Big Bazaar plays the social card

Over the past year and more, Kishore Biyani has repeatedly reiterated his intention to rewire his retail empire into a disruptive force, forcefully making his point while speaking to the media and to his employees. He has often said that he sees his brands as cheeky challengers that need to snatch the advantage away from online marketplaces, snapping out at doubting naysayers who have predicted the end of brick-and-mortal retail stores like Big Bazaar. Now with its latest campaign, #Nekikamahina (the month of good deeds), Big Bazaar seems to be playing to his gameplan. It is seeking to establish itself as a multi channel player that delivers anywhere at any hour while weaving a social message into its brand story in its ongoing campaign on digital media and television.

The campaign drives home the brand's Indian-ness by bringing out the unifying force of festivals while asserting the store's growing multi channel capabilities. Sadashiv Nayak, CEO of the Big Bazaar chain of stores says that in March 2014, they had launched a campaign that, in a way, set the road map for future communication and brand development. The store had then adopted the tagline, 'Making India beautiful', shedding its 'sabse sasta' image. The group invested Rs 100 crore in the campaign which included 52 short films on 52 categories that focused on the societal and demographic changes in the country. "It is all about helping shoppers live better. We always see whether our communication adheres to this," Nayak says.

Interestingly the new campaign, its first in two years, is also an indicator of the brand's change in positioning. From a price-oriented positioning strategy, the brand seems to be moving towards a high service-high value proposition. And this is perhaps where most branded retail stores will find their calling in coming months as old rules of retail are tossed around in the digital storm that has the world in its grip. Digital analytics firm eMarketer projects that online retail sales will more than double between 2015 and 2019 and account for more than 12 per cent of global sales by 2019. "Retail therapy is giving way to e-tail therapy," says a report by Nielsen called 'Connected Commerce'. The report cites a global survey (including participants in India) to say, "Omnichannel shoppers seamlessly switch between on and offline channels with ease."

It is in this omnichannel space (which Kishore Biyani has labeled multi channel) that Big Bazaar wants to pitch its tent. Big Bazaar is set to expand its chain by 30-40 stores over the next year, but while increasing its offline footprint, it is keen to build a digital presence too. Unlike Amazon, Flipkart and Snapdeal, it is not restricted by its format and can serve customers in the offline and online world is the message the campaign wants to drive home.

The new stores have been planned for small and mid-size towns in Bihar, Jammu & Kashmir and Uttar Pradesh. According to retail experts, this is where the bulk of the market lies. This is also where many online marketplaces are targeting their communication efforts, indicating perhaps a stiff battle for eyeballs coming up outside the metros in coming months.

The ads for Big Bazaar use the emotional connect that Indians have with festivals to infuse what advertising veterans term, a 'socially relevant' message. This has become a must-do for brands looking to have their stories shared widely across social media. The first few ads talk about how religion is no barrier when it comes to building relationships. Featuring former Bollywood actor, Archana Puran Singh, the ad shows a Muslim doctor getting ready to break her Ramzan fast rushing to help a Sikh family whose daughter is about to deliver a baby. When she is done with her job, the family arranges for food for her from Big Bazaar.

"It is about resonating neki (goodness) associated with the season through the campaign. We have this tagline 'apki seva main' which talks about serving our communities through our stores," says Nayak. Festivals have played a big part in Big Bazaar's branding plans in the past too.

Besides the big festivals such as Diwali and Christmas, promotional events and messages have been planned around Onam in Kerala, Rojo and Savitri in Odisha and Bhaiphota in West Bengal. The stores stock special festival-oriented merchandise. Nayak says as part of the current season, it has launched new range of women's wear and new range of food and homeware products.

"We have multiple categories across geographies and cater to different demographics. The whole communication is aimed at creating consumption occasions," he says. Interestingly the current ads convey the food delivery capabilities of Big Bazaar, a segment that is seen to be growing at a breakneck pace. "We want customers to engage with categories," Nayak adds.

Festivals are not the only occasions that the store wants to weave into its communication stories. Last month, it offered cash bonus vouchers to 'pantry loading customers' (those who buy in the beginning of the month). It is also engaging children by tailoring shop-based events around cartoon character Chota Bheem. Shop at all times, from any place and any device, the brand wants to tell its customers. But so does almost every other retail chain - offline, online and omnichannel - today.

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