Piali Dasgupta, Senior Vice President – Marketing, Columbia Pacific Communities
August to December is a very busy time for marketers in India. Our festive season starts with Rakhee and Onam in August and ends right after Christmas and New Year’s Eve celebrations. In that sense, India is unique, because there are very few nations in the world that have their festive season stretching over five months.
However, of these five months, the 45-day period, ie, the run up to Dussehra and Durga Puja, all the way to Diwali, is when Indian brands spend almost 35 to 45% of their marketing budgets. This year, the total ad spends during the festive season in India has been around INR 30,000 to 40,000 crores, fuelled, of course, by the Cricket World Cup.
Brands can often get carried away in a bid to break free from the clutter given the highly competitive and choc-a-block advertising landscape during this season. But it’s important to stay true to a brand’s identity, story, origin, purpose and reason for existence.
This year, Tata Crome launched a campaign selling Diwali sweets to its customers. Many were left confused as to why a brand selling white goods suddenly decided to sell sweets, only to find out that it was just a gimmick to promote their proposition #MithaiKeBudgetMainGadget. It met with mixed reactions, as many netizens didn’t appreciate a Tata brand indulging in such gimmicky promotional tactics, even while the brand gained earned media on social media. The point is, the brand behaved in an uncharacteristic manner, trying to ride the festive wave, and that didn’t go down well with a section of the audience.
The festive season is when consumers are bombarded with the maximum number of ads, because it’s also the time they spend the most. Share of wallet is greatly influenced by share of mind. And that’s where cutting-edge communication with an intent to build impact come in.
It’s important for brands to invest in content creation and production for the festive season, with a special focus on social media content, to gain engagement. Brands that fall back on stock images for their festive campaigns and pick the easy way out, lose their visual identity, differentiation, and positioning, making their brand appear like every other brand out there.
Other than a brand’s visual assets, what gains traction on social media is a shared feeling of belonging and identity. For example, Durga Puja and its many elements, in some way, unites Bengalis across the globe. When a brand becomes a part of this cultural conversation, it instantly connects with a certain community with a shared identity. Coca Cola was able to do that beautifully with their animated #ThalaHopping film for Durga Puja this year. Brands that understand that social media today is more about building communities and brand affinity, and less about selling products, stay ahead of the festive clutter and create shareable content that have virality built into them.
Unfortunately, very few brands are able to capture cultural nuances correctly and transform it into a compelling narrative.