Festivals are a point in India’s calendar where we see the topping of two key metrics — the highest annual retail spends, and the biggest chunk of every company’s marketing budget. This festival quarter alone, the marketing industry will pour between ₹25,000 and ₹30,000 crore into promoting their brands.

Break out the celebrities, buy all the ad space, and sit back to enjoy a job well done. But after all that effort and expenditure, why is it that so few of these festive campaigns end up being remembered by the public?

Instead, they exist as one-offs, memorable for only as long as the ad’s running time, before fading out from the public consciousness. Why is that, though? In a country that’s obsessed with Bollywood, shouldn’t a celebrity brand ambassador be enough to guarantee success?

As for why this isn’t the case, the answer is self-evident — virtually every brand in the country is competing for attention simultaneously and employing the same set of marketing channels, beating the same drum and expecting a different tune.

But it takes something unique to have an impact. For a brand to justify its expenditure during the festival period and see a viable ROI (Return on Investment), three common mistakes need to be avoided:

1. Overreliance on traditional marketing channels

Most brands will rely on the same marketing channels used by every other player in the industry. The usual suspects, namely television, print media, influencer marketing, and social media campaigns via Facebook and Instagram. The surge in airtime and screen space demand during the festive period sends costs skyrocketing.

The fact that every brand is competing for the same channels also results in less exposure. The obvious answer here is that brands need to avoid an overreliance on heavily saturated platforms and instead find the right channel on which to execute their campaign.

When consumers see multiple ads playing on the same festive sentiments, they tend to ignore them compared to recommendations from their peers. Brands need to think outside of the box, expand their scope of vision, and put in the effort to find communication channels that have yet to be fully tapped.

2. Neglecting to analyse the target audience

Using celebrities and social media influencers to appeal to a broader demographic is one of the first suggestions most marketing departments will put forth. While the idea undoubtedly has merit, it’s essential to ensure that the chosen celebrity’s followers are relevant to the brand’s target audience.

For example, a brand that wants to expand its presence in the East or South of the country should look for celebrities with a local connection who have a strong regional following.

The difficulty of tailoring marketing campaigns to various regions is no longer an issue — as long as a brand has an existing set of customers in a region, all that needs to be done is to encourage them to create their own content.

By aligning this, brands also ensure their festive campaigns are more impactful since they know their positioning will resonate with the intended audience.

3. Not utilising your consumers

Marketing is all about speaking to people in a way that truly resonates with them. This holds especially true during the festive season when every brand is competing for the same spotlight. Companies that want to succeed need to learn the most effective way to deploy their budget, and ultimately make it count.

One of the best, and most cost-effective, strategies to emerge in recent years has been word-of-mouth (WOM) marketing. WOM marketing is when brands encourage customers to promote their products and services organically. This ensures content virality, drives social media conversations, and can lead to campaign recognition.

A brands existing consumers are its strongest marketing voice that has the potential to rope in more new consumers. Brands often neglect the influence and power of their existing customers and instead spend on oversaturated ads to attract new consumers.

Brands should encourage customers to promote their products and services organically. This will ensure content virality, drive social media conversations, and encourage campaign recognition. Brands can then use the existing user base as a springboard to reach a wider circle of family, friends, and acquaintances.

In addition to the organic route, brands can also use various tools in the market designed to optimise and amplify the impact of UGC (user-generated content) to reach the widest possible audience. We cannot deny the fact that digital is the place for consumers to discover and evaluate.

Power of WOM marketing

WOM marketing brings several apparent advantages over other, more frequently relied-on channels. Aside from its low cost relative to other mediums, WOM marketing’s greatest asset is its effectiveness as a call-to-action. Research indicates that 92 per cent of consumers believe suggestions from friends and family more than they do advertising.

Since WOM marketing relies entirely on individuals sharing their opinions with their social circle, the effect of a single positive review or post is immense. User-generated content (UGC) of this sort is even effective in shaping the opinions of strangers.

To fully capitalise on the potential of WOM marketing, brands need to build momentum around it. This includes encouraging and incentivising users to share their experiences with the brand and showcase their loyalties.

Brands can then use the existing user base as a springboard through which to reach a much wider circle of family, friends, and acquaintances. A marketing message from a brand is easily brushed aside. But it’s much harder to ignore the positive, heartfelt impression of a brand shared by a trusted friend or family member.

For too long, brands have relied on an outdated set of gimmicks to see them through the festive season. While celebrity-led campaigns will always make a splash, they have no lasting impact, rarely lives up to anyone’s expectations, and almost never justify the hefty bill that accompanies them.

Crowdsourcing is the future of marketing. The sooner brands accept that the sooner they’ll have a festive season to truly celebrate.

Pranav Kosuri and Douglas Andersson

Pranav Kosuri and Douglas Andersson | Photo Credit: @davidjanssonphoto

(The authors are the Co-Founders, of Brandie, a social media Word-of-Mouth (WoM) marketing platform)