Monday, 13 February 2017

Its Valentines Day Again!

The Big Day is here again, at least if we are to believe some segments of our population. This day is one shining example of Marketing & of Western Culture and its pull in our society. There are some who may hold that this Big Day is only a marketing tool; then there are those who may hold that this is the perfect example of the pull of the West… maybe, just maybe, both sides are right! What is this Big Day I am talking, or rather, to read the minds of those who avidly follow it – as they will say to this post of mine, jabbering about?  Well, it so happens that I am Jabbering On About VALENTINE’S DAY


THE HISTORY
Just what is this day? What does it signify? And on earth do I have to set aside this day as an expression of love? What makes it so special? Let us look at it, and try and understand. As per website History.com, Pope Gelasius declared February 14 St. Valentine’s Day in the 5th Century!  To quote infoplease website, The holiday's roots are in the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia, a fertility celebration commemorated annually on February 15. Pope Gelasius I recast this pagan festival as a Christian feast day circa 496, declaring February 14 to be St. Valentine's Day. And wiki states : It originated as a Western Christian liturgical feast day honoring one or more early saints named Valentinus. In fact, the entire wiki article is a series of events associated with Christianity


When did this become as big as it has in India? I certainly don’t remember it being as big an affair in my school days in the 80s! Wiki helps here : Following the economic liberalisation in the early 1990s, a new middle class emerged who could afford access to foreign TV channels and card shops. Valentine's Day became popular among this middle class, but not much in the lower economics classes. So, I did a little bit more searching in my hunt for an answer, and found these two rather hard-hitting articles


Lately all of us must have come across those pop-up windows on our screens with roses and hearts drawn all over and a message informing about various ways - deals, to be precise— to express your love on Valentine's Day. Was the scenario same 10 years back? No it wasn't. At that time, only teenagers would secretly greet their beloved with a rose, probably stolen from the neighbours' garden. – . Advertising Age, Feb 12th, 2016. This article details a lot more, but that is not our current concern; either is the size of the market, which, by an article I spotted on retail.franchiseindia.com, is around 22,000 Cr by some estimates – Article dated Feb 12th 2015.


CULTURE
A couple of questions here : Why are we celebrating this at all? I am fine  with setting days for events – if a day can help and be an aid to expressing love, I certainly don’t see it as an issue. But where is the relevance to Indian Culture here? This is far too clearly a purely imported concept, even without the religious background stated above. And if we do want to have a marketing gimmick-based celebration of love, where is the need to go for imported examples? Cant we find real Indian examples of love from our ancient past, and from any number of religions based here?


Why this surprising chase of a western concept with zero relevance to our culture? This has zero basis in fact, or seasons, or our culture, or even our modern history {let alone pre-modern or medieval or ancient history, I am talking of just 15-20 years here!}; this has zero connect with anything, except The West, and Marketing – pure and simple. I stated above I am not against marketing; but why do we Indians need to chase alien culture, when our own culture is full of days and dates that can be excellent substitutes for a celebration of love? Why are we chasing a chimera?


I see everyone and his uncle celebrating an essentially alien festival, alien to our culture at least; wishing etc – now why on earth do you need a day that commemorates something with zero Indian relevance is beyond me! What is sadder still is the fact that some people would not recognize our festivals if they jumped up in front of them, yet go ape over this Valentine’s day! You want to show your love on a day that has no religious connect? Then be informed that Valentine’s day is a Christian Festival. You want to show your love on a day, and you require a day for that – may I suggest your anniversary? Your love’s Birthday? Or any number of other occasions? Why go ape over this non-event?


MARKETING
To marketers, my hearty congratulations on building a completely useless day into something substantial in India; this should be a real live case study in all Management Schools in India. Well done, well done indeed! Now my question to you, all of you : explain to me, a corporate guy like you, why this same cant have been done as successfully for an Indian themed day? We have innumerable days for your choice, religious as well as otherwise! And yet, you forget all of that and chase after a Western day? Is that the best you can do? I have seen your quality in this case study, as well as other awesome case studies that are models of marketing; you have the skills; how about using those skills to good effect and create hype around an Indian Day?


You create a {shudder!} 22,000 Crore market around a totally alien concept; I am pretty sure you can do the same for others as well. Other examples abound : Friendship Day, remember? Unlike other critics, I don’t blame marketers – you cannot create a need, a want; you can only identify and tap into latent demand. If marketers could create demand, well, I need not say anymore than that! Life would be different to all of us.



BUT, and this is a BIG but, if you can identify and tap latent demand for something so alien, so frivolous as this, I am pretty sure you can do the same for other events as well. It is just a question of finding the right trends, and building on them. How about doing something Indian for a change – like the excellent one around Akshay Tritiya? Unless you {we?} as a profession regard Valentine’s Day as Indian, which is frankly a ridiculous idea, given I have no recollection of celebrations on this scale in my childhood – despite this being a Christian Festival, and I being educated in a CONVENT! QED…



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