Does religion have a place in marketing?

Brands that highlight religions in ads claim that the purpose is to get rid of prejudices and expand their market by connecting with diverse audiences

e4m by Shreshtha Verma
Published: Jul 29, 2019 8:49 AM  | 3 min read
Religion Centric Ads

From Brooke Bond Red Label's ‘Shree Ganesh Apnepan Ka’ ad to Closeup's #freetolove campaign, brands are making an effort to bridge the religious and caste divide and aiming to build a more inclusive society through their ads.

While some brands have featured religion-centric ads in the past too, they are now more in the limelight thanks to the immense reach and influence of social media.

Brand expert Rama K says we have always seen religion-centric ads during festivals. There is probably a mission behind launching them.

With religion-centric advertising, brands probably don't intend to promote caste, creed and colour, but they simply focus on creating a sense of belonging among their diverse consumers.

Even clothing and jewellery brands have religion-specific collections, for example, the Lakshmi pendants at jewellery shops and Hijab collections by popular clothing brands. While talking to exchange4media, Suvankar Sen, Executive Director, Senco Gold & Diamonds, shared their purpose of coming up with a religion-focused jewellery collection.

According to him, the brand’s intent is to focus on relationships. "Human beings or consumers are intrinsically loving and peaceful individuals. Religion-focused branding is to celebrate the multiple festivals of our country. It helps them to connect to roots," Sen says.

Sen believes that big brands have a certain responsibility on their shoulders. He says that brands should stand for a certain philosophy. It's not transactional only, but also to make the world better for future generations. 

When it comes to the audience response to such advertisements, brands receive a mixed reaction. In the complex social structure of India, anything that is religion-centric never goes smooth. The Surf Excel ‘Dag Acche Hai’ TVC was although centred around religious harmony, it instantly faced criticism from several quarters .

Adhvith Dhuddhu, CEO of creative ad tech agency AliveNow, believes that the audience is always craving for great content. Whether the content is humorous, sensational, shocking, sensitive, suspenseful, etc, there's always an audience for that kind of content. This kind of content falls under the sensitive category, so any brand campaign that boldly takes a stand on sensitive social issues is great content that the audience will surely consume.

According to Dhuddhu, there are usually two intentions or objectives behind religion-centric endorsements. One is to draw attention and get people to talk about a campaign like this and the second is to see if any kind of positive emotion due to the campaign can rub off on the brand itself. Brands all over the world are known for taking bold and controversial stands on sensitive social topics.

"It helps brands primarily because there's no harm in associating something positive, hopeful and emotional with a brand. Every brand wants to be perceived as friendly, warm and caring, these kinds of ads and campaigns help rub off that feeling to a brand. Another reason how it helps brands is purely on an attention basis because doing ads on these kinds of sensitive topics drives conversations online which a brand will love," explains Dhuddhu.

Brands with religion-centric marketing claim that their sole purpose is to make India a more inclusive society, but at the same time they want to expand their market and connect with diverse audiences with a personal approach.  



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