India is a land of cultural activities and festivals. By commemorating different religious festivals, Hinduism has built a socio-economic ecosystem (Saraswat, 2013).
Since time immemorial, certain fairs have been a vital part of the nation's pulse. The 'Maha Kumbh Mela' is the world's largest religious gathering, taking place every three years in one of India's four locations-Haridwar, Ujjain, Nasik, or Allahabad. Thousands of Hindu holy saints and millions of people from India and throughout the world attend the fair. They gather to seek spiritual leaders' blessings, take a dip in the holy river, and enjoy the world's largest spiritual carnival. It is viewed as an important religious event that endows rivers with divinity and as a significant chance for pilgrimage. Over the last decade, religion has grown in relevance as a factor affecting consumer behaviour in emerging nations. The business environment is evolving as consumers grow more aware of the significance of living according to their faith's precepts, incorporating local values and material consumption habits alongside spiritual symbols (Jafari and Suerdem, 2012).
Kumbh has grown significantly in terms of visitor numbers and expenditure. According to the Uttar Pradesh department of tourism, 18.71 crore tourists visited the state in 2014, including 18.42 crore Indians and 29.09 lakh foreigners, while 20.96 crore tourists visited the state in 2015, including 31.04 lakh foreigners and 20.65 crore Indians (Hindustan Times, 2019). With 150 million visitors expected in Prayagraj, the city invested around Rs. 2,800 crore in infrastructure, tourism, and cultural events (The Hindu, 2019). The product offerings of businesses during the Kumbh are ideally aligned with what pilgrims desire. While the fair has traditionally been a significant business opportunity, firms have gone above and beyond in recent years to promote their brands through traditional techniques and modern technologies.
For example, GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare set up a basketball ring at its stand, where visitors could shoot baskets and win free Horlicks biscuits in exchange for their cups of Horlicks. The marketing effort's objective is to enhance sales of currently available products. It may entail identifying a new target segment or repositioning an existing product to appeal to the new category. Colgate, for example, tried to increase toothpaste penetration in rural India by educating consumers about oral health and the benefits of using toothpaste regularly versus using traditional, natural products infrequently. The brand sought to reach out to these consumers during the 'Kumbh Mela.' Foot traffic to the Colgate booth increased by more than 300 percent, with over 700,000 people in the fair (The Hindu, 2019).
Kumbh is also a good venue for generating interest in new products by allowing them to be tried and tested. Dabur, for example, created new Hajmola flavors. Similarly, Welspun, Asia's largest terry towel manufacturer, made its maiden appearance at the Kumbh, displaying a new mass-market product. To promote their ‘QUICK DRY’ towel collection, Welspun deployed 3000 ‘QUICK DRY’ towels each day outside women's changing rooms, providing them firsthand experience with the product. Brand activation, previously thought to be unable of matching the reach of television and other forms of ATL (above the line) media, took on a new meaning in this greatest gathering of religious pilgrims.
For instance, Vodafone India engaged consumers by displaying films and supplying musical earmuffs equipped with built-in speakers that play religious melodies. They included devotional music into the earmuffs and branded them with the Vodafone logo and a message instructing users to dial 123 to listen to devotional songs. The musical earmuffs were effective because they brought value to the consumers' lives by protecting them from the winter and communicating a message related to the product offering. According to Kotler, marketing is the process by which brands such as in ‘Kumbh Mela’ may generate value for its present and prospective customers, establish relationships, and preserve those relationships by addressing their ongoing requirements. Each year, the number of brands making their debut at the fair grows. In India, "Pilgrims mind space" is emerging as the new 'P' of marketing. Such religious occasions provide marketers and companies with a once-in-a lifetime opportunity, as they engage a large and diverse audience. More and more corporations are looking for ways to engage with the audience while maintaining the festival's core. Seven weeks of the pilgrimage served as one of the nation's most effective promotional venues, opening doors for the majority of brands. As brands acquire cultural significance, their connection with customers evolves from static to collaborative. Consumers become active players in this co-creation process through their consumption, enabling the construction of identities as consumers and brands interact in the social realm (Holt, 2002). Numerous marketers capitalized on this abundant potential at Kumbh.
However, there are a few areas in which brands may improve, such as the post-purchase experience of existing customers. Not only are post-purchase services crucial for fostering client loyalty, but they also allow for constant input and product improvement. Brands must take this into account and incorporate it into their products to provide utility. Even something as simple as a shade or a source of drinking water will elicit kindness. To summarise, the fair can be seen as a marketer's wonderland for businesses targeting the communities. However, marketers must always take into consideration that even with a large swarm of people, establishing brands and their worth is not simple.
Chitra Narayanan, (2019). “Chasing marketing nirvana at Kumbh”, The Hindu business line.
Holt, D.B. (2002). Why do brands cause trouble? A dialectical theory of consumer culture and branding”.Journal of Consumer Research, 29 (June),70- 90.
Jafari, A. and Suerdem, A. (2012).An analysis of material consumption in the Muslim World, Marketing Theory, 12(1), 61-79.
Kenneth J., (2019). “ A record over 24 crore people visited Kumbh-2019, more than total tourists in UP in 2014-17”, Hindustan Times.
Saraswat D.C. (2013, Jan 12), “Kumbh Mela: 'Overall business could be worth between Rs 12,000 to Rs 15,000 crore”, The Economic Times.