As the monsoon completes its scheduled course, it will be time for the Great Indian Festive Season, culminating in the blockbuster Diwali. Although consumer-buying patterns these days are genuinely year-long, aided by attractive offers and indulgent attitudes, the festivities still offer extraordinary reasons for celebratory purchases. Brands must come to the party, however, with imaginative experiences aligned to the season, instead of the age-old demonstration strategy powered by increased media spending.
There was a time, not too long ago, when most of our indulgences were acquired during the autumn festivities, the annual bonus an integral part of the structured compensation. We now live in the age of the CTC, the private sector mostly dispensing with this form of annual grant in lieu of the all-inclusive allotment. Thus, it made sense to follow the Bata strategy, inspired by the full-page advertising that exposes the range with clear information on pricing to avoid point-of-purchase confusion. Most in the lifestyle trade demonstrated a similar communication pattern, big and bold announcements with new designs in certain cases, destined to become statements of style if deemed attractive. Durables simply had to announce their availability with access information, for them to reach middle-class homes without much fuss or trouble. Cinema used to play a large part, with clever manufacturers emulating the sartorial splendour of the idols, the masses spending their annual largesse to wear their moments of fame. As is plainly apparent, all of this is redundant today, driven by the year-long buying patterns, so the festive season needs newer thinking to dig a larger hole in consumer wallets.
The first part of the strategy must be the limited-circulation festive brand, a genuine variant or simply a well-endowed dose of make-up that cues credible novelty. Certain players simply re-package their ensemble to present a festive collection but that must not be confused with this approach, involving the curation of a special identity. This brand will make an appearance only for three months with the express purpose of being consumed within this period only, creating sufficient aspiration for people to wait sincerely for an encore, possible for every category. Samsung launching a Galaxy variant with a booster Airtel plan, Dominos’ introducing the Utsav Pizza with suitable cues, Cadbury’s doing a Diwali Dairy Milk range more generous with nuts, Marriott enthusing tourists with Festive floors (furnishing fine-tuned along with the entire package), Mac Cosmetics finally building a bridge with Indian mainstream through the Devi Durga make-up pack. Coke or Pepsi offering a festive edition with an innovative SKU like a hip flask, Kingfisher Festiva quite easily a canned beer with tangy colours, TV sets and music systems with a special set of attributes. On apparel and accessories, this strategy is easily implementable with ‘Utsav’ brands, named and coated as per SEC denominations, being introduced from Zara to H&M to Pantaloons to Biba. A condition for the above to succeed is a clear naming, and the infusion of a distinctive identity, a miniature branding exercise quite like the miniature communication exercises known as festive campaigns.
The second part of the new-age festive strategy is to present brands as experiences, or rather Experience Alliances, the subject of an earlier article in this series. A day out during Durga Puja involves attire, food, drinks, transportation, first-aid and more. So, a jointly-funded Experience Communication (powered jointly by Uber, H&M, Lay’s, Pepsi, Anita Dongre and a 24-hour pharmacy) created, hosted and amplified by Facebook will prove to be more effective than solo entities advertising. This thinking should also extend to acquisition routed through Amazon or Myntra, a fixed price buying a festive card with pre-specified limits for each such merchant, allowing the customer to imagine festive engagement holistically. A Diwali alliance in Gurgaon can certainly include Pernod Ricard, Biba, Foodpanda, Good Earth and suitable others, making the evenings with cards truly special for hostess and guest. Facilitators can also include offline merchants like Spencer’s Retail or Palladium Mall, playing a role beyond the current transaction.
Linked closely to the above is the creation of Experiential Price Points, making customers pay for a multi-sensorial package and not a single-dimensional product or service as well the reinforcement of a festive price point. The festive price point is driven largely by emotion which can be a special rate or even connected with a festive ritual, for example the symbolism of the extra one-rupee as auspicious tidings. On experience pricing, the point is obvious, our proven behaviour insisting that we pay happily for clubbed packages than individual products across categories. Pricing is thus never about just the lowest point, instead always about finest demonstration of value, equally emotional as it is certainly rational.
The festive season is drawing near but there is still time for some of these ideas to be implemented, to stimulate exceptional demand in the most favourable consumption circumstances. For this, as ever, we need to think beyond the convention and embrace innovation, leading to assured happiness for customer and company alike.
(Shivaji Dasgupta is the Founder of INEXGRO Brand Advisory and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org)
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