Maha Kumbh 2010: The place for brand bhakti

By Rohit Nautiyal , afaqs!, Haridwar | In Advertising | May 03, 2010
This year, more than 40 brands made their presence felt at the Maha Kumbh. Religious significance apart, how important is the Kumbh Mela for brands, besides being a larger than life point-of-sale? And how important are such rural marketing platforms for brands? afaqs! explores

Maha Kumbh, often touted as the largest religious gathering in the world, can be viewed as a power display of various 'akharas', an organisation of the different sects of 'sadhus' or Hindu ascetics. What is also attention-grabbing about the 'Mela' this year is the power display of brands from across categories, which made their presence felt and connected with their respective TGs.

This year, the on-ground and outdoor duties of the Mela were awarded to one Delhi-based Impact Communications which had won the rights for the Kumbh in 2004 as well. In 2004, brand such as Pepsodent, Wheel, Fair & Lovely, Lifebuoy, Breeze, Colgate, Dettol, Eveready, Emami, New India Assurance and HP Gas had come on board.

This year, however, more than 40 brands were present at the Kumbh, including Dettol, Mortein, Alpenliebe, Bajaj Discover, Boroline, Suthol, Gillette, Tide, Pantene, Margo, Dabur Amla, Dabur Lal Dant Manjan, Kodak, Anchor, Taaza and Uninor.

Sanjay Kaul, chief executive officer, Impact Communications, points out that now, the Mela administration has realised the importance of bringing brands on-board, to improve the quality of public amenities, information kiosks and medical camps, which is why deliberate attempts are made to bring as many brands on board. Besides, brands also get much sought after visibility at this mega event.

The other significant change that was observed during the current Khumb was that brands did not restrict themselves to just use this platform only as an outdoor medium - for maximum visibility - instead every effort was made to engage the consumers at different levels.

If confectionery brand, Perfetti engaged people with aim-and-throw ball games, Nokia clicked pictures of visitors in front of a poster of Har ki Pauri (the area where thousands of pilgrims converge during the Kumbh festivities), and also gave away a print of the same. This was to promote its handset N5233 and highlight the quality of its 2 megapixel camera. The handset brands also displayed its budget handsets, including N2700, N2330 and N2323, ranging from Rs 2,000 to Rs 3,700 and even managed to sell 15-20 handsets on a daily basis.

According to Mohit Bhalla, media consultant, Perfetti, the Kumbh works well as a sampling platform. He also reveals that 38 per cent of the revenue for confectionery brands in India comes from rural markets, which is why events like Khumb become so important. In fact, the company regularly participates in select rural melas round the year.

Similarly, Kodak used the Kumbh as a launch platform for EC70, an analogue camera that costs Rs 299. The rationale was to attract visitors who may not be carrying a camera and do not have the budget to purchase a digital camera.

R Ganesh, general manager, marketing - digital capture and film capture, Kodak India shares that close to 80 per cent of the total population visiting the Kumbh belongs to the lower socio-economic classes. Also, analogue or film-based camera penetration is as low as 16 per cent in India.

"We explore rural marketing platforms regularly, by putting kiosks in rural haats in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Chhattisgarh. Kodak sells more than 5 lakh units per year, and a substantial portion of the sales comes from rural markets," he adds.

According to Debashis Dutta, managing director, GD Pharmaceuticals, Kumbh is a place where brands come in direct contact with their existing and potential customers. The promotion and feedback are instantaneous and hands-on. "The platform acts as a real-time interface, where the consumers learn about our brands and we learn about their preferences. Since the Kumbh is visited by people from all walks of life, various regions, languages and culture; it forms a vibrant mosaic to study," he opines.

GD Pharmaceuticals placed its antiseptic cream, Boroline and skin lotion, Suthol at the stalls. In a bid to forge a spiritual connect with its TG, the company provided complimentary copies of Shiv Chalisa and Hanuman Chalisa with every piece sold.

Other brands also tried different routes to engage the consumers. For instance, Henkel placed three products from its stable -- Henko detergent, Margo toilet soap and Chek detergent.

"We had innovative communication tools, such as walking inflatables, tray boys and signages to grab our TG's attention. Our tray boys with product sachets mingled with the crowd; and hence, worked as walking shop windows for the company. The idea behind this was to reach out to the audience; rather than wait for them to come to the stall," says Jayant Singh, managing director, Henkel India.

Uninor partnered with the Kumbh Mela Committee to set up a network of assistance booths meant to provide free emergency calls and maps of the area. Also, the telecom player extended its reach to ensure better accessibility, by adding more retail points in the area. Similar activities were carried out by Idea, Tata Docomo, BSNL and Vodafone.

Discount schemes were yet another crowd puller at the stalls; and promoters left no stone unturned to explain these to the visitors. During the entire period of the Mela, most of the sales were recorded only after 5 pm, a preferred time for people to step out as the sun relents.

As expected, the outdoor scene in Haridwar is cluttered, with most of the hoardings highlighting the propaganda of different akharas. However, to tackle this, the brand tried to reach the consumers through creative and innovative messages, keeping the religious significance of the place in mind.

For instance, the copy on the Dettol entry gate read, 'Kumbh snan aaj, Dettol snan har roz'. Similarly, branding an entire police check post close to Har Ki Pauri, Vodafone's creative carried the image of the river Ganga with floating diyas. The copy read, 'Roam karo Vodafone ke saath'.

Besides, signages, static balloons and mobile vans were also present at the Kumbh.

According to the Mela administration, around 40 million people visited the Maha Kumbh this year. The Purna Kumbha Mela will again be held at Prayag in 2013.

Last year, ICRA, an information services and technology solutions provider, submitted a survey report to the Government of Uttarakhand (GoU), evaluating the tourism infrastructure in Haridwar and nearby areas. The report suggested that 20 per cent of the tourists visiting these areas had a monthly household income of more than Rs 10,000. The survey also revealed that nearly two-thirds of the tourists belonged to the working population. Also, 52 per cent of the tourists were in the age group of 20-40 years.

"This year, FMCG and telecom clients increased their spends by 80 per cent approximately," claims Kaul of Impact Communications.

© 2010 afaqs!