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How Thailand’s PR Practitioners should handle “Luk Thep” dolls?

There is an angel doll phenomena sweeping across Thailand, and marketers and PR people are riding the trend, and in some cases, catching blowback.

“Luk Thep” is translated as Child Angel. Some Thais believe that these dolls, which may have been spiritually blessed by a monk or fortune teller, contain a spirits that may lead to prosperity. There is a growing trend men and women caring this doll – and, in fact, treating it as it were a real child of their own. There is obviously a long history of similar spiritual practices in Thailand. But over the last week, the Angel Doll has set itself apart as front page news each and every day while gathering massive awareness online.

A number of companies are seeking to cash in on this trend, including restaurants, entertainment venues and even baby sitters offering to look after the Angel Dolls for 500 baht per hour.

But other companies are being caught up in the relationship between dolls and their owners in ways that are raising questions for the PR department.

For example, it came as no surprise that many buffet restaurants in Bangkok opened their doors to welcome Angel Dolls. And why not? Their sales increase and they are gaining attention from both those who are detractors of the Angel Doll craze – as well as supporters.

However, the matter is a bit trickier for Thai Smile Airways, a subsidiary of Thailand’s flag carrier Thai Airways. Thai Smile Airways recently instructed its staff to allow passengers to purchase a seat for their Angel Dolls.

The company’s internal memo, leaked and circulated among Thai media, said Thai Smile Airways views these dolls as real kids and would treat them accordingly with drinks and snacks.

From PR perspective, that was not the message Thai Smile Airways wanted to float. It made the airline look superstitious, ridiculous even. What the company should do is to say that their baggage and storage facilities were safe, secure, and even luxurious enough, for these little angles. However, Thai Smile Airways cares about their customers and are willing to sell tickets and provide seats for Angel Dolls, if requested, since these dolls are dear and have great sentimental values for their customers.

For other passengers sitting next to Angel Dolls or riding in the same flight, one positive way of thinking is to view it as a new in-flight entertainment of sorts. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the show. At least Angel Dolls don’t cry, move or kick seats like real children do. Like any other trends in Thailand, Luk Thep dolls will disappear soon enough. But for the time being, the PR community should ride this trend with respect – both for those who deeply care for Luk Thep, and those who just see it as another fad.

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