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Posted by Sarthak Sharma on October 26, 2016

Diwali: what does it mean for brands?

Diwali is one of the largest festivals celebrated by Indians and people of Indian origin across the world. It is a great opportunity for marketers to connect with the South Asian community in Canada, but to connect with this community, we need to understand what Diwali is.

A quick search on Google will tell you several definitions of Diwali and a show a plethora of beautiful images of lights and fireworks.

‘A South Asian festival of light. A festival that marks the victory of light over dark and good over evil’

Is this good enough? This is just the tip of the iceberg. Lights and fireworks don’t define Diwali.

Looking at work released in the past few years, we made a couple of key observations:

  1. Not a lot of brands see Diwali as an opportunity to engage with their consumers. They still perceive Diwali as an event celebrated mostly by immigrants, with that immigrant population still being a small segment of the total population.
  2. The work done by brands during this festive season shows a lack of understanding and knowledge of the culture, and the importance of the festival.

So let’s tackle these points.

Statistics Canada projects that by 2031, the South Asian population will grow by 131% and will reach 3.6 million, making them the largest minority in Canada. South Asians are well-educated with higher degrees of education, and they are fluent in at least one of the official languages of Canada.

Diwali is a festival which is celebrated across all generations – immigrants who have arrived recently, immigrants living in Canada for more than 10 years, and even those who have been in Canada for generations. Therefore, it becomes simpler for brands to communicate to the entire community without having to heavily segment their audience.

These facts and figures stress the importance of why brands need to target the South Asian community. Now the question is, what is Diwali and what happens during the festival?

Lights and fireworks? These are instruments or peripherals of this festival. Just talking about them is not the correct or complete portrayal of Diwali. It is almost like saying Christmas is about Santa Claus and a Christmas tree.

For argument's sake, let’s just say, Diwali is Christmas for South Asians. It is the festival when families and friends get together, exchange gifts, shop for themselves, play games, and decorate their houses. It is about togetherness, sharing, and enjoyment. Understanding these values and this culture can open doors for brands to connect with the consumers.

Gifting and entertaining becomes huge during this season and designing the right kind of communication, promotions, or packaging is important. One key thing to remember is that illustrating a lamp (diya) and writing something in Hindi will not make an effective piece of communication for Diwali. Brands need to integrate their products into this festival. Simple imagery of families and friends which mirror the celebration, with carefully crafted messages, will resonate more with the consumer.

Cultural nuance is the key. BTI Brand Innovations holds the expertise and understanding of the culture of ethnic communities in Canada, and helps brands to connect with them.