Saturday, November 10, 2012

Deepavali and marketing to the Indian segment

Just this week, three things happened in relation to the Deepavali celebration online.

First was oil and gas company Petronas' Deepavali advertisement for this year titled Do the Dappan. The 3 minute advertisement has been removed from the official Petronas Youtube channel but can still be found online.

An infectious song and dance routine not unlike Gangnam Style, the ad has drawn flak for being "culturally insensitive". According to a T. Selva article from The Star, the Dappan is a dance or a form of song and dance performed during funerals in India to cover up the sounds of mourning and also as a way to inform the community of a death. Note, however, that the Dappan is not exclusively used at funerals. That being said, the Dappan also has little to no relation to how Malaysian Indians celebrate Deepavali!

I would imagine that the Malaysian Indians would be a little bit offended that a company as big as Petronas would overlook researching into the meaning of a Dappan. Watching the Dappan music video, I understand what and where Petronas is coming from - they wanted to create a meme that would catch on to the younger generation. Just look at the trademarks so blatant in the video - bright colors, simple choreography, call to action ("Do the Dappan") and a shareability ("Watch on Youtube"). It's ambitious and would have gone viral if given the chance. The only proof left of its existence on their official Youtube channel are auditions for the Dappan.

The second is what occured on Starbucks Malaysia's Facebook page. Basically, some fans complained that Deepavali celebrations were being eschewed by the coffee franchise in favor of Christmas specials and promotions, seeing as Christmas promotions are already in stores and online - despite the fact that Deepavali is 5 days away and Christmas, two months away! The uproar created by a few fiery remarks have been hard to control, with the more extreme fans calling for a boycott (!). Very luckily the Starbucks team did a good form of damage control by releasing a Deepavali Delight special at the eleventh minute. (As of now the promotion has not been confirmed yet)

An interesting thing to note is that a fan has pointed out a possible quicksand-situation in this matter - if corporations continue to bow to the demands of celebrating each and every national celebration in Malaysia, there would be no end to it - Awal Muharam, Hari Gawai, Good Friday, Wesak Day, etc. (My own take - Deepavali is quite a major national celebration.)

Finally, to cap it all off, someone saw and heard the dilemma of the Malaysian Indian community and created a website to call advertisers to "exploit" the community. (Please don't take this out of context, guys!) The creators of argue that the market for Indians is wide, and yet advertisers would prefer to sell to the Chinese market than them. Ah, I cannot do this campaign justice in this post. The writing is excellent and the actor (comedian Kavin Jay) brought to life the plight of the Indian community that's begging to be advertised to. Case study material fo sho!

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