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Brands eye Durga Puja bhog to advertise products

NEW DELHI/ KOLKATA: Today's bhog is sponsored by —, well, you can fill in the blanks with the sponsor of your choice. As the whiff of festivity gets thicker in the air, brands are out to get much more in-your-face. The past few years have seen Puja pandals being plastered with names of commercial backers.

This time, more bullish to get the biggest bang for their bucks, they have homed in on the bhog or prasad to be offered to the
Goddess Durga.

Emami has tied up with more than 100 pujas pandals at housing societies in Kolkatawhere its Healthy & Tasty edible oil will be used in cooking the bhog. The company will also package bhog for another 30 pujas that will be home-delivered in their respective localities with the package flaunting the brand name in big and bold. These twin initiatives will see the company reach out to a target base of more than one lakh people and help build the brand, said Aditya Agarwal, director of the Kolkata-based FMCG major.

"It's not that sales jump immediately, nor is it intended for that. But we expect to derive a long-term impact and build an emotional connect with consumers." 
DaburBSE 0.42 % found a sweet spot in the fruits that are consumed the least in the spread of the bhog.

The beverage and shampoo maker will serve 125-ml packs of its Real brand of fruit juice at the pandals.

"During festivals, our food habits become unhealthy with higher intake of sweets and fried items," said Praveen Jaipuriar, Dabur India category head for food. "Real attempts to bring in health during these times of festive binging." Dabur has tied up with pandals across Delhi NCR and Kolkata for the Real juice promotion.

Brands are bullish on the their new-found divine recipe for success but some experts find it too aggressive and caution that the companies may have a tightrope walk between branding and tradition.

"Festivals in India have got highly commercialised and companies look to get value in return, but branding a bhog could be crossing the line," said commentator and brand specialist Santosh Desai.

It is, however, hard to make a distinction when old practices yield place to the new ones such as the quintessential mishti being replaced by chocolates. "It's part of the process when rituals are being replaced by brands," he said. Campaigns that are too obtrusive could lead to a backlash, warned an expert. "Some things are sacrosanct; they need to be kept that way. Overloading consumers with marketing may not necessarily work," said consultant Harish Bijoor.

Still, clever branding exercises can translate into goodwill and mileage. Months before the
Durga Puja, consumer goods giant Hindustan UnileverBSE -2.23 % had branded rotis at theKumbh Mela this year. Each roti bore the message — Lifebuoy se haath dhoye kya?

Fine dining chain Speciality Restaurants is sponsoring the prasad at seven of the biggest puja pandals in Mumbai, including that of Lokhandwala, besides the Kalibari puja in New Delhi. However, the company doesn't intend to brand the bhog with any of the names of its restaurants.

Speciality Restaurants CEO Anjan Chatterjee said he prefers not to brand the bhog because of the religious sentiments attached. "Instead, we get free space in these pujas where we put our restaurant stalls such as Oh! Calcutta, Mainland China, and banners, which is a big branding opportunity since some of these pujas receive footfalls of well over five lakhs every day," he said. The more old-style forms of branding, including stalls, will still have a substantial presence, promoting products ranging from food and beverages to apparels, household products, 
insurance companies and even tyres and banks. Some traditions are worth keeping, it appears.

With brands going gung-ho over the Durga Puja, there will be a first-of-its-kind decor for the deity at Kolkata's Sreebhumi Sporting Club this year. 
Tanishq will adorn the Goddess with jewellery worth an estimated Rs 5 crore.