key learnings to crack the Indian festive season.

When In Kolkata, don’t do as the Romans do: A regional approach to festive season campaigns

“Every region is unique and requires a specific approach that depends on multiple factors including culture and demography,” says Harish Narayanan, head – marketing, Myntra Jabong, India’s largest fashion portal that’s owned by Flipkart. Narayanan’s stating the obvious that is, rather strangely, often neglected when action-packed seasons of festivities kick-off in the country.

Myntra-Jabong took a more precise, regional approach to woo consumers during Durga Puja this year. The company launched a Pujo themed campaign for ‘House of Pataudi’, an ethnic wear brand. Featuring actors, and siblings, Saif Ali Khan and Soha Ali Khan, the campaign was specifically targeted at the West Bengal market, which happens to be one of the biggest ethnic wear markets in the country. The first film showed the duo “pandal hopping” in Kolkata and London, separately, and then catching up over a video call. “As a brand that favours authenticity, we made the ad in Bengali,” says Narayanan. He adds that there was a 70% rise in brand searches on Myntra as a result of this campaign and the portal witnessed a 34% hike in sales across the country, coming from Bengalis.

The company also launched a video series called ‘Stories of Love’ that captures love stories of real couples. The very first film featured a young couple from Kerala that got the company considerable traction among “Keralites across India, especially since it was launched around the festival of Onam,” adds Narayanan. “This regional approach has worked well for us.”

The portal’s Big Fashion Days registered a 60% growth over the last edition and tier 2 and 3 cities across the country contributed about 56% to the sale. “Our learning over the years is that the festive season is a season for acquiring. A pair of Stan Smith Sneakers from Adidas is as big a purchase as buying a lehenga. We are witnessing strong demand for fashion and lifestyle products from across categories. The demand for fashion is particularly growing in tier 2 and 3 cities and towns, which is shaping our value proposition as we cater to a steadily growing customer base in the region.” Narayanan tells Brand Equity, “A vertical player like us need not spend marketing dollars on generating demand, but needs to have relevant conversations in terms of selection, trends, brands and offers.”

Karan Kumar, chief brand and marketing officer of Fabindia says the brand has “curated a range that is not only deeply representative of India’s craft and heritage diversity, but one that uniquely appeals to the regional aesthetics of the “many Indias” and their geography.” Kumar adds, “What always works is to understand consumers, their needs specific to consumption occasions and create products that deliver on those needs. Not the other way round where you first create a product and then try and create a need for it. Our focus on engaging with customers, listening to what they have to say, and sometimes what they don’t, is relentless. This is led us to create new product lines but more importantly, improve on the current lines.” Kumar tells Brand Equity that the new retail format, Fabindia Experience Centers is a result of what customers have been telling them – create spaces where product discovery is easier and add services which help in customization.

Break the festive clutter in-store as well as in consumers’ minds: Hyper-localization and capturing micro-moments of consumption

“The idea is to not be ‘generically festive’ (which so many brands tend to be, leading to the ‘wallpaper effect’) but leverage all possible touchpoints to break the festive clutter in-store as well as in consumers’ minds,” says Shrenik Dasani, vice president – sparkling category, Coca-Cola India and South West Asia. A key learning that’s emerged over time for the cola major is that the more effective programs tend to be those which are able to bring a coherent and compelling festive message employing all relevant touchpoints (packaging, POS, on-ground, and critical media touchpoints.)

In line with Coca-Cola’s focus on hyper-localization, the company launched special campaigns for different brands in its portfolio. For instance, during Durga Puja, it initiated #ThumsUpToofaaniGang campaign, that included a contest and Pandal hopping with celebrities – Bengali cinema and TV actors Abir Chatterjee and Priyanka Sarkar. Dussehra is the biggest festival in Mysuru and to add to the festivities, the company urged consumers “to create mangolicious moments with Maaza” through kiosks and games and social media initiatives. Its Maharashtrian iteration was called #MaazaModak during Ganesh Chaturthi. For Diwali, flagship brand Coca-Cola has taken the lead for the last few years. Says Dasani, “Festivals are a time to drive a notable increase in consumption, individual and gifting. Furthermore, this time of the year sparks micro-moments with significant number of consumers searching for food and beverages. Overall, our marketing and media plans are aligned towards capturing more moments of consumption.”

Swati Rathi, head of marketing at Godrej (Appliances) shares key learnings that define the company’s festive marketing strategies.

Product remains the Hero: Given the rationality and long-term nature of appliance purchase, product remains the hero. Any marketing or promotion effort, even during festive which has traditionally been a time for offers and freebies, still needs to demonstrate the value from the core – which is products. This fact is only getting accentuated in recent times. In line with this, bulk of our marketing efforts this year have revolved around a #TheOneForYou campaign for the range of frost-free refrigerators. The campaign makes no mention of festive offers deliberately.

Purchase today, pay later: Close to 40% of overall sales in the industry is already happening through consumer financing and it is a success even in tier II and tier III cities. Earlier gifts and freebies were sought by consumers, but the nature of consumer offers has changed. Today, finance schemes are driving significant amount of sales across the appliances industry. With a variety of EMI and cashback schemes being offered to consumers, the role of store promoters to explain not just products but also these schemes, is critically important.

Leveraging the mood of generosity

Says Sumit Walia, VP, Product and Marketing, OPPO India, “The festive season in India is that one time of the year when Indian consumers tend to spend on themselves as well as on their loved ones, with abandon. While the customer is in the mood to splurge during the festive season, her or his behaviour has shifted to seek an overall value proposition instead of the most discounted product. This shift is visible across all price segments.” So, just before the season kicked off, the Chinese smartphone maker expanded its product portfolio with six new models touting latest technology and features, across price points ranging from INR 10,000 to INR 40,000. Today, consumers are responding more positively to “a holistic experience combining product, shopping experience, after sales as well as lucrative offers,” says Walia.

Dhamakas & Duds

Mansoor Ali, chief sales & marketing officer, Hamdard India, is quite familiar with spikes in sales and brand activities that come with festival spells. His company owns a rather iconic beverage brand, Rooh Afza, which, for many, occupies a particularly special place during Ramazan. In fact, in May this year, the brand shot into national consciousness through print headlines and social timelines when news of a shortage in Rooh Afza supply broke and caused mild panic among consumers in India and abroad. In a smart move, its Pakistani counterpart offered to send across the border trucks full of Rooh Afza. Hamdard India had to release ads to reassure customers, eventually, stating that the supply was back on track.

Ali says, “The thing that I have learned with the dynamics of the market is that today consumers look for an amalgamation of premium experience and emotions. Focusing on just one might not lead to success. Amazon’s #AdjustNoMore Diwali campaign is one such example where the theme revolves around how our loved ones make sacrifices for us. But it also showcases products on offer.” Another pick is Saregama’s Carvaan with its campaign #ShorYaSangeet, “where the brand went the unconventional way for marketing, motivating consumers to choose between music over the noise of chaos and crackers.” Then there’s Surf Excel’s campaign that’s about “an enlightening Diwali for consumers,” marketing its core message of ‘Daag Ache Hain’ with ‘Daagon se Roshan Diwali’. “The brand was able to capture the essence of Diwali and also market itself as a brand that cares for its target customers (mothers).”

Most brands fail to make a bang, says Ali, because they fall prey to cliché festive themes, even when the intention is, in fact, to burst the bubble of colors, crackers, and banal sentiments. “Such initiatives are lost in the array of competitive brands, thus losing its main motive. The Netflix “anti-Diwali” initiative (2016) is one such campaign where it fell flat.”

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