5 tips to make a marketing splash this Holi

Happy Holi everyone!

With an estimated 440 million Indian millennials in India, a staggering 468,800 born in India residing in Australia (and many, many more by ancestry!) and more than 150 million Indians logged into Facebook at least once a month, the Indian diaspora is certainly a highly attractive target market.

A beginner’s guide to Holi – the Festival of Colours – 10 questions answered


MultiConnexions PR & Social Media Manager, Katrina Hall looks at the fun-filled festival, and wishes all a Happy Holi filled with the colours of joy and happiness.

1. What is Holi?

The Holi Festival of Colours (also called Holi, Holika and Phagwa) is celebrated the day after the full moon in the Hindu month of Phalguna (early March). It is a day to mark spring, honour some events regarding Prahlada in the Hindu faith, and a time to disregard propriety and social norms and have a bit of fun!

2. When is Holi this year?

This year, the festival will likely be falling on Friday the 2nd of March, 2018.

3. What is the story behind the festival?

The story goes that Lord Brahma granted the haughty Demon King Hiranyakashipu virtual invincibility – and with his new powers, Hiranyakashipu arrogantly proclaimed himself a God. However, his son took issue with this and rebelled against him – thus enraging Hiranyakashipu who immediately ordered his son to be killed.

Many attempts were made in vain to carry out the murder. In desperation, Hiranyakashipu ordered Prahlada to be burned on a pyre along with his sister Holika, little knowing that Holika had been given immunity from fire by Lord Brahma.

Flames began to lick Prahlada and Holika – but the devout Prahlada prayed to Lord Vishnu to save him from the burning flames and, hearing the prayers, Lord Vishnu granted him mercy, while the fire consumed Holika. Alas, Holika did not know that her immunity worked only when she entered the fire alone!

Prahlada felt sorry for Holika and named Holi festival after her. Today, this story represents the end of pride and the day after the Holika bonfire is celebrated as Holi.

4. Who celebrates Holi?

Holi is widely celebrated in India, Australia and around the world by Hindus, Sikhs, some Jains, Newar Buddhists and other non-Hindus. Indians, and many other new audiences, are deeply rooted in their culture and this is a special time for them.

5. How do people celebrate Holi?

On the eve of Holi, a pyre is lit for Holika. The ritual symbolises the victory of good over evil. People gather around the fire to sing and dance and may offer raw coconut and corn to the fire. The next morning, fun begins again in earnest with something akin to a high-stakes water-fight! Friends, family and strangers alike throw coloured powder, coloured water and coloured paint/ dye around in an atmosphere of frivolity and humour. The end results are a riot of colour and a truly unforgettable spectacle.

As one Holi festival attendee put it last year, “When we’re covered in colours, our differences no longer matter.”

6. Are there any traditional foods, clothes, or symbols on the day?

Holi is all about colour, so it’s probably best to wear clothes you don’t mind getting ruined! Aside from that, sweet dumplings (dahi vada), a condensed milk slice (barfi) and fried fritters (pakora) are popular Holi treats. Obviously, visiting family and friends is a very important part of Holi.

7. What happened on Holi last year around the world?

Utah is home to the largest Holi festival in the world outside of India. Australia, the UK and many countries also host amazing celebrations – both organised and informally. Holi has also inspired some fantastic celebrations around the world, including Florida’s Life in Color, the Netherlands’ Mumbai Color Festival, Holi One in South Africa, and Colorjam Music Festival in Texas among many others.

8. What can we expect this year?

This year Holi certainly promises to be bigger and better than ever, as more and more people are beginning to celebrate.

9. Is Holi marked in Australia? What events are there this year?

Australia’s South Asian community marks Holi in style, with a series of fun activities around the country – focussing particularly on Sydney and Melbourne, where most of our Indian diaspora reside. Celebrations around the country include Blacktown Holi Mela, Keysborough Holi Mela, Holi Mahotsav in Darling Harbour Sydney, Rockdale Colour Festival, Holi Mela Parramatta, Melbourne Holi Festival St Kilda, Wyndham Holi and Springfield Holi Festival in Brisbane to name but a small sample.

Such events are increasingly attracting the attention of major Australian brands looking to harness the goodwill during Holi, and target messages to the crowds of attendees via goodwill initiatives.

10. What is the marketing opportunity during Holi?

In addition to the above mentioned festival/ sponsorship marketing opportunities – for many brands there are many other terrific marketing opportunities to be tapped into during this period.

For example, during Holi many Indians choose to give their home a thorough spring-cleaning – often redecorating and disposing of old items. This means a great marketing opportunity for the retail sector with additional sales generated of household goods, clothing and more. It is a time when many Indians look at property investments and even changing their homes for a larger and better one.

Holi is also a wonderful time for marketers to integrate festive greetings into advertisements and marketing initiatives to capture the attention of enthusiastic people celebrating Holi.

Five things you didn’t know about Holi

Much like any country has their iconic festivals — La Tomatina Festival in Spain, Oktoberfest in Germany or even The Carnival in Rio, India has Holi — the closest we Indians come to having a raucous public party. As this colourful and exuberant festival nears in 2013, we’ve compiled a list of top five interesting facts to get you up to speed:

Holi – the festival of colours

Holi is a festival celebrated by the Indian subcontinent and the Indian diaspora across the world. In some Indian states, Holi is known as Dolyatra or Basanta-Utsav. The festival of Holi is celebrated on the day after the full moon in early March every year. Holi is also associated with the immortal love of Krishna and Radha, and hence, is spread over 16 days in Vrindavan as well as Mathura – the two cities with which Lord Krishna shared a deep affiliation. Apart from the usual fun with coloured powder and water, Holi is celebrated as it is Spring time in the Indian subcontinent.

From Holi to Halloween

It’s 11:30 am. You are walking past Sydney’s iconic Darling Harbour as your Ipod croons M.J’s ‘Black or white’. You suddenly see a whole lot of people coated in colour from head to toe playfully spurting water on each other. As you revel in this moment of contradiction, you realise the synchronicity of Australia and India during the month of March.

On one side there is a vivid and beautiful autumn bloom of Orange — the Color City of Australia. On the other side in India, it is the spring time festival of colours — Holi.

Holi celebrations include lighting of bon fires to signify the death of the demon and throwing colours at each other in a playful spirit. In countries like South Africa, Trinidad, United Kingdom, United States, Mauritius, and Fiji.  March is also the time for advertisers and marketers to put their thinking caps on to maximise on the buying power of their large Indian diaspora. The Citibank NRI ad last year targeted the Indian audience in America with the line ‘Holi to Halloween and Lassi to Latte’.

Metlife, a leading global insurance provider also punched in some colour with a campaign featuring six T.V commercials showing profound cultural occasions in a South-Asian American’s life.

The angle was quite simple, it is important to pass on cultural values and  traditions to future generations, as it is important to pass on a secure financial future to your next generation. Metlife realised this in their marketing messages “With you in your life”.  

When it comes to reaching the multicultural audiences, culturally relevant ads are an excellent avenue, however experiential marketing and community event sponsorships are other forms of direct marketing reaching the audience, when they are most receptive to such messages.

By Priya Rao