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Brands gear up for Holi 2021 under the shadow of COVID-19

One would surely recall Holi last year – celebrated under the shadow of rapidly growing COVID-19 cases in the country. Not very long after Holi, the nationwide lockdown was imposed on March 24, 2020. A year later, unfortunately the story is no different. After a very encouraging drop in the number of cases for some months, COVID-19 infection is on the rise again, with lockdowns and restrictions imposed in hotspots across states.

Already Maharashtra and Delhi governments have ordered that no Holi festivities will be allowed in light of the resurgence of the virus. Malls and crowded market places are being seen as superspreaders and strict COVID-19 protocols are being introduced.

However, so far all these have failed to dampen the festive spirit among the people and market places continue to witness huge crowds. Holi is not traditionally a heaving buying festival as Diwali. It is more about indulging in a variety of cuisines and get-togethers with friends and family.

Given the resilient and positive consumer sentiment, brands, too, have drawn up ambitious plans for Holi, to make up for subdued festivities last year. However, brands have not forgotten the COVID-19 norms and regulations while devising their Holi campaign strategies. A case in point is Surf Excel’s Holi campaign, which showcases how people can still have fun and be inventive while maintaining social distancing as they play with colours.

Giving a peek into consumer sentiments this Holi, Vishay Vijan, Director, Culinary Garage, said, “People are now focusing on quality over quantity of goods. People are ready to spend an extra buck just to ensure safety and health. I think brands must encourage people to stay home and help the world fight the pandemic to make sure the years to come are rather colourful. People today connect with brands easily and it’s important that each one of us align our messaging to communicate safety of everyone in the world.”

Siddhant Wangdi, Founder, Meatigo.com, added here, “In 2021, consumer sentiment has been very positive. Consumers have started stepping out more and going out to eat more. We are also seeing a strong demand across our products and more people have become comfortable with ordering meats and meat products online.”

Festivals and buying frenzy always go hand-in-hand. Keeping this in mind, Abhishek Rajan, COO, Paytm Mall, said, “We aim at making every festive sale better than the last one, and our Holi Special Maha Shopping Festival is the biggest yet. We have brought in thousands of top brands as well as sellers, artisans, MSMEs from across the country to offer the widest range of products that truly represent the vibrance of the festival of colours. We are showcasing handicrafts, from all over India and empowering them with our technology, potent distribution network and reach to help them expand their business. Consumer sentiments have improved compared to last year as the vaccination drive across the country has started. Our best-in-class deals and discounts ensure that our users are not constrained by budget to celebrate and spread the festive cheer.”

However, all that overindulgence in sumptuous food can have some unsavoury experiences. As Joy Chatterjee, General Manager, Sales & Marketing, Mankind Pharma, explains, “During festivals, people tend to eat a lot and Holi is one of those festivals when people indulge in eating a variety of sweets and traditional food items, which may cause digestion and acidity issues. We realised that this is the best period for us to convey our messaging. We have launched a video featuring our brand ambassador, Saurabh Shukla, urging people to take Ayurvedic and natural Gas-O-Fast if they are facing issues related to gas, acidity and indigestion. Apart from this, we have also launched a contest on social media platforms, which will run extensively for a few days to engage with the audience frequently.”

Digital is playing a key role in brands’ Holi strategies. Chandni Kohli Dhall, CMO, Hindustan Liquids and Official, Perrier, India, said, “We had planned a lot of on-ground activities for last year, but soon our focus shifted to digital media, and that is the direction we took to involve our target audience in the brand. We have been leveraging influencers digitally to show people how they can actually have a bar-like experience at home with different and easy-to-make recipes. There is a large chunk of audience that we have who is actively involved in the contests that we run and I think distraction from a tedious routine is what the consumer needs right now and that is what we are trying to give to them.”

In the last one year, consumers have become more aware and concerned about their health and hygiene, which also reflects now in their buying behavior. “People are more careful this year due to the pandemic. Consumer behaviour has shown that most people would want to spend this Holi with their close ones in their homes itself. And after a hectic day of Holi, you need a night of a calming sleep. We don’t want our consumers to lose their sleep in this pandemic. With the tagline, “Colourful Day, Blissful Night”, our focus is on giving a perfect environment to sleep each and every night,” said Pritesh Talwar, CEO, Livpure Sleep.

Celebrating festivals under the shadow of a pandemic has become the new normal, and this is having wide-ranging implications for brands and also shaping consumer sentiments.

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