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The marketing of Women’s Day kickstarted in the late eighties/early nineties by Pond’s. Mother’s Day seems to be an import from the US. As was Valentine’s Day from the West. These are three examples of ‘Days’, which started small, but over time have morphed into cultural markers of modernity. 

Days of the religious calendar with their cultural significance are a very familiar part of Hindu tradition and the traditional way of life. However, calendar days as markers of significance in a modern lifestyle are a relatively new development. Participating in and celebrating these cultural markers indicates the desire to belong in a globalised world.

Adding to this list of ‘Days’ of cultural significance is a new one, ‘Daughter’s Day’, on September 27. The modern calendar of days starts with Valentine’s Day on February 14, moves on to Women’s Day on March 8, and Mother’s Day on May 9.

So, how are brands taking on the mantle of being change agents and champions of the modern, globalised lifestyle via the marking of this new day, the Daughter’s Day? How are they doing it through content?

Stayfree’s campaign #ItsJustAPeriod

The video:

“My…periods have started,” says a young girl hesitatingly. “It is happening for the first time, I’m feeling weird,” says a – postmenopausal woman? “I can’t even sit close to anyone. And when I get up, I keep checking for stains,” then says a man old enough to have grown kids. It gets more bizarre as other older adults utter similar statements of confusion and embarrassment reserved for menstruating young girls.

And that is exactly the video’s point: your daughters will feel conscious about starting their periods, but as a mature adult, you must normalise them. You must not confirm their anxieties because there is nothing more bizarre than an adult who makes young girls feel awkward about a natural, biological process.

Made by Stayfree for their 2020 Daughter’s Day campaign, this content film reflects a way of cultural participation grown so popular among brands; it has made consumers take notice of calendarised celebrations like they never did before. As soon as they hear a mention of Friendship Day or Valentine’s Day on social media, they expect to see brand commentary on it. They expect to be spoken to about the day’s subject through fresh storytelling that makes them push the ‘share’ button.

But what do brands do when they start running out of new angles? They look for white spaces that allow them to weave themselves afresh into cultural movements. They pick up ideas that have only made an initial impact on consumers’ minds and make them better to deliver content that digs deeper. Hence, the growing number of Daughter’s Day campaigns.

On what context are the campaigns being built?

Look through some of the recent ones and you will quickly come to the core thought driving the brand narratives: the need for older generations, particularly parents, to tackle regressive thinking by facilitating open and mature conversations with their young girls.

To date, many girls continue to be raised in a suppressive environment. They are made to feel ashamed about having periods, and are taught to treat them as a dirty secret that must not be discussed with men, especially their fathers.

They are subjected to disadvantage when raised alongside sons where opportunities or even food that comes their way are nowhere close to what their brother receives. As they grow up, and it comes to choosing between a career and marriage, dependability on men is encouraged through phrases like 'he will take care of you'.

They are taught to not protest; if something unpleasant comes their way, they're expected to accept it quietly. No need to be bold or loud.

How do brands create content that creates cultural space for the Daughters conversation?

Brands entering this space – especially those with women users – are highlighting all such constraints imposed upon daughters, by addressing the parents in their audience.

Clinic Plus' 2019 campaign #MeriBetiStrong features mother-daughter duos; each pair from a different background, set up in a different scenario. What binds them is their desire for the following generation of young girls to have it better in all aspects: "Jo maa nahi kar payi, wo tum karna. Maa se zyada strong banna” (Do what your mother couldn’t do. Become stronger than your mother).

These mothers aren’t telling their girls to be strong in the face of oppression by staying mum and resilient, as the usual patriarchal counselling goes. They equate being strong with self-reliance, not being afraid, speaking up, learning to say ‘no’ when needed and even laughing out loud without inhibitions.

Parachute Advansed’s 2017 campaign The Tough Talk’ focuses on young girls’ curiosity about their parents' love and sexual lives (“how old were you when you first kissed?”), their insecurities (“I don’t think any boy finds me attractive”), opinions about themselves (“I’m not ‘mom’ material”) and their desire to break away from what is considered normal (“I don’t want to get married”). As they freely voice such thoughts with who you expect to be their mother, the shot opens up to reveal fathers listening to their girls as they oil their hair.

“The more you’re there, the more they’ll share,” explains Parachute Advansed as it encourages fathers to be present for their daughters instead of creating barriers of formality and tradition between them.

Raho Safe’s 2020 campaign ‘When They Grow Up Too Fast’ also challenges fathers’ preferred absence in what they see as uncomfortable parts of their daughter’s lives.

As a father playfully searches for the right gift for his 13-year-old daughter, excitedly picking up toy pianos or dolls, she reaches out for a pack of sanitary pads. The message is simple: just how cute toys were suited to the girl at one stage, the pads are suited to her life now – it’s all a part of growing up.

Through the campaign, Raho Safe also shows parents as people who are learning as they go, with their daughters in the lead. They may not always know what’s best for their girls but should always be open to taking the cue rather than imposing their view.

Are the campaigns effective in building cultural momentum for Daughter’s Day?

Right now, it looks like they are laying the ground for it. By building upon a core thought that derives from the specificities of the daughter’s life experiences, and speaking to parents (voicing daughters’ innermost thoughts and feelings), these campaigns achieve differentiation from content created around women in general and mothers in particular.

However, Daughter’s Day faces a tougher challenge to stand out now, because we live at a time when progressive narratives and politically correct stances have become the norm, with a slew of such content flooding social media every few weeks. When the marketing of Women’s Day, Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day began, there was no social media and progressive messaging was very limited. 

Cultural momentum will be built when the two parties in the conversation — parents and daughters — feel motivated to celebrate their relationship, as happened with women celebrating one another, couples celebrating their love and children celebrating their mother. Branded content that serves as a catalyst for regular folks to start their own conversations — that’s the next step in the content creation journey of brands for Daughter’s Day.

(The author, Hamsini Shivakumar is a semiotician, brand strategy consultant and the founder of Leapfrog Strategy Consulting. In her weekly column for BuzzInContent, she and her team will analyse interesting content pieces done by brands in terms of their cultural leverage and effectiveness of brand integration. According to her, the content has a symbiotic relationship to popular culture; it helps to form culture and draws from it. It works as part of a simultaneous and virtuous cycle of mutual reinforcement.)