Marketing lessons from Kumbh

At my recent visit to Haridwar (during the Kumbh Mela) one thing that really struck out (apart from the crowd) was the number of hoardings on the Haridwar-Rishikesh road. This road is parallel to Ganga & is the path that most devotees would take from their camps/hotels to the ghats. And each hoarding was vying for your attention.

Kumbh Mela 2010

I was reminded of the 1st year B school marketing lessons by looking at these hoardings. Before we get into the specifics of what one can learn from these ads, its crucial you understand the economics of Kumbh Mela.


The Kumbh is like a “perfect market” – the 1st of the 4 types we are taught in Economics 101. Why? Cos there are

  • countless people seeking the same thing (read – unlimited demand).
  • countless babas/devis/akaharas/netas/sadhus/trusts providing the same thing (read- unlimited supply)
  • there is hardly much difference in the product or service (all are here for some form of devotional or spiritual gains )

So it wasn’t surprising to see

  • Hoardings from almost every baba/sant/devi/mataji you have ever heard of
  • Some take the fear psychosis route – “Hindu dharma kahtre mein hai” (Transaltion- The Hindu religion is in danger !).  Remember, the days of Insurance ads when they shifted to showing survivors in distress as a way to drive home the point.
  • Some took popular themes which every one could relate to. Here it was Global Warming. With so much of national & international debate, it sure was a sane choice. It was like, a Tea co. taking up the issue of casting votes or corruption.
  • Its said that one must have a multitude of AVs around the same theme so that the consumer fatigue does not happen. Soham baba mission & the “Hindu dharma khatre mein hai”, did this beautifully. One theme but different images or sub-issues.
  • Some corporate brands had an inherent advantage like:
    • Bank of Baroda’s corp colors merged well with the color theme at Kumbh
    • or DoCoMo’s “why be a part of the crowd” took a whole new meaning
    • but the most amazing was Uninor’s – “Ab mera number hai” (Translation- its my turn now) right infront of the ghats where people were jostling to take a dip in the Ganges.
  • Well if you thought this was it, no- there was a Book Release also. What better place/time to release the Encyclopedia of Hinduism.

Spend some time there & am sure you will also develop some respect for these masters- masters of advertising !

PS: The Kumbh Lions go to Soham Baba for his tasteful portfolio, choice of theme & proper highlighting of direct channel (his website is hard to miss). Am sure you would find it hard to disagree.