double role, unquestioningly attractive for the in-flight reader but also a captive memento for family and friends, a subtle but compelling promotion. Far too often, content marketing programmes suffer from insufficient audience segmentation, de facto spiritual partners of paid-print wishfully hoping for a critical mass. An important lesson from ‘Foolishly Yours’ is its extendable memorability, relevant across time and repeat exposures. We must try and lengthen the shelf-life of our campaigns, unless deliberately short-term, for them to be sufficiently influential.

Fourthly, the confidence of the brand to be self-deprecating, the tonality set up by the visionary founders early in its tenure, demonstrated equally by the advertisements and posters. Do not miss the Maharajah converting his glorious livery to a welcoming carpet, disregarding damage to fabric or reputation. Also, the brand itself and key characters willingly the butt of humour, not occupying some irrational high ground or aura. Modern marketers will do their franchise a significant favour by taking themselves and their brand assets less seriously, ensuring approachability through wit and disarming engagements. All within the boundaries of good taste and legality, of course, as that cannot be compromised.

Lastly, the ability of the content to be entertaining as a stand-alone piece of popular culture, however intense the cause may be. ‘Entertaining’ in a cinematic sense, not necessarily amusing but inspirational, thought-provoking, action-inducing or romantic. All great pieces of communication must first pass this test, effectiveness decisively dependant on the ability to connect emotions with humans. This memento would have been comparable to the best-available written content of its time, magazines or newspapers or even books, in terms of skilful humour. While we are rightfully obsessed with performance marketing, let us never forget the secret sauces of imagination and creativity.

Air India is now a shadow of its former self, but its original soul thankfully thrives in the actions of Vistara Airlines, the Tatas in collaboration with Singapore Airlines. The A 320 NEO ‘Retrojet’, heritage livery for equipment and crew as well as JRD’s favourite in-flight cuisine, is an exceptional instance of integrated content marketing. Renewing the romance and styling for a category that is becoming unduly utilitarian, inducing preference for a sensitive and luxurious brand experience.

‘Foolishly Yours’ was indeed way ahead of its time but is certainly relevant to our times. As a training manual for content creators, best practices of every kind lavishly displayed by its exquisite architects.

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of and we do not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.)