BRAND, Event

Brands lose color on Holi

In midst of planning our Holirevelry ,one of our female friends refused to go to a party in the farm, citing obnoxious behaviorby a gang of Holi boys in a similar setting a few years back.

I wouldnt blame her entirely, to a large extent, on Holi, cities turn intoperv jungles, diluting the innocent fun that the festival stands for. Unlike any other festival in India, Holi elicits an extreme response from people: “ Love or Hate”.

Come to think of it, Holi is the only true indigenous youth festival in India. What makes it popular is that it is inherently fun as there is an excuse to be unabashedly wicked and colorful in the mind and of course you don’t have a choice with your appearance. These make the essential ingredients of any great party, throw in some bhang for drugs and it’s the perfect occasion to lap up the megawattage of energy.

Despite its colorful essence and the fact that “Bollywood”, our top social influencer has adopted and milked the Holi spirit since much before Amitabh’s “Rang Barse and much after Akshay’s “Let’s playHoli”,  brands in India have gone after it half heartedly, what with all budgets being exhausted between Diwali thru Christmas to New Years.What one usually ends up with is a regional campaign and at best maybe a 30 second spot with a celeb wishing viewers a “Very Happy Holi”.

The dollar club ad above had a poorer TVC cousin.

Yes there are a few well made targeted efforts in terms of commercials from the likes of Fanta & a few paint and detergent brands which find a direct link to colors , there is no noteworthy effort by brands to engage the youth audience that this festival attracts.

How tough can it be?

If PoonamPandey can use Holi or any occasion for that matter to sell her wares what stops Diesel or a Reebok?

There is a lot that brands can do except the standard sponsorship route for a holi party with the presence of a transitory print on the entry ticket and couple of rush job el cheapo vinyl’s at the venue.


Events: Just like New Years, interesting properties can be built around Holi. People  need an excuse and brands must look at offering them one.

Case in point,EristoffInvasion featuring David Guetta being organizedin Gurgaon, Pune , Bangalore, beginning a day after holi and yet there has been no effort to bring a Holi connect to the proceedings.( http://www.eristoffinvasion.in/ )

Instead of investing in a one off property, why not build a value proposition around it and Holi.

This could be made into an annual feature on the linesof Glastonbury (www.glastonburyfestivals.co.uk/)  festival which happens every year for 3 days. Starting two days in advance with Holi being the grand finale of the festival, featuring the biggest names in Music & performing arts.

Being the hotbed of   performing arts & creativity with colors, music , fun and games, it would be an event done right with a long term vision.

Merchandising:  has been one of the more neglected avenuesof this festival. I suspect the reason for brands not venturing in freebies or merchandise centered around Holi is the myopia of “it wouldn’t last beyond the day” forgetting it’s not their costly merchandise that is supposed to last, it is the memories that it enables.

The idea of merchandising is to drive visibility and give the customer an opportunity to touch and feel the brand and its elements bringing its personality to life. Merchandising is usually the last mile of all brand related activities, howeverwhen the target consumer is young and is more than happy to stand out even with the help of props it’s a super opportunity for brands to make an impression.

There are obvious choices such as dri fit Holi Vests that you can wear while playing holi, branded Pichkaris with an interesting message etc.

Parachute did a holi ad:

If the theme was protecting the hair from gulal, couldn’t they do an on ground promotion by giving free sachet of their oil & a branded bandana with every entry pass at a Holi Cow or a poorer cousin.

Won’t the consumer love to see a nerolac sponsoring a skin friendly gulal stall at a Holi party? More importantly, the impression it’ll make. Or a soap brand saying that this would clean you up and ensure that skin is not left dry or itchy (blah,…)

Britannia demonstrated such earnestness with an on pack goodie and established relevance with the festival. Sure enough their biscuits must have replaced a few snack brands on holi platters in households


Ironically enough a festival with its spirit so deeply entrenched in fun &games,gamification via interesting contest et al is largely absent. Instead,tv channels tend to play up the perv value on holibyairing their holi parties inhabited by b & c grade celebrities. Barring this sorry ass programming even youth channels like MTV have largely failed in creatively milking the  gamification ideal on television or online

Here are some generic ideas which could be employed by brands:-

  1. Holi trail: – Have you noticed people going from one friend’s house to another on holi? It happens all the time and the gratification is as simple as celebrating the fun fest with as many of your close pals.To amplify this gratification a few notches, could a youth channel such as MTVgamify the same activity?
    1. Meet friends, relatives at different locations
    2. Click and tag them with a caption
    3. Move on to the next friend’s house making a little Holi trail on Facebook

Awards could be for the one who does the hardwork& visits most number of people and the one who gets most number of likes with in a time frame.

2. Paintball Contest-

Paintball seems like a conservative western version of Holi that you can play all year long.

Its hard to understandthat such a sport/ activity, completely in sync with the spirit of Holi, has not been played up in urban centers. Being a no contact sport its less evasive than the liberties Holi grants. So now the women folk can give you a head shot and go “Buranamanoholihai”.

Fanta could do this. Teams from all across regions facing off, progressing thru stages in a nicelymade combat arena. Even thiscould be a multiple day activity with grand finale on holi. A great live event, surely and a tv property proposition if done well.

Other thoughts:

Again there are brands like United Colors of Benetton, vastly popular in India but not very active advertisers apart from at POP. Shouldn’t they just have the grandest Holi party celebrating colour, have a paintball arena and  ofcourse invite us :/

Gamification ideas do not necessarily have to be big budgeted extravaganzas. The idea is tomake the most of the Holi spirit.

A local Haldiram for instance, could organize a ghujia eating competition with a Haldiram voucher valid for a year for say 5000 Rs as gratification to Mr and Ms Gujia. A little pre build up in the form of registrations to the limited seats could project the deep pocketedbaniyas in a more youthful light.

Maybe there is a lesson or two that can be learnt from the campaign below in effectively leveraging a proposition. Though it conveys a social message, it does it effectively capturing the essence of Holi before delivering the sucker punch:

It’s now upto the Kingfishers, Bacardis and their agencies to decide how they want to milk the next Holi. Let’s give you a little short cut:  There’s a contact tab at the top <don’t tell anyone>.



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