Mumbai: This Valentine’s Day advertisers are betting on more than just love and fresh air. As consumers experience the pressures of a slowing economy, advertisers are putting out messages that are pragmatic, utilitarian, value-added or investment-based and appeal to a broad swathe of consumers beyond lovelorn couples.
“Recession romance” is playing out across markets this February, as advertisers across industries, including real estate, auto and media infuse their products with romance. Cleverly tuning in to the zeitgeist, youth entertainment channel UTV Bindass recently took off on the famous MasterCard ads: “Preparing for Valentine’s day? Flowers & gift: Rs1,000; hiring a limousine: Rs10,000; dinner at 5 star: Rs15,000; diamond ring: Rs80,000. Total cost: very expensive. Staying at home and watching TV instead: Free. Recession Romance”.
“We thought, for once let’s enjoy this recession and remind young people there’s a smarter way of doing this without blowing up money,” says Ashok Abraham Cherian, business head at UTV Bindass, the channel under the UTV Group, adding that the promotion was also a tongue-in-cheek way of telling them that home was the safest, non-intrusive environment they could be in today. “You’re not going to have some moral police guy come in and burst that heart-shaped balloon,” he adds.
Out Of Home Media (India) Pvt. Ltd, commonly know as OOH Media, which is India’s largest out-of-home television company, has similarly launched “LOohve Spots” on their in-store network, which listed the top five Valentine hangouts in each city. Needless to say, all were free public spaces.
Some products are being smartly positioned as good value/investments and hence V-Day gifts, in an endeavour to connect with money-conscious consumers. A 2008 World Gold Council (WGC) study claims that women consider gold a superior gift due to its implicit value. “The higher gold price has added to gold jewellery’s desirability despite these challenging economic times,” says Philip Olden, managing director of WGC.
Meanwhile, real estate company DishaDirect urges consumers to invest in a “Heartland” home for their Valentine. And touting long-term protection for one’s loved ones, Max New York Life Insurance Co. Ltd offers “Karo Zyaada Pyaar Ka Vada”.
There’s nothing like a good bargain to impress your loved one or save some chips. Witness a flurry of heartfelt sales, discounts and brand promotions.
Ads for online portal Indiatimes Shopping announced “50% Back. 100% Love”, while those for eBay India read: “Valentine’s on a budget”.
“Valentine’s Day is one of the top traditional gift-giving days, so it’s smart to ask consumers to remember you,” says Scott Goodson, founder and chief executive of StrawberryFrog, an independent creative agency. “In a recession, you need to demonstrate value not by showing prices (unless you are famous for being a value-for-money brands such as Ikea or Wal-Mart), but by context... On Valentine’s Day, who wouldn’t find that appealing?”
The Indiatimes ad would appeal to consumers because everyone knows that 100% of the love is worth 50% back, explains Goodson.
He adds, however, that this strategy may not be enough if a lot of brands are using it because the challenge is to break through the clutter and transform the day into something memorable versus just another blur. And in a slowing economy, to do it with less budget.
In the current economic climate, advertisers also feel the need to extend their reach as the traditional target group comes under pressure. “It has more to do with the fact that groups (young people working in sectors such as retail, IT, BPO) who were considered prime targets for Valentine’s Day are under pressure. So, there is a need to expand the core target audience to family, friends, pets and colleagues this Valentine’s day,” says Anand Halve, co-founder, Chlorophyll Brand and Communications Consultancy Pvt. Ltd.
Others are looking to shake off stereotype associations with their brand, in the hope that their promotions are seen as more than a Valentine’s Day activity. “I don’t want to deny Valentine’s day…” says Shalini Degan, category director—delight and lifestyle, Britannia Industries Ltd, who has spent the last few days fielding calls from media persons about their latest promotion for Little Hearts, their brand of sweet, heart-shaped biscuits. “We want to go beyond the hackneyed “Oh…the product is in the shape of a heart…” We sell biscuits.
At Britannia, it’s about adding that smile, that lightness, that skip in the step, about making new friends and connections,” she says.
The month-long promotion, aimed largely at tweens and teenagers offers them a chance to win Rs6 lakh in talk time, and a Chevrolet Spark car. “(In school and college) There is always stress on the pocket, so even a Rs10 (mobile) recharge is appreciated.”
Some marketers are using colours, imagery or words associated with Valentine’s Day without actually making any reference to it…a way to get around the moral police, perhaps, or to garner some business.
An ad for Hyundai cars says: “So practical, it touches every family’s heart.” While a very pink print ad for Maruti cars says, “Stealing hearts and attention. India’s first love for the last 25 years.” And one for Garcia’s pizza says “Buy one, get one free” with little red hearts emerging from the pizza. “There’s this whole raft of advertisers, who believe that it (Valentine’s Day associations) will help them manage their sales curve,” says Halve of Chlorophyll, explaining that the effort could prove futile considering that there is no intrinsic link between the product and the occasion and far more advertisers, such as jewellery brands, are making a more relevant connect.
However, not all brands that use the Valentine’s Day promo will actually succeed, say experts. “Riding on the recession is easier than rising above it. But you need great creativity, and the brands that will do well this Valentine’s day will have great ideas behind them,” says Goodson of StrawberryFrog.