As India celebrates Dhanteras, the beginning of the five-day Diwali festival, brands across industries, from jewellery to automobiles to electronics, have pulled out all stops to create compelling marketing experiences that resonate with the hearts and minds of Indian consumers.
Malls, airports, shops and even online stores are decked up to offer the festive feel and immersive shopping experiences. Diwali mela in housing complexes have also made a comeback in many cities.
Marketing experiences include Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality (AR/VR) experiences, intimate parties, interactive installations, celebrity and influencer engagements, and prizes worth millions.
Brands have assigned 30-40 per cent of their festive budgets for these intimate events and immersive experiences, industry experts say. However, there is no budget limit—as long as the experience makes sense for the brand, supports its marketing goals and delivers surprise and delight for customers.
One of the brands that has been a frontrunner when it comes immersive marketing experience is Maruti Suzuki. The automaker has been using AR and VR to launch its high-end car models.
Now, many other brands are in the space with an aim to woo younger generations. A few auto, jewellery and personal care brands have collaborated with SnapChat to add VR experiences in their offerings.
Arvind Balan, Co-Founder & CEO, Maxperience, explains, “Brands in the gold and automobile categories have made experiential a part of their marketing strategy. We can also see a variation within a category, even within a brand, based on the premiumness of the product. For instance, Maruti Suzuki might not opt for experiential marketing for Alto or Swift, but more than 50% of their marketing spend on a car like Jimny would be on experiential.”
Liquor brands are also leveraging experiential marketing during Diwali through tasting events, food & drink festivals, and more, says Balan.
Shradha Agarwal, Co-Founder & CEO, Grapes, opines, “Food & beverage sector leverages experiential marketing during festive season. Food already has several emotions associated with it for people, and building an entire experience around it further intensifies it for positive results.”
AdEx up this year
As per Pitch Madison Annual Report 2023, ad spends on outdoor advertising reached Rs 3,600 Crore in 2022, a whopping 64 percent more compared to a year before. Most brands have increased their ad spend this year.
The overall ad spend of brands is predicted to grow by 15% during this festive season. So, a similar uptick in experiential marketing can also be predicted. Certain aspects of experiential marketing see a definite growth trend during the festive season, such as pop-ups, as brands look to engage the influx of people visiting shopping complexes, malls and markets for their festive shopping, says Agarwal.
Sunny Vora, CEO Madison Turnt and Anugrah Madison, echoes the sentiments. He however pointed out an interesting trend this year. “Brands are spending more on experiential marketing this year, however, most of it is centered around the world cup. They are banking on India’s victory in the world cup. Big brands that are spending on festivals have invested in long-term visibility such as wall wraps or retailer outlets rather than brand building as they wanted to cut the clutter around the festivities.”
As per Agarwal, the trend in this season is the integration of multiple aspects, to deliver a comprehensive experience, creating multiple touch points throughout the consumer journey. For instance, wearable tech can be added into an experiential event, to strengthen the experience.
AI and Innovation
Brands are innovating a lot this season to stand out in the crowd. AI has given them an additional weapon to exhibit their creativity.
“TVS, for instance, has been putting up wall wraps in rural parts of the country for years. This time, it has used solar lights to illuminate those wall wraps,” says Saibal Gupta, Managing Partner and CEO, Experia Group, who collaborated with the brand to come out with this innovation.
Gupta adds that several brands have come up with CGI installations (computer generated image and video), especially in tier 2 and 3 cities. However, no one has so far come up with a story idea around CGI. “Marketers are still experimenting with AI. it may take some time for them to design a powerful story line for a campaign weaving around AI.”
Consciousness in celebration
Experiences that are emotionally charged and unforgettable are the lifeblood of experiential marketing. Recently, we see a trend of conscious gifting happening around us. This ranges from lighting up lives of the underprivileged children through forward gifting, more plants making their way home, younger generations continuing to be mindful of the environment and staying away from firecrackers. This conscious trend is steadily growing year on year, said Rajesh.
Mumbai’s premium mall Phoenix Palladium, for instance, has collaborated with Sonu Sood – the celebrity and philanthropist with their exclusive campaign - Shop and Give It Back with Charity Save Life. The mall donates a certain percent of every purchase to the underprivileged.