Ujaya Shakya
Oct 12, 2023

Festive advertising in Nepal: Cultural insights for better consumer engagement

From Dusshera to Dashain, Nepal's vibrant festive season unfolds, revealing a diverse cultural tapestry. Marketer Ujaya Shakya reveals how brands can gain a winning edge.

Festive advertising in Nepal: Cultural insights for better consumer engagement

With the festive season around the corner, brand marketers need to remember that Nepal has over 100 plus diverse ethnic groups, each with their own distinct language and traditions. The cultural diversity stretches from Kathmandu city to the peaceful mountains and hills and the flat terai (lowlands) bordering India, with strong cross-border influences due to a porous border between the countries. For brands aiming to connect with the Nepali consumer, understanding and embracing this cultural diversity is paramount.

Culture is the heartbeat of our society; it forms the cornerstone for emotional engagement. Nepal is a land of festivals, with almost every month hosting two to three key celebrations representing diverse ethnic groups, cultures and geographic locations. From Indra Jatra to Chhat Parva, these festivals are deeply ingrained in people's hearts and offer an excellent opportunity for brand activations.

The most important festivals are between August and November, including Janai Purnima, Gai Jatra, Mantya, Teej, Indra Jatra, Dashain, Deepawali (Tihar) and Chhat Parva. This period is also followed by a bustling marriage season, making it crucial for personal care and FMCG brands. These festivals are specific to certain areas or ethnic groups, highlighting the importance of focussed brand campaigns.

Understanding the details of these festivals is crucial, and a deep dive is necessary to connect with consumer's emotions authentically. For instance, Gai Jatra is predominantly celebrated in the Kathmandu valley cities, while Mantya is confined to Lalitpur within the same valley. Teej is a celebration for women, while Indra Jatra is considered a cultural gem in Kathmandu. Both Dashain and Deepawali (Tihar) are celebrated nationwide across various ethnic groups and religions, reflecting the heterogeneity of Nepali culture. The Chhat Parva holds significant importance for people in the terai region.

The youth, constituting over 72% of the population and with a median age of 23, is a vital demographic for brand marketers. They increasingly seek a balance between their global aspirations and a deep connection to their roots while finding their identity in the globalised world. Brands need to acknowledge this evolving sensitivity to culture and tradition among the youth, actively engaging in cultural events like "Jatras" while also being exposed to globalisation. This is a shift from previous generations, like Generation X, who were immersed in Western rock and hippie culture, which gained popularity in Kathmandu with flower children visiting Nepal worldwide. 

However, it’s becoming more crucial for brands to delve deeper into these cultural nuances rather than adopting a superficial approach. Although some cultural practices may seem similar across South Asian regions, overlooking the subtle distinctions can lead to misinterpretations. Take, for instance, the festival of Dashain, which shares similarities with Dussehra in India. Despite the common theme of victory of good over evil and worship of Goddess Durga, the celebrations in Kolkata and Nepal are distinct in their participation and practices.

In Kolkata, Dussehra is celebrated with grand pandals, massive processions, and an outgoing culture encouraging people to celebrate in large gatherings. On the other hand, during Dashain in Nepal, the focus is on intimate family affairs where people seek blessings from the elderly within their homes. The cities, including Kathmandu, become notably quieter and family-centric during this time.

For brand marketers, understanding Nepal’s diverse culture is crucial for creating meaningful connections with consumers, and critical to impactful campaigns that resonate long-term.

Ujaya Shakya is founder of Outreach Nepal and author of Brandsutra.

Campaign Asia

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