As Durga Puja kicks in the formal festive season in India, the willingness to purchase products and services will soon reach its sensational peak. Brand owners have truthfully taken advantage of this spurt in demand by enhancing their marketing spends and ensuring that special collections appear with abandon on both physical and virtual retail shelves. However, a trick that has certainly been missed is the launch of festive Pop-Up brands, experiences designed specially and solely for this period of the year, not available during the rest of the months. Possessing the defensible potential of becoming blockbusters in terms of aspiration and consumption, the customer urged to look forward to them just as eagerly as the traditional celebrations.
This idea honestly emerged from the genre of Pop-Up restaurants that is currently the hot trend of the dining industry, making an appearance in India as well commanding astronomical prices when the curator is Gaggan Anand. Its success drawing from an established customer insight in the luxury space at least of desirable experiences with limited access, commanding greater respect than their anytime-anywhere peers and rapidly escalating down the affordability spectrum. There is an unaccountable magic in every form of exclusivity, including the availability at specific times of the year that simply needs to be intelligently marketed for exceptional results. A key offshoot of the consumer culture being established firmly is the incurable affection for newness, familiarity in the metaphor of brands certainly breeding contempt–affecting both old and new in terms of demographics.
Now imagine the possibilities across every possible industry that is remotely connected, in a positive sense, to the festivity calendar. Ethnic fashion brands such as FabIndia or even FBB launching a specific brand for festivities starting September 1 and ending on December 31, which can well be called Come September. A similar inspiration to be initiated by Kala Niketan in Mumbai or Nalli in Chennai or Byloom in Calcutta to expose a customised identity only for this time, to reinforce the spontaneous happiness present in the mind of every citizen. Quite frankly, in the world of apparel, fashion and accessories the possibilities are truly endless whether you are an established national satrap or indeed a local player of some stature. Imagine an online Pop-Up brand that may well be called Jaldi.com or Utsav.net, depending on your sensibilities, that flaunts its own bespoke collections and then rapidly disappears. It is also very easy to imagine temporary retail outlets born to this ideology, replacing their year-long masters or occupying some shared-retail space.
What will make this Pop-Up movement even more scalable is its extension to categories that are not quite easily imaginable, yet tapping the same customer segmentation principles. Consumer electronics brands, including mobile phones, launching limited edition versions that are able to attract customers for their limited visibility yet exquisite craftsmanship. AIRBNB launching a seasonal special version that rents premium homes of residents for the festivities unavailable otherwise and Uber having a special festive product called ‘Hopstar’ designed for the Durga Puja sub-culture of visiting multiple places of worship. Hotels temporarily re-designing entire floors with the objective of customisation; festive cues, trinkets and even bedcovers and curtains replacing the conventional templated versions, the Taj Diwali Floor will command a special premium surely. For restaurants, the stretch is a no-brainer while even RTE foods can design such a concept with Maggi doing a festival special Puja-Diwali-Onam flavouring, which is truly limited edition.
If Johnnie Walker or even the nascent-curator Lakeforest Wines are interested in an India-only brand for this season that will surely be a best-seller, just as the original version of Cadbury’s Celebrations was created as a time-bound project. Surely a beer can follow suit with a pre-ordered version applicable for this time while a classical biryani house from Hyderabad or Lucknow can do a Mughal-E-Azam biryani with special spices imported from Iran only during Eid. Even hospitals can set up their Pop-Up versions as clinics for limited-time check-ups monitoring vital metrics both before and after the excesses of the season. Asian Paints Home Solutions with an Utsav package to paint homes with special colours only during this zone is a clear possibility and furniture entrepreneurs can certainly offer a bespoke-on-hire range that can adorn the home temporarily while being replaced by the regular inhabitants for the remainder of the year.
The biggest barrier in the way of Pop-Up brands across categories is the mindset of the business owner and no longer the appetite of the consumer or the flexibility of the media and retail environment. Aided by an astute combination of digital and analogue marketing, it is possible to hold measured conversations with loyal and imminent stakeholders pertaining to a time-bound brand, a robust portfolio strategy ensuring the overall lifetime or annual value of the relationship is adequately secured. Even retail environments, not just the online conversations, are duly flexible and it is possible for stores to live with multiple avatars through the year, unlike the more structured past. Ensuring the robustness of this idea is the progressive switching behaviour of the audience, choices based on a portfolio of alternatives suitable for complimentary occasions and not just the very black-and-white yes or no.
Thus, the barrier is clearly the manufacturer’s insecurity of withdrawing a successful brand after three roaring months or perhaps, the fear of upsetting the steady business of a regular blockbuster through these seemingly-tactical infusions. Including the apprehension that this strategy actually sounds totally contradictory to the incremental approach to brand-building practiced diligently for centuries, wherein an existing trademark is possessively nurtured unless forcibly abandoned. The most dramatic shift in consumer behaviour in the last decade has been the re-definition of loyalty, from a lifelong association set in stone to a co-existing series of associations that lead to diverse experiences, making her life way more fulfilling. In fact, legacy brands are best poised to take advantage of their knowledge of customer behaviour to introduce such varied experiences that strengthen the relationship, before ambitious start-ups with immeasurable guts get interested.
In sum, a novel approach for generating growth can actually be the launch of festive Pop-Up brands, cashing in on the overpowering seasonal desire for new experiences. Such a view is proven to be attractive for the luxury customer and will quite definitely be lapped by the next rung of purchasing power, demonstrating levels of maturity and discernment unthinkable until recently. Brand owners must put on their dancing shoes to try bold new steps that will make their businesses bloom else succumb to the stalemate of sameness.
(Shivaji Dasgupta is the Founder of INEXGRO Brand Advisory and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org)
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