Kumbh Mela 2013: Of Pilgrims, Products, Promotion and Persuasion

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KumbhaOne of the world’s largest religious gatherings with over 80 million people in attendance this year, the Allahabad Maha Kumbh mela is a dazzling spectacle of spiritual fervour. This year, however, the pilgrimage has also become a marketing marvel. A sea of brands have taken a holy dip at the festival; each vying for the crowd’s attention through innovative branding and advertising.

From outdoor advertising, on-ground activation and promotional offers to aggressive campaigning on radio and digital, companies are pursuing a plethora of brand building initiatives to connect with the pilgrims. With the holy confluence reaching its flag end, Pitch takes a look at some of marketing gimmicks seen this year.

Kumbh Mela: Marketers’ Battleground
Perhaps one of the most unique and highly talked about promotions at Kumbh this year has been HUL’s ‘branded roti’ campaign for its soap brand, Lifebuoy. The FMCG player along with creative agency Ogilvy tied up with dhabas and hotels at the mela site to distribute rotis that were stamped with the statement ‘Lifebuoy se haath dhoye kya?’ This hand wash reminder helped to communicate the brand promise effectively to a large rural population. Dabur has also tied up with restaurants to serve its Hajmola digestive candy sachets and samples of its mosquito repellent brand Odomos is also being distributed among people.

stamped-rotisIt seems to be raining freebies at the festival, with every other brand doling out free samples. Ranbaxy’s health supplement brand, Revital is giving away free hanuman chalisas, while also sponsoring local boats and advertising at several mela sites. Coca-Cola has deployed around 15 outlets in the Kumbh Mela campus outlets where a 150 ML cup is being sold at a reduce amount of Rs 5.

To attract consumers to its brand and increase recall, many brands are also engaging in wide spectrum of BTL activities. Emami, apart from branding aarti booklets with Boroplus, has set up Boroplus gaming zones and even organized a talent hunt programme for women at the Kumbh.

With the sheer volume of crowd that throngs the festival, the Kumbh Mela no doubt provides the perfect ambience for marketers to promote their products. But how effective are such gimmicks? Is creating brand visibility the only objective or can such festivals have an impact on sales as well?

Harish Bijoor, CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults

Harish Bijoor, CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults

Harish Bijoor, CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults feels that most of these campaigns on display at the festival, including the one by HUL, will remain purely anecdotal. “In the vast congregation, no one brand can aspire to dominate the mindshare of people. The forty odd brands that are present there are putting together individual pieces. No one brand can do anything memorable,” he says.

Ambika Sharma, Managing Director & CEO, Pulp Strategy however has a differing opinion. In her view, with such a large gathering there is the opportunity for brands to connect with their consumers, engage with them, deliver experience or utilize the unique setting to create ambient branding. And this would impact sales in the long run, like most advertising.

She goes on to add. “However, presence is also about a cultural integration which adds to a brand’s acceptability and strengthens the bond with its consumers. The campaign effectiveness depends on the campaign, its treatment and of course objectives. It’s amazing what Lifebuoy did with the branded rotis- the creative drove the impact much beyond the Kumbh. Telecom players are hawking special “Maha Kumbh packs” with free content built in. This would have a direct impact on sales.”

Telecom players have unleashed a multitude of branding initiatives to target the rural consumer; whether it is Idea Cellular’s outdoor advertisements campaigns, Aircel placing canopies all over the city to increase its retail visibility or the launch of special tariff offers by most players.

coca cola‘Shahi  Nav Mein Sangam Snan Ka Idea’ is the campaign that Idea is running, wherein selective Idea subscribers depending upon their value of recharge done in a specific period shall be shortlisted and invited to be part of campaign. To tap the rural cinema lovers, Vodafone has turned a regular stall into a cinema hall and is distributing free passes for a film about the Kumbh. It is also providing musical ear-muffs, wired with in-built speakers that play devotional songs.

Coca-Cola is taking the entire Kumbh experience to digital. It has appropriated the Kumbh Mela feed on ETV Uttarakhand TV channel on a mobile app called NextG TV, which streams television content.

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