India is a land of festivals. But are marketers using these tactical occasions effectively for their products to scream out, \u2018Festive Special\u2019? Sadashiv Nayak, CEO, Big Bazaar Think \u2018festival\u2019 and our mind instantly wanders off to the decorated homes or pandals where families and communities connect over new clothes, gifting, feasting and even fasting. Be it the Durga Puja in Bengal, Onam celebrations in Kerala, Ganesh Chaturthi in Maharashtra or even celebrating Lohri in the North, consumption is hardwired into our festivals. Similarly, the idea of fasting and feasting too is deeply engrained in our festive psyche where festivals like Easter, Lent, Eid and Ekadashi find communities zealously fasting and feasting. These special days are quite like today\u2019s social media platforms that thrive on community interaction. In fact, the online \u2018sans border\u2019 community has made us younger in spirit and more open to newer habits and festivals that are catching on globally. Today, we have evolved into a young-at- heart country that embraces newer festivals like Friendship Day or a Father\u2019s Day. While most of these festivals prod us to step outdoors, those like Raksha Bandhan beckon us to celebrate relationships within the cosy confines of our homes. Hence, the need for our homes to look good during festivals is just as important. These observations form the cornerstones for an impactful festive campaign as we once again turn to the trio \u2014 food (roti), fashion (kapda), and home (makaan) \u2014 to express our excitement. With an enthused community under a single festive umbrella, there lies an immense opportunity for consumer goods\u2019 captains, marketers and retailers, to complement this \u2018let\u2019s dress well, eat well!\u2019 mood of the population. With this \u2018tool kit\u2019 of customer insights, how can a marketer ensure customer engagement? Think Naya, Think Hatke Most festivals talk of khushaali or prosperity; therefore, festive offers too should reflect the same vibe; those that give customers a feeling of getting richer, happier and more prosperous. Besides, the \u2018need to derive great value\u2019 is inherent within the quintessential Indian psyche, irrespective of whether there\u2019s a festival or not. While offering blanket discounts during festivals is a done-and- dusted option, ensuring a great product at good prices spells real value. Making your product the protagonist is a powerful way to ensure brand salience. Unfortunately, a lot of businesses get overawed by huge opportunities that festive seasons carry and so we still find a lot of retailers engaging in frantic price wars during festivals, when they should be focussing on their product. Here are six rules of engagement that encourage marketers to think creatively and intuitively: 1. Showcasing change or newness Festivals are about newness or change. Hence products too, during these special days, need to reflect an element of novelty. Fashion does this more because it responds to the change in season, just like festivals. This category, over time, has timed its best entries during festivals. While fashion, as a category, has been more proactive and festival-focussed, other categories somehow haven\u2019t been able to leverage as much. 2. Festival-specific customising Taking the idea of \u2018newness\u2019 to the next level is the idea of making a festival-specific product. A very basic example would be of food categories that come up with mithai hampers and gift packs during festivals. Incorporating the element of festival into the product design definitely is an area which is yet to take off in India. We rarely see a homeware product created with a festive spin in mind, or a bag which is created with a festive theme. Even fashion holds more scope than what it currently covers, in terms of making itself more festival-specific. Say, if a Poila Baisakh collection is created by a fashion label, then it genuinely needs to live up to that festival\u2019s look-and- feel rather than pulling out a product that could pass off for any other festival. 3. Reflecting the societal change into the product design, creation or advertising This is key. Hence, reflecting the societal changes and building them into communication engagement is definitely another important rule too. 4. Product being the biggest advertisement We need our product to do the talking. Word-of- mouth endorsement is our biggest advertising! We need to believe in getting the product right and getting it early on, and that is what causes word-of-mouth. Many of our traditional high streets and wholesalers score well during festivals simply because they stock up on time. I am sure there are stores in Mumbai that rely on their intuitive acumen and stock up on dry fruits and sweets for Diwali, even while the festival is far away. These are the people who really rule the roost. 5. Creating new segments for fresh community engagement A marketer needs to constantly scout for customer cohorts, all year round. One way to go about this would be to identify customer cohorts as opportunities for a brand to connect with a significant chunk of the society. For instance, innovative ideas like creating a Young Elders Day allows brands like ours to create an enjoyable shopping experience for senior citizens across stores. Another way would be to rely on insights into what causes change in consumption. Studying what a regular day in the life of a \u2018Mrs Sharma\u2019, who represents the quintessential consumer in India, will allow us to understand the consumption preferences and then convert these into an opportunity. 6. Hit the streets to touch the skies Finally, we need to remember that we live in a country of traders, so when a brand really owns the street, it causes a certain flutter in the market. And so, as a brand, we need to bring the streets alive. In fact, movies have managed to bring the streets alive through innovative outdoor campaigns. These outdoors build a feel-good factor and can prove to be a strong and timely multiplier to other forms of in-mobile engagement. A current example would be the festival-timed movie Golmaal Returns that has brought the streets alive, even while mediums like WhatsApp and YouTube are abuzz with publicity videos. This combo carries great impact! So, this season, as the air fills with the festive spirit and our paaras and mohallas across the country come alive, let us don our thinking hats and whip up a product and campaign that screams out: \u2018Festival Special\u2019.