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Ad Folk Reflect on India’s Independence Day

— Subramanian Krishnan, Chief Strategy Officer at TBWA\ India

LBB> Why is the 70th Independence Day anniversary so important for brands?

In many ways, the 70th Independence Day is just the same as previous ones. However, in spirit, it does feel special.

This is because there has been a surge of expectation and optimism among ordinary Indians. They feel that, finally, we are about to overcome decades of socio-economic maladies. This has been largely driven by two factors.

Firstly, with a genuine political focus on fighting corruption and inclusive prosperity, everyday Indians feel that they are progressing towards a brighter future.

Secondly, a combination of a smartphone and media revolution has fired up energies of a youthful nation. The mobile phone revolution has democratised access while the media revolution has fuelled aspirations, both of which were historically restricted to the traditional elites. This has ensured that the new consuming class is moving out of a constraint-driven worldview into one powered by possibilities.

In this canvas, the 70th year of independence is a watershed moment in the mindset of India. Brands are cognisant of this socioeconomic change sweeping the country and are keen to ride on this zeitgeist. But their actual ability to ride this wave has been, at best, mixed.

LBB> Have you seen in trends or wider messages in brand activity around the celebration this year?

A few Indian homegrown brands like ‘Hero Motors’ and ‘Paytm’ chose to connect with the patriotic side of their consumers.

But, many brands used it as any other tactical opportunity to do more business, Some brands in banking and finance were celebrating the event like every other year. And then, retail brands and e-commerce sites remained on ‘fire sale’ and ‘bargain prices’ under the ‘Independence Day’ excuse.

In short, while the spirit was there among everyday Indians, brands seem to not have leveraged that opportunity uniquely or disruptively.

It’s the anniversary of India’s independence and the anniversary of the partition of India and Pakistan – does that present any challenges when it comes to what tone to take?

The emerging narrative is that Indians, especially millennials, are growing out of the partition blues. This youth generation has not lived with the trauma of partition.

In many ways, they are more selfishly future-facing. Hence, they embrace the Independence Day as a day to make a future resolve. No wonder then, that India’s Prime Minister referred to the Independence Day as ‘Sankalp Diwas’ (Resolution Day).

LBB> What else should we note about India’s Independence Day?

Seventy years young, India has its tasks cut out.

As a country, we need to continue to grow at a world-beating pace. Equally, we need to strive to reduce our internal imbalances and inequalities in our socio-economic transformation. All this, while we gain our rightful place in the league of nations, both within Asia and the larger world.

Brands, especially the Indian home-grown ones, have an opportunity to create their own unique narrative on this national optimism and energy, rather than mimic tired marketing formulas.

We hope that many of them realize this moment of disruption. Onwards to 75.

This interview was originally published in the LittleBlackBook

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