An Emotional Odyssey of the Great Indian Diwali Campaigns

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‘Tis the Season

For most people, the festive season is a time of relaxation, joyous gatherings, and indulging in delectable treats. And then there are those like us who work in the retail and marketing sector. For us intrepid souls, this is the busiest, most exhilarating, and, quite frankly, the most exhausting time of the year. In this frantic retail and marketing wonderland, they say that surviving the festive season is equivalent to conquering Everest. You may start with an ambitious grin, but by the time you reach the summit, you’ll be battle-hardened. For all we know, a retail worker who can endure the festive shopping madness can brave any storm, conquer any challenge and possibly negotiate world peace before lunchtime. It’s a world where we are elbow-deep in marketing strategies, caffeine flows like chai, and sleep becomes as elusive as finding the perfect Diwali gift.

Yet, it’s precisely during this chaotic period that we witness the most remarkable and heartwarming marketing in action. Amid the holiday mayhem, there are certain festive campaigns that manage to tug at our heartstrings and make us feel the warmth of Diwali’s glow while we navigate the frenzy of the season.

Emotions Maketh India

If there’s one thing the momentous population of India shares, it is the enormous reverence given to sentiments. It is human nature to hold emotions dear to oneself and the advertising and marketing industry has repeatedly displayed their mettle by leveraging the notion. Marketers spin their magic behind the scenes, evoking nostalgia, whispering tales of togetherness, love and the ever-so-slight hint that this might just be the last chance to grab that once in a lifetime deal before it vanishes like the morning mist.

In India, festivals are vivid threads, each weaving its own tale of tradition and emotion. These festive celebrations are not mere moments but the very heartbeat of the nation’s rich heritage, creating a perfect canvas for the art of emotional marketing.

It has come to a point where emotional festive campaigns are almost a prologue of the actual celebrations in the country. These campaigns tug at the heartstrings of the Indian populace while retaining their brand’s innocuous marketing hypothesis. These marketing strategies strike a fine balance between emotional integrity and intelligent product placement in the midst of celebrations. Brands that deliver on these expectations build stronger relationships with their customers.

An Emotional Affair

It shouldn’t come as a surprise then that irrespective of the nature, platform or premise of the campaign, its success depends on how well received it is among its target audience. Over the years, we have collected an impressive portfolio of festive campaigns that refuse to leave our hearts.

Bringing the point home that emotions nurture memories into indispensable entities, we have compiled a few festive campaigns that are our personal favourites.

Cadbury – #NotJustACadburyAd

Indians have a special relationship with Cadbury, particularly around festive celebrations. As kids, we all had that unspoken contest: whoever showed up with a box of Cadbury Celebrations instantly earned the title of the best relative of the year.

Even now it is a testament to the brand’s amazing marketing faculty that the entire nation looks forward to their Diwali campaign. The campaigns trigger the emotional quotient for thousands of micro and small-scale business households by including their names in the Cadbury brand films. Specifically, after the dire effects of the Pandemic which brought, not only the national economy but the entire world to a standstill, these campaigns have been instrumental in giving small local businesses a platform.

Last year’s brand film followed a party-ready Shah Rukh Khan flaunting his Diwali fit and urging the audience to shop locally for Diwali by naming actual small-businesses for procuring their festive essentials.

Cadbury took it a step further by implementing AI technology that allowed millions of small businesses nationwide to employ the Biggest Brand Ambassador as their own. This initiative was accompanied by another brand film that visualises the struggles of small business owners in a world of fast-paced mass commerce. It was a masterstroke of solidarity between the world-renowned Cadbury and the beloved local stores.

During the Diwali season, several businesses experience a significant upswing in their activities, and among the most notable are flower sellers, mithai businesses, the entertainment industry, and the food industry. With the ad film featuring a juxtaposition of local stores and brands with the biggest names like Shah Rukh Khan, the Cadbury campaign was successful in giving a global mouthpiece to regional business owners.

The community aspect plays a critical role in boosting earnings during the festive season. The traditions, rituals, and festivities of Diwali foster a sense of togetherness, and businesses that align themselves with these values thrive as they become an integral part of the celebration. Cadbury’s Diwali campaigns underscore these relationships and find common ground between age-old traditions and contemporary economic trajectories.

Tanishq – Pehli Vaali Diwali

Last year jewellery brand Tanishq launched a Diwali campaign called ‘Pehli Diwali.’ The festive films created by Lowe Lintas was a tribute to the spirit of every Indian woman as she embarks on a journey filled with ‘firsts’ reinventing herself personally or professionally which feels like a ‘Pehli Diwali’ celebration.

In the first film we meet an entrepreneur, eagerly welcoming Diwali at her new office with her family and friends. The second film introduces us to a Lieutenant in the Indian Air Force, celebrating her ‘first’ Diwali away from home, surrounded by her Air Force family. The third film shares the touching story of a single mother, preparing to take her daughter on their very first bike road trip.

Pehli Diwalis hold a profound place in the heart of Indians where families celebrate the first Diwali after a wedding or post welcoming a child. Tanishq’s festive campaign beautifully captured this tradition, shedding light on the unique and oft overlooked ‘firsts’ experienced by women. Importantly, it celebrated their journeys, regardless of how big or small, unrelated to marriage or parenthood. The campaign struck a chord with viewers, particularly women, who appreciated this touching tribute to the myriad ‘firsts’ in their lives.

Samsonite – Diwali ka Safar

Diwali is essentially the annual festive retreat for most Indians. However, there are people who don’t get to celebrate the festival at home with their loved ones. Samsonite’s ‘Diwali ka Safar’ campaign was an ode to all the travel professionals who take the reins of ensuring that people reach home for Diwali. The multifaced approach of including various popular travelling channels from taxis and buses to trains and airplanes in the campaign enwrapped the sentiments of different strata of Indian communities. The campaign film subtly points out that even the smallest gestures of kindness or acknowledgement can turn a mundane day into Diwali for these unsung heroes.

Dil Ki Baat Hai; Samjha Karo

Emotional marketing does wonders among the Indian audience; however, we can’t undermine the viewers. The success of emotional marketing hinges on more than just sentiments. India has evolved and the new-age Indian consumers appreciate subtlety in marketing. They are no longer swayed by loud, pushy advertising. Instead, they value and respond positively to marketing efforts that are more understated and nuanced. This shift suggests that the “less is more” approach can be highly effective. India is a diverse and multicultural nation, and its new-age consumers are embracing their individuality. Brands that acknowledge and celebrate this diversity in their marketing campaigns are more likely to strike a chord with the audience.

As someone who has lived abroad and had her fair share of Diwalis away from home, I’ve dearly missed the usual festive chaos that precedes the day. During times like these, emotional marketing campaigns not only made me feel validated but also had a magical way of making folks like me feel like we’ve got a cozy seat at the Diwali table, even if it’s from across the globe.