If you don’t want a made-in-China Diwali …

Alpana Parida | Updated on January 22, 2018 Published on November 19, 2015

Shaping the Diwali experience KR DEEPAK about some distinctively Indian branding for the festival?

The act of lighting diyas/candles requires one to bend down in a gesture of obeisance.  The behaviour is ritualistic, yet synchronic with homage or a prayer. The influx of electric fairy lights and Chinese lanterns festooned as streamers requires you to stand up and affix these. The gesture is similar to decorating for a party. Just as beliefs dictate actions, so do actions dictate belief. As we do things differently, our deeper belief systems will change.

Our traditional festivals, which were marked by rituals signifying piety and devotion, are taking on lifestyle codes. From the pious fasting by married women for their husband’s longevity (Karva Chauth), the Indian Valentine’s Day has become a glamorous event for public avowals of commitment. The playful ‘ pichkari’ that sprayed coloured water on friends and family is increasingly replaced by toy water blasters.

While both achieve the same outcome, the latter brings codes of video games and paintball, taking the playfulness to competitiveness. Change is inevitable but this reinterpretation of Indian traditions is coming via Chinese merchandise. There is opportunity here to design this change – to ‘brand’ these festivals, make them economic engines such as Christmas or Thanksgiving for the US.

Christmas is a great example of branding. Decoding Christmas we can see the encoded rituals of the festival. Catchy Christmas carols play in every store and street corner. The stores are cozy havens , with the smell of pine and cinnamon, adorned in colour coded Christmas festivities. They become places of celebration. The very act of shopping is an important ritual of the festival. Christmas has distinctive colours, sounds, smells and tastes. There is a strong sensorial cohesion in how it is branded across the world. The spirit of Christmas is encapsulated in phrases such as “spreading goodwill and cheer” or “’tis the season to be jolly”. The Christmas tree, the chimney and stockings and the plate of cookies and a glass of milk for the weary Santa are myths and rituals perpetuated by conspiring parents and happy kids. M otifs such as mistletoe, snowflakes, the tree, candy canes and the stars result in a clear delineation of the codes and rituals of Christmas. Hollywood complies, with at least one Christmas film every year, keeping the romance of Christmas alive across generations.

What are the colours/motifs of Diwali? Apart from the lamps and Laxmi coins, there isn’t a common design language. If we don’t create a contemporary design language, the Chinese will fashion our Diwali experience.

Alpana Parida is the President of DY Works, India’s largest brand strategy and brand design firm.

Published on November 19, 2015
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