As consumers look for excuses to celebrate traditional as well as unconventional days, numerous brands are making merry by creating and investing in occasion-led advertising
Take advantage of every opportunity to practice your communication skills so that when important occasions arise, you will have the gift, the style, the sharpness, the clarity, and the emotions to affect other people — Jim Rohn, American businessman and motivational speaker.
Raymond, the brand targeted at the ‘Complete Man’, created a furore in the digital world this Father’s Day. The brand celebrated the day earmarked for honouring fathers, by strategically saluting single mothers through its 60-second digital film. Created by Famous Innovations, the film shows a son-mother duo enjoying a normal day at home when the son places a hidden gift next to her. On opening it, she sees a mug with ‘World’s best dad’ written on it.
While Raymond wasn’t alone to celebrate the day with a special campaign, it managed to stand out. Would this have helped the brand sell more suit-pieces? Or enable conversations and thus create a bond between the brand and its TG? How effective will this experiment be, only time will tell. However, it does prove that marketers across categories want to talk to their TG at every possible opportunity, particularly when it is occasion-led.
A whole host of celebratory days find their way into the calendar now with a unified aim — in today’s fast paced world, to take a pause and spend quality time with friends and family. While traditional Indian festivals entail rituals and customs, these special days offer a great opportunity to get innovative and surprise loved ones out of turn. Whether one talks of traditional festivals like Diwali, Eid or Christmas, or non-traditional occasions like Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day or Beer Day, brands surely get a chance to think out of the box. But how far are they successful in creating a consumer connect?
Join the ‘brandwagon’
Unlike the West, till a few decades back, marketers in India depended heavily on festivals. But that’s not the case today. With time and the world shrinking thanks to globalisation and digital invasion, the number of occasion-led marketing initiatives have increased manifold.
Marketers well understand the power of consumption on an occasion. Take Mondelez for instance, which is known for using occasion-based marketing successfully with the aim of popularising the chocolate culture in India. Though historically, it has conceptualised and marketed its campaigns around Diwali and Raksha Bandhan, in the past few years, it has created gifting as a trend around two ‘younger’ occasions — Valentine’s Day and Friendship Day. “Our strategy of going beyond just the Indian festivals and using special days like these is resultant of the growing influence of youth culture in India,” says Prashant Peres, director – marketing (chocolates), Mondelez India. “An increasing number of brands are now customising communication for newer occasions as this expands reach among the younger generation — who constitute a larger proportion of India’s population.”
Similarly, on Mother’s Day, Tanishq got Deepika Padukone and her real-life mother to celebrate the eternal mother-daughter relationship. Clearly, a move beyond campaigns around weddings for the brand, focussing on young working consumers who are willing to shell out money for their loved ones.
India is full of festivals of its own. Add to it a plethora of imported festivals and you have a melting pot of opportunistic days to market. It wouldn’t be wrong to say special days are a marketing invention. The idea is simple: monetise the special day that you create. Create one, and wait for it to flourish.
Special days help bring in special eyeballs, highlights brand expert and founder of Harish Bijoor Consults Inc Harish Bijoor. When the whole world or a whole country focusses on that special day, it is a marketing opportunity. The International Day of Yoga, for instance, becomes a special day for monetising yoga accoutrements.
Reebok, after celebrating the first International Day of Yoga last year, went a step ahead this year by being the only fitness brand to collaborate with the Ministry of Ayush and NDMC to organise over 40 rejuvenating yoga sessions from June 4-21. It engaged over 25,000 people in 10 cities and 24 centers across the country.
“We live in a digital age where it is imperative to reach out to consumers and excite them with interesting campaigns and initiatives,” says Silvia Tallon, senior marketing director, Reebok India. On International Day of Yoga, the company launched a microsite that acted as a one-stop shop for all yoga needs.
The e-commerce onslaught has also accentuated occassion-led advertising —from selling special products dedicated to a particular day to creating unique campaigns to make the most of it.
Snapdeal marked Father’s Day by breaking gender stereotypes. Provocatively titled, #FathersCanBeMothersToo, the campaign celebrated the changing role of fathers in society and applauded fathers who take pride in the hands-on approach to parenting.
A word of caution though: brands have to stay true to themselves before even thinking of connecting with occasions. Brands must knit themselves into days that resonate with their target audience. Those with long-term focus will create their own special days and grow them into big properties which other brands will eventually share. Brands that can’t do this end up becoming the clutter and act as scavengers on special days.
But what about ROI?
“If a brand’s values and ethos are in tandem with those of consumers it caters to, then the brand has the ability to engage in meaningful conversations,” says Shantiswarup Panda, CMO, Raymond, while agreeing that brands want to become a part of popular culture. Not really expecting sales out of its new digital campaign, Raymond as a brand knows that such initiatives aid in brand recall and define the soul of the brand.
But how effective are occasion-led marketing initiatives? Stating the example of how IPL, which is now nine seasons old, has benefitted brands that have associated with it, Maxus’ chief strategy officer Priti Murthy explains, “Brands have seen two times more ROI than regular ads in non-IPL. Similarly, the festive season definitely witnesses a delta in transaction volume for brands to the extent that 60% of business comes in during that period. Individual days might be the right metrics, too.” While most agree that ROI on a marketing campaign on a single occasion is usually hard to justify, some brands do this simply to have positive imagery associations. “Specially created occasions are unifying things for marketers; they don’t discriminate and that is why brands invest in them,” asserts Naresh Gupta, CSO and managing partner, Bang in the Middle.
Nonetheless, in wanting to create brand recall and a bond, brands try to produce everything on core value. But there are times when brands do take some liberty and move away in order to be more memorable. Adds Gupta, “There is no joy in being true to the core and not relevant, but there should be no joy in being the other way round too. This is a tough walk for many brands.” On such occasions, because they are transient, many brands do not have to stay rooted to their core. As an analogy, special days are like sales; sometimes the sales are tactical.
Occasions divide both brands and consumers — some brands partake, while others give these a skip. Similarly, some consumers celebrate such ‘days’ while others find them gimmicky. This also lends an insight into what motivates buyer behaviour, thereby leading to better sales.
Take the collaboration between Starbucks and dating app TrulyMadly, for instance. The idea behind the partnership was to offer singles an opportunity to meet at Starbucks on Valentine’s Day. The insight which led to this was — people come to the store on first dates, to seek marriage proposals, for job interviews, reunions, community gatherings and so on. This indeed proving that brands can marry to monetise on special days if they have insights on the consumer’s mindset. According to the dating app, almost 55% of its users preferred coffee. Therefore, the campaign was the next logical step.
However, one cannot disagree with the fact that though occasion-led advertisements are eminently forgettable, it does generate goodwill which is immeasurable. Furthermore, with such diversity in India, we are likely to see a mushrooming of more such ‘occasions’.
Murthy, on an optimistic note, believes that it is truly a consumer era where gifting is more a necessity than a luxury. Clearly, the more the gifting occasions, the more the marketing occasions.