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One of the challenges of making time-bound communication for a calendar date e.g. Republic Day or Independence day is that the ad or branded content has a very short life. It is often only relevant on the day or for two weeks, one before and one after. 

With such a short life, the ROI on the communication can only be realised if the brand communication makes a lasting impression and enters consumers’ long-term memory. 

Which then begs the question of how to do that? What are some good examples? Is there a theory or method behind the practice?

After looking through many examples of brand communication for Republic Day, we have selected a sample of better and worse examples to draw our inferences. But, before we jump into the examples, some relevant theory about nations, patriotism and nationalism.

The imagined nation and the brand point-of-view

A nation, as Benedict Anderson states, is an imagined political community created through shared cultural experiences, language and historical narratives. He argues that nations are not natural or eternal entities. Taking a cue from Anderson, it is only fair to say that Republic Day as it is celebrated in India, is an important addition to our concept of the imagined nation of India. Celebrating the day makes our imagination of the nation as a community, more concrete and tangible.

Our assertion is that brands also have their own imagination of the nation. It is worth pointing out that the vision that brands and the government have of the nation can be different. While the brands and the government both want conscientious citizens, most brands envision a nation that is more inclusive and heterogenous.    

There are a couple of common elements that all brands leverage in their ads and campaigns to resonate with the spirit of the day: 

  1. Patriotic themes: Many brands create advertisements with patriotic themes to tap into the nationalistic sentiment of the day. These ads often feature images of the Indian flag and soldiers, with messages of hope and national pride.
  2. Celebrating diversity: India is a diverse country, and brands often use Republic Day to celebrate this diversity. Advertisements and campaigns showcase the different cultures, languages and traditions of India during this occasion, and how they are bound together by the common thread of the imagined nation.
  3. Anthem-like music: The background score plays an important part in the campaigns. The music used in these campaigns evoke feelings of patriotism and national pride among the audience. By using music that resembles a national anthem, brands try to tap into consumers’ emotions towards the nation and thus create a strong brand connection between their brand, the nation and the consumer.

Let’s take a more detailed look at campaigns that have tried to go beyond the familiar elements outlined above.

Axis Bank: Republic Day #23in23­

Axis Bank's Republic Day campaign, #23in23, focuses on making Indian sign language a part of the discourse and promoting inclusiveness. The protagonist of the story is trying to make the audience aware that everyone knows a bit of the Indian sign language. There are certain gestures like the ‘folded hands’ or the ‘salute’ that work as embedded symbols in our culture.

The message they're trying to get across is that every way of communication should remain open and accessible to people, no citizen of this nation should feel left out. The patriotic song "Saare Jahaan Se Accha" plays in the background, further emphasising the message of unity and inclusiveness. The slogan "DilSeOpen" reinforces the idea of openness and accessibility.

The ad effectively showcases the bank's commitment to diversity and inclusiveness and appeals to a wide range of consumers.  The brand's watermark is always present in the background, reminding viewers of its presence.

Zomato: Republic Day | Salaam Sabko Wahi | Zomato

Zomato's Republic Day campaign, "Salaam Sabko Wahi” showcases its delivery man delivering food to various parts of the nation, wishing everyone in uniform with the same greeting - a salute. The ad is shot from the perspective of the delivery men and showcases their daily routine, as they go about delivering food to customers.

By taking the vantage point of the delivery man, it aims to highlight the message that all uniforms serve the nation and deserve respect. The ad ends with a salute to rival delivery brands, emphasising the message of unity and respect.

The ad also showcases Zomato's commitment to promoting unity and respect among its competitors. The use of the tagline "Salaam Sabko Wahi”, which we also hear as the background anthem of the campaign reinforces the message of unity and respect, making it a powerful and memorable campaign.

Zomato's Republic Day campaign is well-executed and impactful as it highlights the importance of unity and respect within the nation and the people who are part of the nation-building process.

Air India: Desh ka Naam #HarAasmaan

Air India's Republic Day ad showcases a child hoisting the national flag, she intends to hoist the flag at the highest point and thus she travels on an airplane to fulfil this dream. The act of hoisting the flag is accompanied by an anthem-like song in the background. The song describes her dream of hoisting the tricolour at the highest point. The brand is trying to promote itself as an essential part of the nation, the flag and the plane are used as symbols of both the brand and the nation.

The tagline of the campaigns emphasises the idea of 'Desh ka Naam' or the nation's name, and how Air India helps the nation in its growth story. However, the ad lacks a cohesive narrative, the tagline is not put to good use and it makes the ad come across as cliched.

A stronger storyline could've helped the brand's integration, it could have shown that the child has a dream of representing India in an international sports competition, and Air India acts as a catalyst in helping her achieve her dreams and thus putting India on the world stage, the ‘Desh ka Naam: Har Aasmaan’ tagline would have been effectively used in such a way.

Tata Tea Premium: Desh ki Jhanki by Desh ki Chai | Celebrating India at 75

Tata Tea's Republic Day campaign, "Desh ki Jhanki," features a pop-up storybook showcasing the Republic Day floats of various states. The brand is promoting its tea as the "Desh ki Chai" or the tea of the nation. The use of the pop-up storybook as a tool to narrate the ad campaign is quite clever as a pop-up storybook is usually educational and inspires awe and wonderment in children. The last page of the storybook makes a smooth plug-in to Assam, the state known for its tea production. There is a Tata Tea on the floater as well.

The brand integration of Tata Tea is quite seamless, and the campaign manages to astutely leverage the themes of patriotism and nostalgia of the floats, producing a similar sense of wonderment within the audience.

Familiarity versus Creativity as the tension behind memorable campaigns for Republic Day

There are certain signs and symbols familiar to the citizens that reinforce our idea of a nation as a shared community.  The flag, for instance, acts as a perfect metonym (part that represents the whole) for the nation. Waving the flag is considered a sign of national pride for the citizens, as can be seen in the above advertisements. The flag being hoisted at multiple places, printed in newspapers and displayed on websites (such as the Google Doodle) makes us feel that we are one.

However, in our analysis, we found that brands that use familiar symbols also need to tread the path more carefully than brands who don’t use familiar symbols such as the flag. There is not a lot of room to play around with familiar symbols, as it can lead to a backlash, both from the government and the citizens. Thus, brands that do end up using familiar symbols also fall into the trap of using clichés to play it safe.

Creativity is held back by familiarity. It is only when brands step out of their comfort zone by not overly relying on familiar symbols that the campaigns become much more creative as can be seen in the campaigns by Zomato and Axis Bank. Starting from the brand’s core symbol, their staff and building a story of good citizenship for Republic Day, helps these brands create much more memorable communication for the day.