Festival Marketing Around the World
Despite the pandemic, the holiday shopping season’s retail sales in the US were up by 8.5% in 2021, the greatest increase in 17 years. Business owners and marketers are well aware of the possibility of increasing sales during the holidays; but what about the other opportunities that exist throughout the year – the festivals celebrated in different cultures around the world?
In the west, the focus is mainly on Christmas marketing and the New Year (and Easter to a lesser extent). Most companies, even when they want to take an international approach, often forget about all the other festivals their international audiences celebrate. However, there is great scope for increasing profit if the international holiday marketing strategy is done in the right manner.
Executing international festival campaigns could be difficult due to cultural barriers, so begin by educating yourself thoroughly on various cultural celebrations so you can address them in a respectful and sensitive manner. Read about the history, reasons to celebrate, and the traditions involved. If you can find someone to talk to directly about a festival they celebrate within their culture, even better.
Diwali, Ramadan, Lunar New Year, and many more festivals are celebrated by giving gifts to friends and family. Someone who celebrates Diwali is not looking for Christmas gifts and discounts, so accommodating their needs will help you stand out from the competition. If your business ships internationally, there is no excuse to not engage with your audience in this way. You can also mention these festivals in your content and social media.
As marketers, we are always looking for ways to make an impact on our audiences, and these festivals present themselves as great opportunities to grow your customer base. Below are a few holidays I believe are worth looking into.
Diwali is the biggest festival in India, and it’s one of the most important religious celebrations in Hinduism, Jainism, and Sikhism. It is also called the festival of light (and is sometimes spelt ‘Divali’). It lasts for five days, from the 13th day of the dark half of the lunar month Ashvina to the second day of the light half of the lunar month Kartika. The festival today is celebrated by decorating houses, praying to the goddess Laxmi, cleaning, and most importantly, lighting diyas (a type of oil lamp). People like to buy gold around Diwali as a symbol of good fortune, and families and friends exchange gifts and visit each other’s houses to clean them. In 2021, Diwali saw record retail sales of $1.25 trillion, which is a staggering 75% greater than in 2020. The most recent study, which Business Today reported, indicates that e-commerce companies like Amazon, Snapdeal, and Flipkart sold goods valued at $3 billion over the course of the six-day festive sale this year. Diwali also kicks off the wedding season in India, marking the beginning of another opportunity to increase sales significantly through seasonal Diwali promotions.
The world’s largest 24-hour online shopping event is Singles Day, also known as double 11, which originated in China. Every year, the annual retail spree on November 11th sets sales records, surpassing Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined. In 1993, students in China proposed November 11th as the date for this occasion, providing an alternative to Valentine’s Day (11/11 was chosen as the four ones represent four single individuals standing together). This day encourages customers to celebrate and be content with their single status while treating themselves to a particular item. Some people consider it a reward for being single and refer to it as the “anti-valentine’s day”. The impact this day has on the economy is significant; Alibaba reported that its entire gross merchandise value for the 11-day Singles Day event was 498.2 trillion yuan, or $74.1 billion. That exceeded the 268.4–billion–yuan figure from the previous year. Last year, Singles Day generated a total gross sales value of 840 billion yuan ($131.3 billion) across all channels.
El Buen Fin
In November, Playa del Carmen and other parts of Mexico see the emergence of “El Buen Fin” billboards. The literal translation of the festival’s name is “the good end” or “a good weekend”. The event runs for four days, including the weekend (around the 15th of the month; this year it’s from 14th – 18th). During this month, the majority of Mexicans receive their pay checks twice, on the first and fifteenth to encourage people to spend more and get the economy moving. Compared to the United States’ record-breaking US$9 billion Black Friday deals in 2020, El Buen Fin sales achieved US$11 billion in revenue.
As per the Islamic calendar (which is based on the phases of the moon), Ramadan is the holiest month of the year. Between dawn and dusk during the season of Ramadan, people refrain from eating, drinking, and sexual activity. The State of the Global Islamic Economy report stated that Muslims spent more than $2 trillion in 2021 across various sectors. In addition, global Islamic spending was forecast to increase by 9.1% by the end of 2022, and the UK has now entered the top 15 countries for Islamic spending; so, this increase in potential cannot be ignored. While we could assume that sales would decrease during this time, that’s not the case; sales in the retail and hospitality industries rise sharply during this period. When the season is approaching, retailers and other businesses should focus on Muslims who want to celebrate Eid in style, as they are the ones that bring in the most business; for Iftaar (breaking the fast), a lot of people like to eat out or have food delivered to their homes. The last day of Ramadan ends with Eid also known as “Eid al-Fitr” which can be translated to “The feast of the breaking of the fast”. This festival is celebrated by more than 1.8 million people across the world, which makes it a very important festival in terms of you marketing plan. At Eid, people celebrate by exchanging gifts, praying, and waiting to see the moon. It’s time to invest in Ramadan marketing this year.
Hold your horses America, this one is not only about you. Independence Day is celebrated not only in America but in many countries across the world. Six countries have their Independence Day on 15th August: The Republic of Congo, South Korea, North Korea, Liechtenstein, India, and Bahrain. In India, decorations appear in the colours green, saffron, and white, and there are sales throughout the country, both online and offline. Amazon and Flipkart, the e-commerce giants of India, have sales that go on for days. Of course Jul 5th remains a key event in the US calendar too and one not to be missed for marketers.
Navigating international sales can be challenging and you will need to ensure your business has the means to successfully organise these events. To make the most of these opportunities, you may have sales, bundles, buy one get one free offers, free shipping, and so on. You can target people locally and internationally, but if you go the international route, be aware of the points below.
1. Local Payment Options
If you want to go global, you will have to provide easy payment options for the locals. For example, some countries do not have international credit or debit cards. Mexico is a cash-based economy and card payments are uncommon, so you will have to offer cash on delivery payment options. In India, the majority of people use the Unified Payments Interface (UPI) system where people pay through apps such as GooglePay, PayTM, and PhonePay. Seeing the rise in popularity of UPI, Amazon has launched its own version of UPI to make it easier for users in India to complete the checkout process. Providing local payment methods is essential and is a dynamic you’ll need to figure out for yourself depending on the regions you’re marketing to.
2. Be Authentic
There is nothing more annoying than businesses being inauthentic. If you want your business to build a good reputation in a new environment, it’s important to be genuine. The best way to show your authenticity is by telling stories effectively. If you are an international business, the locals might like to know why you’re marketing in their area; telling your business’ story will help make an emotional connection with them early on. Ensure that if you talk about a specific event, you do it for a reason that is associated with your business. Don’t jump on the bandwagon – find a genuine reason to associate yourself to the event or don’t talk about.
3. Be Patient
When it comes to selling internationally, you are not going to make millions overnight. It will take time and effort, and while giving up might be tempting at times, remember that your international approach will help you stay ahead of the competition. For the most part, business is no longer restricted by borders, so having a sound knowledge of different markets will help you stay ahead.
As long as you’re being respectful, there are no limitations to your holiday marketing campaigns. Plan your content, understand the cultural implications and be authentic and you can capitalise on huge short-term but recurring opportunities. Targeting international markets is also a resourceful way to bring in new audiences.
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