IMPACT Annv Spl: Campaigns & religion - Prathap Suthan

Prathap Suthan, iYogi, shares seven thoughts for creating long-lasting campaigns from the innards of our religions.

by Prathap Suthan
Published - Dec 5, 2011 2:08 PM Updated: Dec 5, 2011 2:08 PM
IMPACT Annv Spl: Campaigns & religion - Prathap Suthan

My inspiration for this write-up comes from Life. Look around. Take in the arriving winter’s breath. I see that as a campaign. One that repeats every year.

Life is a great mirror. Within its reflections are brilliant examples. Guides to successful living, fundamentals for businesses, lessons for leadership, tips for parenting, love, and even seduction. All of these are great campaigns at work. And they have sustained themselves since we entered the Garden of Eden.

The biggest of these campaigns has arrived from a single category – religion. Every religion is a like a robust brand. With its own logo, brand identity, brand guide, brand symbols, brand rituals, brand ambassadors, brand character, brand tone, social networking, activation, ATL and BTL.

Go ahead. Interrogate these brands. Ratify them against every immutable law of marketing, or calibrate them across every latest advertising benchmark. They will smell of roses.

Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Sikhism and every other religion that rotates the Earth, are the greatest of brands with the largest of followers. And when they enjoy such enormous shares of market and absolute loyalty, it makes sense to pause a bit, appreciate the larger analogy, and learn from them.

So then, what can we pull out as 7 essential thoughts for long-lasting campaigns from the innards of our religions?

No matter what you hawk, your campaigns need to have a gram of truth within. People need to believe in it. They need to believe in the difference, the advantage, the benefit, or even the ego massage that your campaign promises. If it’s a dismissible offer that’s being peddled, despite the fact that it could be the most awesome campaign, beyond the initial furore, your campaign could render itself at the doorstep of effete. Now see this from any religion’s point of view. Belief is everything. And faith is absolute. For instance, if billions didn’t believe in the power, love, and forgiveness of Christ, probably there wouldn’t be Christianity.

If your brand and its campaigns are able to find customers who believe in your brand, then your job is done. Your continuing campaigns need to just stoke the flames, and keep faith burning.

Find the sweet spot
Everything that you do for a brand needs to find a home inside the consumer’s mind. There has to be a real need, a real want, or even a created desire that your product or service must fulfill. Otherwise, you’ll be wasting money on superficial stuff that will dry up sooner than later. The really effective campaign doesn’t just knock on the door. It will breeze in like a long lost brother, and be welcomed into the life of the buyer. It needs to give joy and completion to a buyer. Much like religion does. People need something to cling to, and someone to give them hope.

Halo of superiority
Your campaign needs to reward your customers with an emotional force-field. Something like an all-encompassing feeling that there’s nothing else purer, stronger, cleaner, and truer than your customers’ choice. They need to have that superior mental satisfaction that they have bought something that adds significant value to their lives. Something that’s the best in the business and far better than the Jones’. That’s when they will worship the brand – product or divinity. And pay obeisance to the campaigns that keep adding to their conviction.

Layers of depth
For any brand to invest in a successful campaign, it’s sensible to start building it on the strength of a great idea. One that’s simple, cogent, and offers plenty of scope to keep surprising while alluding to the larger story. In other words, campaigns that need to survive long will need to have built-in genes that allow you to keep radiating the core idea. Both to keep the consumer connect strong and retain attention to the brand, consider the possible stories, values, emotions, examples, plots, virtues, etc., that can come out of the Bible, Koran and Gita. There’s possibly no aspect of humankind that they don’t touch, explore or explain. That ladies and gentlemen, is depth. (Advertising ideas needn’t be as deep, but it would work better for you and your brand if the shallows were avoided.)

Keep refreshing daily
Hopefully, if your campaigns are imbued with strong ideas and fleshy layers, then this point ought to be easier to nail. Obviously, in these days of tweeting and Facebooking, doing a regular campaign alone doesn’t help. To keep them relevant and new, they need to be taken out of the regular ATL menu card. Take a look at how every religion has cracked this. Or how they systematically blow in with reminders – daily, weekly, and yearly. From attending church on Sundays, praying at mosques on Fridays, or going to temples on Tuesdays. From festivals like Holi, Easter, Muharram, Diwali, Karthika, Ramzan, Christmas. And from pilgrimages like Haj or Sabarimala or Mansarovar Yatra or Palayur Mahatheerthadanam. What these do, more than strengthening your commitment to your belief and faith, is that they refresh the relevance of your religion. Combine your brand’s idea with technology, use a lot of clever imagination and cleverer media planning, and keep regularly yet gently reminding your customers of your brand.

360 degree presence
Your campaigns can never gain strength or go far, barring extraordinary and monopolistic exceptions, if your brand isn’t visible to your customers. There’s nothing bigger than temples, mosques and churches to constantly and continuously remind you of your faith. They are everywhere – omnipresent. If any marketer in the world is going to depend on the power of a mortal and often mercurial celebrity to build a brand, do compare it with the 33 million gods and goddesses that work as immortal brand ambassadors for Hinduism. That’s an unbeatable parallel to replicate, but an example to gauge your campaign against the mother of all campaigns - however modestly.

Consistency is key
Ever since you were born, you have followed your faith diligently, and there’s been zero variance in its overall brand character, despite the vehicles of technology that carry them to audiences across the world. It’s absolutely been the same. The longest campaign ever.

Imagine investing in this kind of unwavering consistency and stability for your brand. It will be remarkable, and will pay you back handsomely. Investing in campaigns that change tone, looks, execution style or consumer benefit because of shifting goalposts, is guaranteed hara-kiri. Your advertising will have no focus. No brand loyalty. No ROI. And your confused customers will refrain from opening wallets.

So, if you are planning on creating and owning a case study campaign, please do spend some time with God.

(Prathap Suthan is Chief Creative Officer/ Chief Explorer, iYogi/ The Advisory.)


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