Brand Conversations: Making Greater Festive Gains In 2020

In the context of the scenario building up, here are 5 strategic considerations that could be useful in enhancing festive marketing opportunities:

Festive season 2020: a window of opportunity that the Indian economy awaits eagerly. The days ahead will witness the flagging off the takeover of festive marketing brand initiatives and campaigns. There would surely be a difference in the exact circumstances for each brand and category compared to other years. Surely several efforts would need to work together with the hopeful pursuit of recovering what the past months may have taken away. For some categories the celebrations have already begun like the auto sector showing a high in sales after a fairly long gap.

However, planning the way ahead in this pre-festive scenario and setting expectations also presents a challenge like never before. 2020 cannot be likened or mirrored to other years in terms of trends for most categories and definitely not for the customer mindset. Setting course on how purchase patterns post Sept behave, to say the least, hazards a guess.

Even in the usual years, this pre-festive period is generally the time when all stakeholders burn the midnight oil to plan things right. We know there is of course nothing usual with 2020 and so the effort required to plan will be even more. From varied consumer mindsets, potential deferred purchases, change in purchase patterns and re-prioritization of requirements and many, many more– an endless list of possible aspects may need to be considered.

We must tip our hats to those who have cracked it and figured out the way ahead entirely. The winner of the 2020 festive conquest will not go unnoticed, especially because what they do will stand out and deliver. Two months from now, do revisit this writing to review what happened.

In the context of the scenario building up, here are 5 strategic considerations that could be useful in enhancing festive marketing opportunities:

  1. Bring the best brains to huddle together:  

Create new processes that give the highest, priority to strategic thinking with dedicated time and resources to chart the path. This could mean going beyond inter-disciplinary teams and bring on the best set of strategic planners into the fold. Consider onboarding the best talent and domain experts and even if at project basis borrow or rent the best brains, given that it will all go to strengthen outcomes. Despite the uncertain environment, experienced practice heads could help in mitigating risks and increasing yields. The more the thinking in pre-planning, the more benefits to reap in the festive season.  At the same time, set boundaries on pre-planning strategy and executional stages. It is important as well, to get all the efforts required for quality implementation.

2. For better outcomes, evolve the process of setting expectations:

There is a fairly normal tendency during the festive period to push boundaries to take the lead or make up for what’s lost earlier in the year. This is based on the expected outcomes and results, more specifically, sales. But this year, the enormous uncertainties, ambitious goals and changing dynamics will end up making the prediction of results fairly challenging. At the same time, its crucial for the entire organisation to think coherently, be clear on what needs to happen and motivated enough to deliver on the business requirements.

The pressure to deliver big results combined with unanticipated changes in the environment, presents a challenge like never before. This setting of expectations must be therefore aligned to be a most feasible and judicious exercise. Every establishment does surely have many superior processes for the setting business goals and targets and should make the most out of them.

Here is a step of suggested inclusions that may better enable the process:

A host of uncertainties and multiple external and internal factors could impact achievement of desired results. And so, the first step suggested would be is to undertake a fundamental achievement factor index analysis and explore how resources could be best optimized. The second step would be to chart a range of expected outcomes from a conservative estimation to most aggressive upsides.

And if you may indulge me a little further, would like to introduce a simple yet powerful exercise for creating a brand-new method of setting expectations based on these 2 steps.

Presenting VVG©, the Vigilant View grid, (as conceptually represented in the Image 1)

This simple grid of 4 quadrants provides the understanding of how outcomes and their achievement is positioned. It is based on plotting the respective range arrived at from the above 2 steps. Depending on the quadrant a brand is in, tasks and priorities can be ascertained.

Quadrant 4: Review & restage spot 

Goal scenario below threshold, achievement Index under limitations

The task here would be to place all bets in moving to greater certainty of the achievement index. The least next closest step to aspire to is moving into a moderate goal stage in Q2.

Quadrant 3: Ambitious goal, indefinite delivery 

Challenging Goal scenario, achievement ability Index under limitations

With goals expected here being sound and aggressive, the task would be to revaluate their achievement in the light of the factors that impact it. If suitably addressed, this could well work in favour of great outcomes as a movement into Q4.

Quadrant 2: Cautious, comfort spot 

Goal scenario conservative, high achievement ability Index

In the given motivated space of high achievement possibilities, a push to move to aggressive goals, can yield better results. While the ultimate aim is always greater outcomes, this is a space of comfort that a business that may consciously decide to move to with moderate goals. It could also be a conscious decision for a business to continue remaining within quadrant 2. This comes from the knowledge of either knowing limitations or containing pressures on resources.  

Quadrant 1: Pole position- most coveted spot 

Aggressive Goal scenario, high achievement ability Index

This quadrant is the optimal one where every business must aspire to be in and make the most of the festive period. It is a point where the maximum and optimum utilisation of resources works with considered and calculated impact of factors to coherently move to the highest and most aggressive outcomes.

