The Marketing Industry’s Problem With The Indian Festive Season – How Digital Word-Of-Mouth Offers A Solution

Over the course of October, November, and December, India plays host to a cavalcade of the year’s biggest festivals.

As 2020 draws to a long-awaited close, the country is finally ready to turn its thoughts to happier times. And what better way to banish the COVID blues and usher in a new beginning than with India’s festive season? Over the course of October, November, and December, India plays host to a cavalcade of the year’s biggest festivals. But while the public celebrates, branding, advertising, and marketing teams across industries are hard at work.

Aware as they are of the importance of the festive season, most companies set aside the bulk of their annual marketing budget for this period. Madison Media estimates that the October to November period in 2020 will see a marketing expenditure of approximately INR 20,000 to 25,000 crores – almost half of the total annual spend of INR 55,000 to 58,000 crores, and an increase of 6 to 13 percent over the preceding year. Budgets on this scale give marketing departments the freedom to do virtually anything they can imagine. 

But for every successful campaign, the season is littered with innumerable duds. This should hardly come as a surprise – with thousands of brands all attempting to jump on the same festive bandwagon, it takes a special message (and plenty of luck) to get the crowd riled up. As a direct result of this, the past several years have seen marketing professionals attempt to use every tool at their disposal to ensure that it’s their campaign and brand that goes viral on social media. And the one method that every marketing department automatically defaults to is word-of-mouth (WOM) marketing.

Frequently referred to as crowd marketing, WOM marketing is used by businesses to encourage customers to organically promote their brand. Comprising both active efforts to initiate customer conversations and spontaneous consumer shoutouts for a brand, it serves as unpaid promotional activity. But unpaid shouldn’t be mistaken for ineffective. Global marketing research firm Nielsen estimates that 92 percent of consumers believe suggestions from friends and family more than they do advertising. This avenue becomes even more critical given that 70 percent of consumers consider online reviews the second most trusted source of brand information, while 50 percent view UGC as more trustworthy than a brand’s own social media content.

But despite recognising the value of WOM marketing during the festive season, most brands stumble in its application since they lack practice or experience in its use. Crowd marketing is a supremely effective technique throughout the year, and yet the majority of brands only turn to it during the festive season or other holidays scattered throughout the year. During these brief periods buzzy hashtags will multiply, as marketing teams scramble to gain them as much traction as possible. This despite the fact that competition for consumer attention is at its peak during these periods. Instead, brands should focus on cultivating a customer base that is vocal, loyal, and always ready to champion their cause. 

The best place for a company to start this transformation is its own social media platforms. By encouraging and incentivising this behaviour among customers throughout the year, developing an active community, and heightening engagement during key periods, brands are ideally poised to cultivate this untapped asset and turn passive followers into a dynamic group of advocates and ambassadors. And although this approach might not get you a flashy and headline-grabbing campaign, it’s vital to remember that WOM marketing is a marathon and not a sprint. By adopting this approach, brands lay the foundation for a deeper, more impactful relationship with their core audience, and ultimately stand to gain a higher sales volume - the real goal of any marketing activity. 

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.