RELIGIOUS FESTIVAL, COLOURFUL CARNIVAL... OR A BIG, FAT PLATFORM SHOWCASING MA DURGA's BOOGEY-WOOGEY WITH MA LAKSHMI?! 4Ps B&M's CONSULTING EDITOR MONOJIT LAHIRI PROBES A SPACE WHERE THE SPIRIT OF COMMERCE KEEPS SHREWD COMPANY WITH THE CELEBRATORY SOUNDS OF CONCH SHELLS
The Big Idea has always meant different things to different people. In theory, it has been described as a “surprising solution to a marketing problem expressed in a memorable, verbal or graphic way.” It picks up power, force and momentum due to the chutzpah of its startling perspective that can alter a habit, opinion or a point of view. The big idea can originate from a variety of sources... arts, sports, politics, entertainment, popular culture, today's headlines... but the central point is its ability to communicate a clear and compelling message that enlightens and entertains even as it empowers!
What better example than the Durga Puja?!
Few events have served as a more colourful and powerful commentary on contemporary life and times reflecting popular culture in the public space, than the Pujas. At one level it represents the close bonding of the neighbourhood. At another, a wonderful expression reflecting aspirations through the prism of creative pandal decoration. In keeping with the consumerist times, however, has the Puja today become increasingly corporatised? In this setting, have brand marketers shrewdly started capitalising on religious sentiments to ensnare the Puja shopper?
Ujjal Singha – head honcho of the Kolkata-based ad agency Genesis – is spot-on with his take. “There has never been a bigger idea for mass-connect than the Pujas! It's the one time in the year when all Bengalis coime together in a spirit of joyous bonhomie celebration. The result is a gigantic captive audience, in a happy, feel-good frame of mind... carefree, loaded, adventurous, eager and willing to hit the impulse-purchase button!” says Sinha. He points to this matchless challenge-and-opportunity backdrop for all sharp brand custodians to unleash their big idea tapping into the mood and temper of this event, and turn on the receptive, bindaas audience base. Adds the smart adman, “the difference between this captive audience and others at railway stations, airports, sports stadia or concerts is essentially the state of mind. During those Puja Days, they are in a different zone.” By “different”, Sinha is referring to the fact that people have their guards down.
Executive Director of another Kolkata-based ad agency, Response, Sid Ray, adds his own spin to the table. “In the east, the trigger months kick off from July-Aug because of the oncoming festival season. The durables and FMCG companies pull out the stops to identify every possible avenue to push sales. With Pujas being a hi-throng and hi-spend space, all the tricks in the book are deployed to gain the winning edge over competition,” says Ray. From the consumer's perspective too, this is a freak out time. “Right from the Mahalaya – 10 days before the Pujas – till the immersion, the Puja scene is a thrilling blend of carnival, fashion show and food fest! The most significant factor of today's youngistan-driven Puja is that everybody wants to make a statement! So clothes and fashion leap centre-stage. Add to this a 2487 participation of media channels covering events like fashion shows, pandal decorations, entertainment, starry guests, awards for the best dressed couple etc. and you realise what a huge idea the Puja is!” adds Ray.
Purists and oldies are however shocked and disgusted at this blatant commercialisation of the Pujas. They believe that the fun-filled celebration of good times has been hi-jacked by corporations and brands distorting and monetising the spirit of this sacred occasion. Management consultant Abhinav Khanna begs to differ. “Let's face facts. The age of innocence is over and so are those simple, one-dimensional times. We live in a consumerist and consumption-specific age where any and everything – Pujas included – is consumed! It is also an age of fierce competition. In this setting, the sanctity and basic objective of any major event or happening is likely to be compromised on the altar of commercialisation... and it is here that the big idea will be challenged,” Khanna tells 4Ps B&M.
Khanna is right. Disposable incomes, aspirational levels along with a roaring double-income community has dramatically altered the consumption patterns and profile of the middle class. The simple living, in-denial mode and restraint, while considering a purchase of yester-years, has been slung out. It's consumption frenzy and at no time is this better manifested than the Pujas! Beyond consumer durables, fashion, clothes, new films, plays, music launches, Puja-specific annual publications (with hi-profile authors roped in to pen their special Puja contributions) exotic Puja menus, Puja-special trains... it's a virtual tsunami!
A massive arena. A vast target audience. A large team of players all set to flash their special products and services. Which chosen one can peep into the consumer;s soul and convert needs to wants in a manner that entertains and empowers? Well, don't care about the purists – sell on, and sell well.