3. Breakdown & optimize the task for festive period:

While the entire window of about 4 weeks of festive opportunity begins from 17th Oct to 14th Nov, the bulk period needs to be broken down for granularity of days with objectives and deliverables. Pre-festive days are crucial to capture decision making and hence a great targeting opportunity. The big days and opportunities to keep in mind are:

  1. 17 Oct Navratras begin
  2. 25 Oct Dussehra
  3. 10 Nov IPL final 
  4. 13 Nov Dhanteras 
  5. 14 Nov Diwali
  6. Tentpole/impact TV properties IPL, KBC, Big Boss & Indian Idol 1st episode dates & celebrity special episodes which have a higher viewership.

Suggested next step: (Conceptually represented as Image 2, the Vigilant View grid, Q1 exp) 

Based on each interval breakdown, plan scenarios and breakdown tasks and outcomes followed by assessing the achievement factor index analysis for each period. In addition, plan for contingency budgets and upwards or downward revisions. For each interval, having the actual delivery status updated against the planned outcome break down provides better control. The cumulative beta coefficient of the delivery for each stage can enable reaching or even exceeding the overall outcome planned.

How this can be an advantage: The breakdown of intervals for estimation of the period, task and achievement abilities enables a realistic real-time view on an ongoing basis during the festive period. This is a huge advantage given all the uncertainties. It is also useful in taking decisions of recourse or reviewing goals. It gives a finite breakdown to the task and delivery, to keep all efforts on track. In case of under-delivery, it also aligns the incremental effort required towards reaching the cumulative overall goals. The point to note here is that it also helps to gauge the rate of demand and conversion for each stage as it may vary for different categories. For example, for some categories like automobile or retail, the days closer to the main festival dates may slowdown, whereas Jewellery and durables peak during on the big days like Dhanteras.

But the real benefit is that this exercise could be a goldmine for bigger outcomes when there is an upside. The way this works best is when there is a higher demand for a certain product or from a certain market or audience segment. All that needs to be done then is to alter the mix and dial up what is selling more or where its selling more and let the celebrations begin!

4- Challenge the constraints, think innovatively:

"If you are not innovative in your 2020 Festive approach, you are missing out"- (Me??)

The scenario of uncertainty is as much an opportunity as it is a challenge to think and fight the war smartly. There could be no better time to take the unconventional path. It has created the perfect environment for innovative ways of marketing. While the scale of what is finally done could vary, there is an equal opportunity to be path-breaking and each business must task itself with giving this a shot. 

In fact, in case of certain categories, it may almost be imperative (and beneficial) for innovation to stand out during the festive period. There is a play for such categories to work around in beating their challenges. 

A few examples of challenges categories may face:

"    For physical retail stores, the challenge to have adequate footfall.

"    For automobiles that are seeing an upside, there is a need to keep up the excitement and sustain the momentum with their existing brands.

"    For FMCG food brands, it's to figure out how to keep consumption levels at par with earlier years where social gatherings were common despite social distancing norms,.

The solution could be found in innovative thinking

Having been a media professional for many years, I cannot but speak on the role media could play here. In the earlier years, when large digitally linked innovative initiatives would be thought of, the concerns would be if they will work for mass audiences. There would be questions on whether all audience segments across India are digitally savvy enough. And often such innovations would not take off. Today, the digital usage surge offers a never before opportunity to be innovative in media. I would hope to see a never before number of such innovations taking off in the festive period. The gap between the marketing problem and the marketing task for many a business could well be digital innovation! And so, at such a time, the thinking must be challenged to throw up exciting innovative solutions. 

As mentioned earlier, the scale and level could vary based on respective circumstances but not constrained. As a bare minimum, the effort should be to juice out the owned and social media assets for a business. Likewise, we have loads of learning on what is trending and will work in this festive period in the space of content and search when it comes to audience behaviour. This again can be used innovatively to build fantastic winning propositions. 

The challenge to innovatively deliver must extend to mainline media as well based on audience usage- across TV, Print, Radio and OOH. With TV for example, the task break can down to channel genres and translate to an innovative presence. If having only digital innovations is constraining for a retail store, one could think of phygital innovation. Print holds the key to innovatively provide the phygital transformation and rejuvenate footfalls that retail stores are looking for.  

Each medium comes with its inherent advantages and will find a role in the overall brand task based on possibilities. Aligning the specific role of each medium in the delivery of outcomes and creating accountability and ownership can provide a totally different spin. 

5 - Create evolved real-time information and data processes:

For greater success, processes that enable providing real-time performance measurement, impact factor information, analysis and data with high frequency & granularity will be important. This includes analysis of daily sales or offtakes Vs target, understanding market sentiment or product demand by market and audience segment, creative and media impact, all within each weekly window. To be as much an updated position will be a great advantage to take informed decisions for the course of action ahead in beating the odds.

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.