Branding - Religiously Right

Branding - Religiously Right

Just a few days before the festival of Holi, Adidas launched their new HU (Health Ultimate) Holi collection in collaboration with well-known American Music producer, Pharrell Williams. The product line comprised of shoes and apparel finished in power-dyed tones of pastel shades. The launch was stimulated to generate a positive change and encourage unity in diversity; inculcating the innate spirit of humanity and equality. According to Pharrell, Adidas made Pharrell the face of the brand, and he went ahead to make humanity the face of the brand.

In spite of all the good the brand was trying to do, they seemed to have dirtied their hands, as Rajan Zed, an ardent Hindu, raised his voice to state, that the brand trivialized Hinduism in order to garner accentuating sales.

I was in for a rude shock when I read the statement. I checked up on the details of the product information, and carefully looked through all the blogs and video content online. Adidas was very careful with all their campaigns. They have even gone out to work with an Indian, Hindu model, Radhika Nair. They have gone an extra mile to safeguard religious interest. In fact, there wasn’t even one video that trivialized Hinduism, and the spirit of Holi. The video posted had rendered an information perspective on the festival of colors, and how it brought about oneness amidst people of various cultures residing in India.

Adidas Originals HU Holi Collection Pharrell Williams
Image Source: Adidas Originals

The collection comprised of an interesting line of shoes that had words like ‘Rang’ (color), ‘Insaan’ (human), and ‘Sansaar’ (the world) inscribed on the shoe in ‘Devnagari’ script. Perhaps that was where the Hindus were hit! The ‘Devnagari’ script is considered sacred. Sacred enough to be found anywhere; sparing the shoe. Probably that triggered the spark.  

But then …one day found myself looking back at some old picture on my phone. I saw pictures of me in my college days, adorning the T-shirts created by a well-known brand named ‘Tantra’. I was in love with the brand; and would often find myself scouting for newer designs. My closet probably had every single design that the company produced. And the messages on the tees were epic! So the question is; what is the brand about, and why did I really like the brand?

Adidas Originals HU Holi Collection Pharrell Williams
Image Source: Adidas Originals

When the brand started out on the brink of the millennium. They produced T-shirts that were very Hindu in origin. The collection comprised of Hindu signs and symbols some of which were pun intended (I favoured the pun intended ones). I firmly believed that there are many needless ritualistic practices that hard-core Hindu’s abide by even today. ‘Tantra’ simply tried to incorporate change in the way people thought. The effort was small; but humorous and effective. (Today, the theme of their collection changes with every passing season) 

  • Did Tantra’s efforts pay off?
Well, to some extent, yes! It impacted the youth in a big way. They started to look at teachings of Hinduism from a more practical perspective and questioning some of the unwarranted ritualistic practices. The tees created a rage in the expat community, and the brand was on a globetrotting spree in no time at all.
  • Did the brand sell religion?

Well, yes they did make a commercial gain out of religion, but they also sowed seeds of practicality in the youth. While makers of the brand and designs could have been oblivious of the fact that they were actually commercializing religion, they did so in good faith. (very similar to the above mentioned case of the Adidas and Pharrell William collection.)  

India is a nation that is home to a number of cultures. Each culture enjoys a certain festive spirit that is synonymous to them. With the influence of the media; cultural exchanges happen at a rocket fuelled pace. Hence, today we know much more about many other festivals that are celebrated around the world.

There is nothing quite wrong with the commercialization of religion; In fact we have grown up with it over the centuries. The commercialization of religion dates back to the time when Gutenberg invented the printing press. The fact that the Bible was translated and delivered in world languages itself implied that religion acquired a more commercial leaning (don’t forget that many was made on every Bible sold).

Adidas Originals Holi Collection HU Pharrell Williams
Image Source: Adidas Originals

Today religion has gone well beyond the realms of a Sunday prayer at the community Church. Religious discourses (on any religion) are readily available on media, 24/7. Viewers are hooked to discourses and religious activities in the comfort of their own home. And whoever states that it isn’t a money making racket, didn’t really know of the charges of the ‘Aarti’ on television. For most of us this could prove to be a marketing gimmick; but for many others, it simply happens to be the pious act of devotion being virtually conducted.

As I key off I’d simply like to state, that we as individual’s need to broaden out horizon, and focus on the message instead of judging the intention of the conveyed communication. 

Written by Heer Kothari

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