Ahead of the festive season in India, Leo Burnett’s Dheeraj Sinha looks at the seven ways that brands and startups, marketers and consumers are expected to celebrate it.  

In some way or the other, every marketer is trying to recover part of their growth through the upcoming festive season. We have been caught between the ferocity of the second wave, which dented the discretionary incomes of many households, and a will-it-won’t-it guessing game with the third wave.

However, marketers are now pulling all the stops and going all out to reach the peak that they have promised themselves in this year’s brand plans. Here are the seven big themes that we are witnessing this festive season.

1. The festive season meets the festival of cricket

The festive season this year comes with the festival of cricket, the remaining part of IPL and the world cup. This gives brands a sustained platform of remarkable visibility throughout the festive season.

Most brands, whether aiming to get a share of consumers’ discretionary expenditure or aiming to increase their MAUs (monthly active users), will maximise these platforms. We expect the season to be led by e-commerce, D2C brands, digital payments, fantasy sports and such.

This is also a time for startups, on the lookout for public listing in the near term, to build disproportionate scale. The festive season, along with some respite from COVID (hopefully) and the media frenzy over cricket, are a potent cocktail for disproportionate growth.  

2. The lipstick effect

Following the second wave, we saw consumer expenditure in smaller ticket items go up remarkably. Fried in the heat of COVID, consumers will indulge in small ticket items to celebrate the feeling of being alive.

We expect consumer goods, including personal care, small electronics and apparel, to have a bull run. The larger ticket items will see an upswing too but not in the same spirit. The consumer sentiment for large scale purchases of four-wheelers or houses is that of cautious optimism, unless there is an irresistible deal. This festive season, marketers essentially need to focus on accessibility for all.

3. New behaviours to celebrate the old

Given the fear of an impending third wave and cautious guidelines by the government, many will use the digital medium to send gifts, do shopping and celebrate with loved ones who cannot fly in. The adoption of digital through Zoom will help us mitigate the feeling of curbed freedoms.

Having said that, we expect to see viral pictures of shopping streets in say, smaller towns, filled with people like dense pixels. We will see both faces of the country – a cautious, living with the newfound digital behaviour India, and a let’s go out, we will see what happens India. 

While the first round of COVID revealed the vulnerability of the masses, after the second wave, we are seeing a sense of fatalism. Today, Indians have realised that they can no longer sit inside and live a life of fear; what must be done, must be done – darr ke age Indian hai.

4. Upgrading the home

Over the past year, we have seen a distinct change in spending patterns. The shift in-home has made people reassess their surroundings – from prioritising and upgrading technology, to making everyday life more comfortable. People are investing in new furniture and furnishings as they seek to make their space suitable for multiple needs – as an office, family space and classroom.

There is a noticeable change in the way people are prioritising spending now and pre-pandemic, and a lot of this will continue as the post-pandemic world will be a hybrid of the new and old.

5. A warm theme

The wounds of the second wave are rather raw in public consciousness. The theme of brands this year would therefore be balmy.

Brands would do well to focus on inclusion. We need to be conscious of what has happened over the year, that there have been families who have lost lives and livelihoods. We need to continue to celebrate the theme of inclusion, extending the celebrations to all and making this a festival of positivity. We will certainly see this theme of doing things for others play out in brand advertising.

6. The rise of the conscious consumer

The post-pandemic shopper is far more conscious about what they shop for and where they shop. People have become environmentally and health conscious, and are carefully evaluating everything from the brand’s impact on environment, health or what the brand stands for.

Therefore, marketers need to create a strategy which is driven by both purpose and practicality. They need to craft an approach which is relevant to both the brand and the consumer without being patronising or paying lip service.

A brand that represents the sentiments of the consumer is more likely to get noticed. From creating sustainable packaging to speaking about wellbeing and offering competitive pricing, brands have a responsibility and opportunity to set new rules this festive season.

7. The festival of new platforms

The key for brands and marketers to unlock growth is to be available on the right platforms.

With rapid digital adoption, this festive season offers opportunities for marketers to connect with consumers like never before. Consumers are discovering brands on social media and businesses need to focus on solutions that are relevant for the new normal, such as branded content, hyper-localisation and creating virtual experiences.

These are no longer behaviours of constraint (due to the lockdown); these are now normal expectations of the consumer. The good thing is that there’s a revolution that’s brewing at the small and medium enterprise level, where several technology-led solutions are being implemented. Whether getting them online or helping them with their accounting, solutions are available for small and medium entrepreneurs to help them participate in the new, connected world of consumption.

It seems that we are set for a great festive season.

The good thing is that like all Indian festivals, this festive season will bring together everyone – those seeking a dramatic increase in their MAUs and those gearing up for public listing, as well as those consumers who want to celebrate with small purchases and those small businesses owners who want to participate in the new connected economy of consumption.

This season will be a festival for all.