When I was a kid (oh dear, here I go again) there was a very famous Tamil film song written by a once-in-a-generation poet, that translates to “Take heart from the fact that there are crores of people who are worse off than you”.
We lived in trying times of poverty, and unemployment, with very little to look forward to. Today, things are different; there is optimism and happiness in the air and this is never more evident than at the time of Diwali. More importantly, there seems to be a trend to actually recognise and help people who are not as well off as we are. It could be the waitress in the coffee shop we frequent, or the maid who helps make our house liveable, or the unrecognised dhobi whom we take for granted.
It is these people who are actually being featured in commercials being done by as diverse categories as retail, detergents, and online shopping portals. And it is these people being recognised and celebrated in this column. I particularly liked these commercials because instead of merely feeling good about oneself, the newer generation wishes to help the less fortunate around them, in whose lives they can make a difference.
Nearbuy, the online coupon and deals platform, has made a touching video about Sophie, a smart, intelligent, hardworking waitress from Manipur. Three of the company’s employees tip her disproportionately and make her Diwali memorable. The first gives her a tip of ₹5,000; the second hands over an air ticket to Manipur so she can visit her family; and the third presents six months’ rent for her place.
The deeds are thoughtful and, understandably, completely unexpected. A slightly longish film, it still makes you pause and think what you are doing to help those around you.
Maid in Mumbai
Reliance Fresh is another brand that cashes in on the Diwali spirit with its Badi Diwali commercial. The ad film is about an affluent housewife and her maid getting the house ready for Diwali. The housewife speaks to her maid in a slightly stricter tone than usual, asking her to get the guest room ready and telling her to use fancy plates carefully.
After the doorbell rings, she asks her to answer the door, and who are the surprise guests for Diwali? The maid’s parents! A fine gesture by the lady of the house who has made her maid’s Diwali memorable by just being sensitive to her needs and doing something that makes a phenomenal difference to the house-help’s Diwali.
The next two commercials featured in this piece star our friendly neighbourhood dhobis . In the first commercial by Amazon, the dhobi asks a lady to give old clothes for his son if they’re discarding the same while cleaning their home for Diwali. And he is dumbfounded when she offers him brand new clothes from Amazon with the statement, “We don’t wear old clothes for Diwali.”
The last commercial featured in this piece is from one of my favourite brands, Surf Excel. When a young kid goes to collect clothes from the dhobi, he realises that the latter has no Diwali celebration, no home to celebrate in, no place for rangoli .
He and his quickly assembled friends (code red!) roll in their rangoli and create a pattern on their clothes to make the istri-wallah happy near his place of stay. The kid’s mother, instead of being angry, distributes sweets, tying in with the brand’s tag line, “Daag Acche Hain”. I particularly liked the commercial, as it was still in line with the brand’s promise.
What’s the learning?
It can often get boring if we keep talking about our merchandise. There are smarter ways of staying connected with our customers as these brands just showed. Ideally, if we can tap into a trend, then the commercial has a greater chance of being liked and recalled. Yes, festivals are not only the season to wear new clothes, celebrate and devour sweets, but are also a time to share with those less fortunate than us.
However, let’s not forget too that we are not in the business of philanthropy but of selling products and services. If we can find a way of seamlessly selling our brand’s promise with emotions like Surf Excel did, then we are well and truly in business.
But there is a larger, underlying social message in all these commercials — which is that each and every one of us has the opportunity to light a lamp in someone’s life and delight them. Life need not only be about delighting customers. What about the ordinary people in our lives who are doing so much for us? And that, to me, is the greatest celebration of Diwali.
Happy Diwali! May each one of us do something for someone around us.