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The most spirited and joyous time of the year in India is now over. Typically Diwali content highlights family-related emotions of love, sharing, caring and inter-generational bonds along with celebrations, joy and happiness - all tied in with shopping and spending.

However, since the pandemic broke last year, we are seeing a slight shift and new themes being explored, where the family feeling is being extended out from family = those with whom we share blood ties to family = all those who we can care about.

If we were to identify a common theme that runs through the blockbuster content of this year, it is ‘sharing and caring for small businesses’. It started with Cadbury’s campaign that ran last year where they celebrated and supported small businesses by promoting them. This year too Cadbury continued with their focus on small businesses and took it to the next level. (Read our take on Cadbury’s campaign here:

Apart from thematic unity, the ‘‘Acts not just Ads’ dictum that became popular during the first lockdown, was carried forward, with brands not stopping with making emotional video content, but backing that up with a specific act or set of acts.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the festive content.

Diye se Diya Jalao | HP India

HP India’s short film begins by showing a bunch of local shopkeepers gearing up for Diwali. It underlines a sense of excitement at finally some good business coming their way after a horrible last year. However, there is an old juice shop owner who is forced to shift his shop from the main market street to a sidestreet owing to some construction.

Demonstrating a remarkable spirit of solidarity, following the lead of one young shop owner, all the other shopkeepers decide to help the old man in their mohalla. They print out the juice shop menu and posters and put them up everywhere. They also complement the promotion by themselves ordering juice from his shop for their respective customers. This results in thriving business for the old man, even as their own business grows in the festive season.

Through the concept of ‘diye se diya jale’, HP highlights the spirit of solidarity and support that is central to the festive spirit. It puts forward other messages such as that Diwali is festive only when it is festive for all, thus an inclusive approach is central to Diwali. And that it is important for each one of us to be the light that lights up others’ lives.

Yeh Diwali Kisson Wali | ZEE

With two short videos launched on its social content hub- OptimiZee, Zee showed its support for small businesses. The videos celebrate unique quirks of the local shopping experience like marking steel plates with the customer’s names. Another video celebrates a couple who own a small saree shop.

Zee’s content urges consumers to support the local shop owners and in turn enrich themselves with tales that they are sure to encounter while shopping in their area. It celebrates the traditional shop set-up where items are readily displayed and services are catered to customers.

Zee’s content also educates the younger generation who have presumably switched to online shopping from big e-comm brands to rediscover the magic of shopping from local small stores, which lies not in high-tech sophistication but unique cultural practices and interesting stories.

Thus, through these videos, Zee champions the #VocalForLocal ideology.

A Soulful Diwali | Ram Bandhu

Spice and Snacks brand Ram Bandhu which traces its own journey from a small shop in Nashik celebrates other small shops with this Marathi short film. The film is premised around a small general store and the co-operative group housing society that it caters to.

The plot shows society members coming together to help the struggling general store owner by means of buying him an auto-rickshaw and chairs. The society’s president highlights the crucial role played by milkmen, vegetable vendors and small store owners during the Covid lockdowns. They are highlighted as being as important and heroic as doctors, nurses and healthcare workers and their hard work is paid tribute to.

Towards the end, the video shows a symbolic way to celebrate local heroes: by writing their names on lamps and lanterns and hanging them around.

Ram Bandhu brand, therefore, reminds audiences that small shop owners are the unsung heroes in our midst and they are deserving of acknowledgement and celebration this Diwali.

A similar method of paying tribute or saying thanks was devised by Amazon for their own Diwali campaign. Amazon encouraged its customers to “deliver” a thank you to their delivery associates as a method of showing gratitude:

Incredible Sellers, Incredible Stories | Flipkart

Self-styled as “human stories of resilience, patience, and courage”, Flipkart’s “Incredible Sellers, Incredible Stories'' is a series of episodes hosted by Richa Chadha. The series provides an excellent look into Flipkart’s initiatives vis-a-vis their sellers.

Presented as a casual chat show, the series highlights the lives of several small business owners. Some of them like Charu Gupta began with as little as Rs 5000.

“Incredible Sellers, Incredible Stories” effortlessly highlights Flipkart’s services and initiatives that are provided to aid sellers. But most of all, it foregrounds the sellers and their stories. It talks about the leap from being offline shop-owners to becoming respected e-commerce sellers.

The episodes aired for the Diwali season present inspirational stories of success that can serve as a leading light for those struggling with their financial and other life issues.

Wrapping Up: Solidarity, support and gratitude

Branded content around Diwali is always high on positive emotions and cultural symbolism. As said in the beginning, in previous years, such content focused on family bonding and emotions related to family bonds such as love, caring, sharing, going home and togetherness.

However, this year’s theme has extended the definition of ‘family’ beyond blood ties to those who serve us and help us and are all around us - the small shopkeeper who is the backbone of our neighbourhoods and our cities.

The new emotions connected to Diwali by this year’s content are to do with the spirit of solidarity, support and gratitude. At the very least, we need to acknowledge those who serve us at great risk to their own health, in the pandemic. Beyond acknowledgement lies recognition, support and solidarity. The diyas that we light for Diwali are a metaphor for reaching into the enlightened side of ourselves, the large-heartedness of spirit that we all have within and thus bringing the light of joy into the lives of people around us. 

In creating branded content for this Diwali, brands have sought to go beyond mirroring consumers’ life experiences to inspiring them to find and express their enlightened selves.