The marketing calendar is starting to look a bit like the calendar we hang on the wall of our homes. It has months, weeks, days and ‘days’. And the number of ‘days’ are multiplying like bacteria in a petri dish. Like allergies in spring season. Like goof-ups during Donald’s time in the Oval office. Like a frog croaks in… you get the drift. First there was Diwali, New Year, Independence Day. Then Valentine’s Day came to the party bearing flowers, chocolate and cavities. Friendship Day gate-crashed. So did Mother’s Day, International Women’s Day, Father’s Day. IPL came in with a whole month-and-a-half of ‘days’. Is there a Hair Transplant Day? No? Well, give it a year and we just might see #NewlyHairyHead trending on Twitter. If brands get in on all that action, they will be spending more time celebrating than selling. Or is there a way to do both?
The answer can be found in that Holy Grail of advertising clichés and insights. But first, let us take a hard look at what most advertising is like on these special days. If it’s Diwali, every other ad uses one of the following words — sparkle, light, festival, firecracker, festive season, celebrate. Some are brave enough to use many of them. Like this gem, ‘Celebrate the festival of lights with our firecracker of an offer. Starburst 30% off.’
Beyond lazy marketing
This is just lazy marketing. The people who do it forget that their ad is the least important message their audience will get that day. It will be fighting phone calls and text messages from loved ones. And Facebook posts from people they care about. Not to mention, a bunch of other ads that look kind of like yours does. So, how do you, as a brand, make your presence felt?
You could try this. Don’t contribute to the noise. Instead, find a way to add an interesting meaning to the day. Dig deeper into what makes that day or occasion special to the people who celebrate it.
Search for nuggets of feelings that surround it, how it impacts their relationships with family, friends and even the society they live in. If you are lucky, you will stumble across a tension that your brand can solve. Or find an undercover cultural trend that you can amplify. Once you have got it, express it in a way that is fresh. Sounds obvious, doesn’t it? But obviously not many do it. Remember greatness is not just achieved by doing big things, but by doing the little things brilliantly.
That said, you also have to be aware that some of these special days may not be right for your brand. For instance, if Kamasutra condoms wishes people Happy Father’s Day, it would be funny at best, and tweetstorm worthy at worst. But they may want to explore creating a new occasion, Not Father’s Day. A day that celebrates the men who have brought more into this world than just a child. Before all you toddler toting activists go ballistic on my derriere, let me hasten to add, I am kidding.
Now let’s say you have decided which of all these days you are going to leverage for your brand. Let me tell you what is going to happen. You will have total memory loss of the events till a week before each big day. Unfortunately so will your agency. You will tell the account guy that the ad has to be ready in three days. She will tell creative it has to be done in one. It will get out. You will heave a sigh of relief. And another opportunity for the brand to connect with its audience will breathe its last.
Folks, here is a simple rule. If it is important enough to spend your money on, it deserves some forward planning and enough time to get it right. You have a calendar on your smartphone, your laptop and your desk. Please, please, please, use one of them. Your brand will thank you.
The author is managing director & CCO, Publicis Worldwide South Asia