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Day Marketing: Strengthening brand associations

Brands are increasingly appropriating red-letter days, like World Heart Day and AIDS Day, to strengthen brand associations. BE checks out a packed calendar.

Jan 09, 2008, 12.00 AM IST

Before ‘day marketing’ kicked in, one relied on little more than memory to count off the important dates, mainly birthdays and anniversaries. But then it was perhaps inevitable that some marketer would lay claim to some chunk of the calendar or the other, and try to own it as a ‘property’.

Even as the original significance of calendar events like World Heart Day and World AIDS Day fade in memory, they remain occasions for brand marketers to galvanise public awareness, about their respective brands, if nothing else. Even though most brands we spoke to insist it is a social activity, and not purely aimed at increasing brand awareness.

But clearly there are benefits for both company and brand. Though it is difficult to give credit to a single organisation for initiating this, greeting card manufacturer Archies has an interesting perspective: “Giving cards and celebrating days are only done for near and dear ones. We started celebrating days much before corporates got interested and started brand associations,” claims Pramod Arora, MD, Archies.

Saffola is the first brand that comes to mind when ‘day marketing’ is spoken of. The Saffola Healthy Heart foundation has been associated with World Heart Day to increase health consciousness for the last two to three decades, and today has a large network of people who work closely for the cause.

Sameer Satpathy, head marketing, wellness & new products, Marico, says, “There are people who assist us in doing regular activation on heart check-ups, diet-control books/programmes, lifestyle advice etc.” Satpathy admits that the flurry of activity has helped build trust and a positive connect between brand and consumer.

Not wanting to be a flash-in-the-pan, the Healthy Heart foundation continuously aims at increasing awareness. A recent campaign for Saffola Lite received a mind-blowing 80,000 SMS responses. Says Satpathy, “We did this activity for two-and-half weeks on TV and radio, and the response was tremendous. There was absolutely no sales line at all; it was just a service message, but we were happy with the response it got,” he states.

Connects as strong as Saffola and World Heart Day are few and far between. But some brands claim to be getting there. MTV, for instance, has been associated with December 1, World AIDS Day.

Ashish Patil, general manager, MTV India, says, “We have taken up this day because the target group we interact with and appeal to is the most vulnerable to this issue.” MTV has tied-up with NGOs across the world and does numerous activities to promote the cause of AIDS awareness.

“We have P Diddy, Santana etc who work with us through the Staying Alive Foundation,” reveals Patil. In terms of programming, MTV premiered Phir Milenge, one of the few Bollywood films that addressed AIDS, on the channel, the first for any feature film; Real World, a reality show, featured Pedro, a HIV positive individual.

“He died on national TV. It was the first time something like that was shown,” says Patil. The MTV Music Summit was held for six years, awareness levels pre-event and post-event were measured, and there was an increase of up to 60%. Hutch MTV ‘Kya Baat Hai’ is a programme where HIV positive people discuss how a normal life can be led despite being affected by the deadly virus.

Besides AIDS Day, MTV celebrates Fool’s Day, Holi, Valentine’s and Raksha Bandhan etc. “In the larger scheme of things, these initiatives help strengthen our position as a deep social organisation, it improves ratings, our image perspective among people, and revenue opportunities,” explains Patil.

MTV’s not alone in attempting to leave a mark on World AIDS Day; gaming portal recently launched ‘Play Safe’ on the occasion. Rohit Sharma, COO, Zapak Digital Entertainment, says, “Our creative team came across a documentary on AIDS in India. The issue was highlighted by recollections of people in our office about how sex education classes were cancelled due to ‘unforeseen’ circumstances, or laughed and giggled through while lectures were in progress. We decided to reach youngsters through a medium that they are familiar with, gaming, and that’s how ‘Play Safe’ came into being.”

Apart from AIDS Day, ‘Play Safe’ will also be promoted on Valentine’s Day. Johnson & Johnson Vision Care’s (JJVC) association with World Sight Day is in sync with its credo.

“This year the focus was on ‘Vision for Children’, and we wanted to raise awareness by screening students in schools. In addition, we partnered with leading eye surgeons who wrote articles about the importance of vision care,” says Sanjay Gupta, MD, emerging markets, JJVC. The programme was conducted in Chennai, with JJVC bearing all the expenditure incurred.

And while there’s a definite element of CSR, these activities invariably raise brand awareness. Agrees Satpathy, “WOM helps spread a lot of information about what we do and that translates into imagery being built for the brand. Commercial interests are realised in the medium- to short-term, but the name stays on forever.” Sharma of Zapak thinks that an association with ‘days’ definitely helps improve awareness.

“It makes the brand come across as socially active and creates a positive impact in the minds of the consumer, and helps creates top-of-mind recall. The more people are exposed to it, the more it becomes viral, especially if a game is based on a controversial topic such as sex,” he says.

JJVC, however, maintains that the activities it associates with are purely from a community service point of view, “The focus here is the community; we will continue to do our part in making the community we do business with a better place to live. This is central to all of J&J,” insists Gupta.
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