A red hot season for marketers

Harish Bhat | Updated on April 11, 2013

Sunglasses, cold drinks, umbrellas, ice-cream and more – the resources used to cope with summer, not to mention other reasons, generate a period of intense marketing. _ SHIV KUMAR PUSHPAKAR, A_SHAIKMOHIDEEN, PTI   -  THE HINDU



Summer has begun in right earnest. In my home town, Bangalore, the mercury has touched its highest levels over the past 15 years, and the garden city has been described variously as an oven and a sauna. The days are getting uncomfortably hotter, but on the positive side, this is also a red hot season for marketers. For several product categories in India, it will be peak season of the year.

You may think that peaking consumer demand during these months is driven primarily by the heat of summer. While that is a valid line of thought, it is quite incorrect. The reality is that this season holds more diverse consumption triggers than any other time of the year, and many of them have nothing to do with the rising temperatures. While a few motivators of purchase are indeed due to the summer heat, others arise from entirely unrelated aspects of consumer behaviour which just happen to occur during this period. In fact, it is amazing to see how many diverse drivers of demand are packed into the summer season. Some of these triggers are briefly described below, and a good understanding of how they work will help marketers leverage them well.

Heat and Dust

The most obvious trigger of consumption is, of course, the very hot weather and the dusty, dry surroundings. All of this leads to intense perspiration and insatiable thirst, creating wonderful spikes in demand for thirst-quenching or cooling products ranging from cold drinks or bottled water, to chilled beer, to ice-cream. In recent years, cold coffees and iced lemon teas have also begun making their delicious appearance. In addition, the hot, sultry weather creates extreme discomfort, leading to both considered and impulse purchases of “cooling” durables such as room air-conditioners and ceiling fans.

Relentless sunshine

Summer months in India also witness glorious, bright but relentless sunshine. This creates a consumption trigger of its own, quite distinct from the thirst unleashed by heat and dust. People require sunglasses to protect their eyes from the unbearable brightness, so here is the genesis of a peak season for yet another product. Increasingly, health and beauty-conscious consumers seek out sunscreen lotions and sophisticated creams that shield them from harmful ultraviolet rays of the sun. The summer sun is also a trigger for purchase of that all-time favourite product, umbrellas, as women seek to protect their light-skinned complexions from the harsh light.

Summer vacations

Our schools shut down for annual vacations during April and May. This creates significant demand for a host of holiday-related products. Topping the list is the strong desire for family travel and vacations within India and, in recent years, outside India as well. So you have a host of products vying for the consumers’ wallet, such as all-inclusive holidays to Europe or the Orient, and deluxe cruises to Alaska or Singapore. Vacations also create demand for summer camps where kids can pursue creative hobbies or sports, and all the accessories (cricket bats, tennis racquets, paint boxes) that these camps require. These camps are particularly important in today’s context because in double income families (of which there are an increasing number) both parents often cannot obtain extended holidays from their busy offices. Hence, they are unable to dedicate quality vacation time to their children. On the other hand, they have more than adequate disposable income to pay entrance to such kids’ facilities.

Festivals galore

When we think of the festival season in India, Diwali and Dussehra come naturally to mind, and these fall during the onset of winter. But in actual fact, it is the summer months which host the largest number of festivals. Ugadi, the New Year’s Day in several States, falls in this period. So does the first of the Chithirai month, which marks a new year for Tamil people, as does Vishu for Keralites. Holi, Baisakhi, Easter, Gudi Padwa, Akshaya Tritiya … the list of summer festivals is virtually endless. These festivals create immediate consumer demand for new garments, jewellery and similar accessories. After all, how can you even think of entering the new year without new clothes? While most of these festival days have been prominent part of Indian culture for centuries, a festival such as Akshaya Tritiya is particularly interesting because it has been largely a creation of modern marketers who have leveraged a somewhat obscure truth to create the busiest day for jewellery purchases across several States.

Season of weddings

The hot months of April and May are also amongst the busiest periods for Indian weddings. These are typically very auspicious months on the Hindu Panchang (calendar), and they therefore offer several good wedding dates which families can choose from. On certain most auspicious dates, thousands of weddings occur on a single day in a single city. In our country, there is no greater trigger for uninhibited spending than a wedding in the family. Consumer demand runs wild for durables, gold and jewellery, wristwatches, silks and saris and suitings - for the bride, bridegroom and their close relatives. As weddings in some segments of our society have also become lavish displays of wealth, with huge banquets and bright lights, this is also peak consumption season for new symbols of status such as Scotch whisky and champagne, which are served in copious amounts in luxurious wedding halls.

And now, IPL

In addition to these natural drivers of consumer demand, here is a new entrant which is likely to become a permanent feature of our hot months. IPL – the Indian Premier League of Cricket – has become a summer marketing festival in itself. Sponsored by the biggest names in the country, and featuring an irresistible mix of cricket, Bollywood and glitzy entertainment, IPL spawns demand for expensive tickets, for travel to match venues, for new television sets, for products that are advertised shamelessly in stadia and on players’ vests, and for team merchandise. This is a virtual bonanza for a wide variety of brands.

The six diverse triggers described above collectively make summer a very busy season for Indian marketers. Yet each of these summer triggers requires a very different marketing approach. For instance, women buying jewellery for family weddings require persuasion of a very different kind from youngsters buying a chilled bottle of Pepsi or Coke on impulse. The ability to understand this very well, and thereafter build appropriate marketing campaigns for our respective product categories, will, therefore, decide how hot the season will actually turn out to be.

Harish Bhat is Managing Director and CEO of Tata Global Beverages Ltd, and author of the book ‘Tata Log: Eight Modern Stories from a Timeless Institution’.The views are personal. >

Published on April 11, 2013

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