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The month of Ramzan leading up to Eid is an important festival celebrated by the Muslim community in India. The festival brings people together and is celebrated with great fervour and enthusiasm. 

There are some signifiers that are common across festivals. However, with each one, their individual signs change, and these markers distinguish these festivals. Food and fashion are the two common ways in which one can easily distinguish these festivals. For instance, Holi has ‘Gujiyaas’ as delicacy and clothes laden with the colour of ‘gulaal’.

Similarly, Ramzan and Eid also have their own signifiers. Regarding food, the items prepared during Ramzan are biryani, kebabs, and phirni. Similarly, in the domain of fashion, many brands release special collections. Traditional clothes, such as salwar kameez, kurta pyjamas, and hijabs, showcase the beauty and elegance of the culture of the Indian subcontinent. 

In this article, we will explore how Ramzan and Eid are portrayed in Indian-branded content and whether brands use the markers of the festival in their content or not.

Facebook I More Together - Rizwan

Facebook’s More Together was quite a hit, going by the number of views it garnered. This campaign features the story of Rizwan - a young man who works as a good Samaritan and tries to get everyone in their neighbourhood vaccinated. He ferries people to the vaccination centre in his car. 

The video very subtly touches upon the prejudices faced by Muslim men. When Rizwan tries to convince his neighbours to get the vaccines, he tells one of them, "Taufiq uncle, Salma aunty and Mr Rawat have also got the vaccines”. The neighbour agrees to get the vaccine when he hears the name of Mr Rawat, a Hindu. The dialogic exchange between them may be short, but it denotes the deep-rooted biases that fellow Indians may have towards each other based on religion.

Rizwan repeatedly tries to get one old woman vaccinated who is opposed to getting the jab. She finally gives in to his demand when he tells her that he is also like one of her family members. 

Later, that woman finds out that Rizwan has been passionately taking all the old people in the area of Paragpur to get vaccinated because his parents passed away due to Covid, and he does not know how he will celebrate Eid without them.

The old lady then prepares a feast and goes to Rizwan’s house to celebrate Eid with him. After an emotionally overbearing moment, they eat Kheer together in silence. The video's message is that strangers can also become families once they overcome their inhibitions and transcend the boundaries of religion-based division.

McDonald’s India Ramzan | When #FestivalsMakeFamilies

McDonald’s campaign on Ramzan #FestivalsMakesFamilies narrates the story of three young colleagues who end up celebrating Ramzan together at one of their outlet. The three youngsters are new to the city. They have all come from different parts of India, and they become like a family due to their shared experience of being in a new city and working together.

The campaign focuses on the emotion of warmth, family and socializing during festivals.

However, this is a template campaign that can be used for just about any festival. There are no markers/signifiers of Ramzan in the video. McDonald’s India seems to have shied away from underlining the fact that Ramzan is a Muslim festival. Of course, it could not have featured food items other than the one it offers, but it could have chosen to dress the protagonists in traditional Indian clothes.

It is almost as if McDonald’s is trying to acknowledge the existence of Ramzan as a festival without highlighting that it is predominantly a Muslim one.

Ashok Leyland | A Celebration of Sharing | Ramadan 2021

Ashok Leyland’s celebration of sharing campaign highlights the secular values of India. It shows the story of a Sikh truck driver offering an ‘iftaar’ meal to a Muslim driver who is stranded in the middle of a highway. 

The video, however, does not seem to have been well thought out, as we do not see any ‘markers’ of the Muslim identity of the man. So, when the Sikh truck driver offers him a meal, it comes as an absurd surprise because the viewer keeps guessing how did he know that he was a Muslim. 

Though the video highlights the secular values of ‘old India’, which is something you do not commonly see these days, there could have certainly been more attention to detail in the production. It would have been difficult to compress the narrative into a minute-long video. However, the creative agency responsible could have still done a better job. A simple signifier such as a skull cap to signify his Muslim identity would have made the video more palatable. Though it would have diminished the element of surprise, it would have also reduced the absurdity of it.

Ramadan Kareem 2023 #LeaveNoOneBehind with Tata Motors #NekiAsliIbadat

Tata Motors' #LeaveNoOneBehind is an interesting one. Though Tata Motors is an Indian brand, it launched a campaign in Arabic, targeting Middle Eastern audiences.

The video shows the story of a man who runs a cafeteria. He does not have any family. When a group of friends sitting in the cafeteria discuss their plans for Eid, one of them says that Eid should always be celebrated with family. Then he asks the owner of the café if he agrees. There is silence on the table as everyone else knows that he has no one.

One of the men from the group then invites the cafeteria ‘uncle’ on Eid to his home on the pretext of preparing meals and helping with the arrangements for the guest. The uncle agrees to come without charging any money. However, when he reaches the home, he is greeted with a surprise, all of the guests were waiting for him.

Thus, the message of making family out of strangers resonated in this campaign as well. Even though it transcends the borders and culture of India, the spirit of human empathy and unity is communicated to underline the importance of the festival. 

As the video is made targeting the middle-eastern audiences, the characters in the video are clearly Muslim. It is interesting to note that the Tata Group did not launch any campaign for Ramadan for its Indian audiences.

Actionable insights: 

1. Indian brands can definitely put in more effort to include the markers of the festival in their content. If they are doing a campaign, they should not shy away from using the markers of Muslim identity. Including the markers will make the campaign more inclusive and authentic.

2. Brands should not forget that the second largest community in India is Muslims. Thus, even from a sales point of view, it would be beneficial to the brands if they celebrate the month of Ramzan with the same fervour as they do with other Indian festivals such as Diwali and Holi.

3. Global brands such as Coca-Cola and Tata need to develop content for the Indian markets as well. Coca-Cola Pakistan for instance launched a campaign around Ramzan last month while Coca-Cola India has consciously chosen to stay away from it. It is good to celebrate and produce region-based content as well. But it would be really unwise to neglect a market as big as India where a large population also celebrates the festival.