Actionable insights from this year's Rakshabandhan branded content initiatives

Hamsini Shivakumar and Prabhjot Singh Gambhir of Leapfrog Strategy Consulting, write that brands must stay culturally relevant, use humour, prioritise authenticity and strike a balance between emotions and branding in content

Hamsini Shivakumar
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The intricate fabric of Indian culture weaves stories of bonds that transcend mere familial ties. Among these, the bond of siblings holds a place of reverence, both in traditional narratives and contemporary tales. This bond, an emblem of love, rivalry, protection, and shared memories, finds itself under the spotlight, particularly during the festive season of Rakshabandhan. Brands, both homegrown and international, also leverage this universally relatable theme as a poignant backdrop to their storytelling by using its emotional gravity to connect with the audience.

In spite of being a festival rooted in tradition, the portrayal of Rakshabandhan has evolved in our media-savvy world. While the essence remains intact, its representation has taken myriad forms. In today's digital era,  we see the depiction of this bond has seen a blending of traditional values with contemporary narratives - Glossy commercials, fun brand activities, and humour-infused Instagram reels all tap into this emotion, each adding a new dimension to the timeless bond.

It's evident that brands have come to recognise the evocative power of the sibling relationship. Whether it's the poignant message of not taking sisters for granted or the tongue-in-cheek banter between siblings, they resonate deeply with viewers, offering a canvas rich in cultural symbols and modern-day relevance.

In this week’s column, we will explore how diverse brands employ the sibling theme, each adding their flavour to this unique relationship, and how they harness its potential to resonate with the audiences. Let’s take a look at some examples:

1. Apollo Tyres -

Apollo Tyres- Happy Raksha Bandhan 2023

This video by Apollo Tyres features the story of a woman who is going to her brother’s house for Rakshabandhan. She is driving a premium hatchback while jamming to English songs. She is constantly being honked at by a truck driving right behind her car. However, she chooses to speed on, and then suddenly, in the middle of her journey, her car breaks down. 

The truck stops right next to her broken-down car, and the truck driver tells her the reason he was constantly honking was to inform her that her car’s fuel tank is leaking. The woman is afraid at first, but after she informs him that she was going to her brother’s place to tie him Rakhi, the truck driver gently insists on dropping her to the location. She gets in his truck and a bond is built between the two. She ties him a rakhi after he informs her that he does not have a sister.

While the story is nice and simple, it does not highlight the Apollo brand very well. 

While it appears that there’s been a conscious choice not to make a native ad out of this story, it would’ve perhaps been more appropriate if the story was weaved around tyres. Instead of the story being about leakage in the fuel tank of the car, it could’ve been about the tyre treads being worn out. That would have highlighted the Apollo brand better.

2. Dabur Amla - Raunaq Rajani and Ankita -

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A post shared by Dabur Amla (@daburamlaindia)

This piece of branded content by Dabur Amla features stand-up comics Raunaq Rajani and Ankita Shrivastav, who goes by her stage name Filmychokr, engaging in a roast battle of sorts. The video frames the two comics roasting each other in a show called ‘Bhai, Behen and Banter’. Raunaq and Ankita take shots at each other with funny one-liners and jokes. While Raunaq is presenting the case for brothers, Ankita is representing the sisterhood in this battle.

The video also features plug-ins of various products of the ‘Dabur Amla’ brand amidst the jokes. In one such instance, after Raunaq makes a joke about sisters spending a hefty amount for personal care products, Ankita retorts by saying that it is because sisters need to buy two products just so that their brothers can use them as well; she gives an example of the Dabur Amla Shampoo while illustrating her point. Their clothes also match the Dabur brand colours, further highlighting the Dabur brand.

Dabur Amla’s approach uses the playful dynamic of sibling rivalry, a universally relatable theme. The stand-up comedians serve as cultural signifiers for modern, urban youths, amplifying the brand's appeal to a younger demographic. Overall, it is a good way to position the Dabur Amla brand. 

3. Netflix

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A post shared by Netflix India (@netflix_in)

Netflix’s social media pages often leverage branded content to showcase their variety of content. This video on “Types of Siblings” shows clips of siblings in popular shows and movies. In the caption, it urges people to tag their siblings and name the type of sibling they fall under. Through this, they cleverly draw from Schitt's Creek, Stranger Things, Dear Zindagi, Wednesday, Friends to showcase sibling duos. 

The reason this post works and resonates with the audience is because it juxtaposes Western content (with the exception of Dear Zindagi) with the traditional Indian festival of Raksha Bandhan. Thus highlighting the pervasive nature of the sibling bond, which has the dichotomous nature of being full of love and, at times, animosity. 

4. Cadbury-

Starting out as candid interviews of real-life participants, the campaign asks “husbands, boyfriends and fiances” about the lengths they go to surprise their partners. They respond with stories of elaborate plans and fond memories of the time they frequently spend with their partners. However, when asked about how they’ve planned Raksha Bandhan, they become quiet. The video points to the importance the modern world places on romantic relationships. Familial relationships, often among siblings, are not given the same importance. The presence of social media also puts a spotlight on grand gestures of romantic love. The video especially urges men to not take their sisters for granted. The campaign subtly positions Cadbury at the end, asking men to make plans with their sisters and to also treat them with love, respect and care.

5. Swiggy Instamart

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A post shared by The Scribbled Stories (@thescribbledstories)

This post by Swiggy Instamart showcases the contractual relationships that siblings tend to have, given that they share the same space and resources. The post exaggerates it by printing these verbal agreements in a legal document, overseen by Swiggy Instamart for humour.

Actionable insights:

From the heartwarming bonds to the playful jibes of sibling rivalry, the Rakshabandhan content analysed in this column offered a rich tapestry of cultural insights on the ways brands navigate and incorporate sibling relationships. Here are some key takeaways:

  1. Strike a balance between emotion and branding: While it's pivotal to infuse content with emotion, brands must ensure that the core product or service isn't sidelined. Content must align with the brand's identity and should highlight it as well. As we saw in the case of Apollo Tyres, one should not forget branding as it is the most vital part of making a branded content video.

  2. Stay culturally relevant: Brands should be attuned to the cultural pulse, leveraging modern icons and signifiers to stay relevant and resonate with the target audience. Dabur Amla was able to be culturally relevant by using stand-up comics to do a roast battle, even though Dabur as a brand is not seen as a brand for the young.

  3. Use humour: Even a simple social media static creative, as seen in the case of Swiggy Instamart, was able to garner a lot of likes and comments simply because it used humour to illustrate the rivalry often seen in sibling relationships.

  4. Prioritise authenticity: Whether it’s real-life narratives or fictional tales, authenticity resonates. Brands should strive for genuine connections over superficial ones.

Cadbury Rakshabandhan Apollo Tyres Dabur Amla branded content Actionable insight Leapfrog Strategy Consulting Swiggy Hamsini Shivakumar