Businesses are increasingly acknowledging the diverse nature of the Indian market. While the country can be categorised based on socio-economic factors, age demographics, and geographical regions, the most critical differentiator among Indian consumers lies in the language they speak.
In the past, marketers have relied on national advertising campaigns, often led by taglines or slogans in Hindi, which are then directly translated into other languages and deployed in regional markets. However, while this approach resonates with the core audience, i.e., the Hindi-speaking market, it often fails to capture the attention of the broader language audience.
This raises an essential question for marketers: Should they invest efforts in creating mass campaigns with a regional focus to connect with diverse language audiences?
To understand how modern marketers are deploying language advertising, Brand World Summit, hosted by ETBrandEquity.com, convened a panel discussion, joined by Ritu Gupta, global marketing director, Dell Technologies; Rahul Gandhi, chief marketing officer, iD Fresh Food; Shoma Narayanan, managing director & head – group strategic marketing & communications, DBS Bank India; Vineeth Viswambharan, associate vice president, marketing & sales, Adani Wilmar; Tushar Malhotra, head of marketing, Bisleri International; Promita Saha Khan, vice president, Karukrit Advertising and Anya Luthra, vice president – marketing, Inshorts. The session was chaired by Varun Markande, ETBrandEquity.
Not only advertising, but there is also a significant disparity in terms of content and media catering to language-specific audiences. While traditional media such as television and print have addressed this gap, there’s still a considerable gap on digital media in terms of English and non-English content. To bridge this divide, the creators of the news aggregator app Inshorts have developed ‘Public’, a dedicated platform focused on delivering local updates in people’s native languages. Primarily featuring video content, this platform offers highly engaging material, providing comfort and familiarity to its target audience residing outside major metropolitan areas.Luthra expressed enthusiasm over the product’s incredible response within just six months of its launch. “With an initial user base of 10 million and an impressive current count of nearly 60 million active users, the Public app sources content from a diverse range of creators,” she said.
The propensity of a brand to invest in language advertising is closely tied to its nationwide distribution. After all, if a brand lacks physical availability across the country, there’s little point in focusing on mental availability through language-based marketing efforts.
With a significant retail presence across the country, Dell recognized the value of language advertising early on, before purchasing power of Tier 2 and 3 came to the fore. While the brand leverages nine regional languages to power its marketing strategies, Gupta recognized that it is not solely language adaptation that impacts the reception of a creative piece of advertising.
Gupta stated, “Merely dubbing a concept from a metropolitan mindset into another language may not be as effective as creating content with a more regional, warm approach. We have observed a significant difference in how small-town consumers respond, engage, and view creative content when cultural nuances are thoughtfully considered.”
Echoing Gupta’s views, Khan averred that a powerful way of creating impact on consumers lies in building the brand from a local cultural context. With a legacy of 91 years, Karukrit Advertising has built a formidable expertise on advertising strategies to win over consumers in the East. According to Khan, the key lies in understanding when and where to connect with consumers in their lies.
“Brands must make meaningful connections with consumers that go beyond surface level advertising,” emphasised Khan. “For example, festivals like Durga Puja are a big part of the cultural mosaic of the East. Having worked with several major brands, I have observed how integrating the brand into the festivities, pandal and even beside the goddess herself, is a powerful way of creating an impact,” she said.
Another market with distinct cultures and subcultures is the South market comprising four states. Bisleri, which has a significant presence in the South, sought to establish a stronger association with these audiences that went beyond creating a piece of language communication. The brand decided to tap into the cultural phenomenon of South cinema to forge a deeper connect.
According to Malhotra, the brand’s association with popular South films including ‘RRR’, ‘Ponniyin Selvan’ 1 & 2, ‘Vikram’ etc. created a startling impact and provided valuable insights for the brand. “The associations not only fostered brand loyalty among consumers but also trade loyalty from our distributors and sales partners,” highlighted Malhotra. “Furthermore, the limited edition pack released during the screening of ‘RRR’ went on to create a top-of-mind recall that surpassed the fourth largest competitor in the category.”
While bottled water is a fairly ubiquitous product, what can marketers do when it comes to selling a product that has its own cultural nuance embedded in it? Gandhi who steers the marketing efforts for iD Fresh Food remarked that brands utilise language, art or music to evoke a reaction from the consumer. However, when it comes to products like idli, dosa and vada and filter coffee, the brand observed a remarkable adoption in markets outside the South.
Gandhi noted, “Despite our product portfolio having a South Indian essence, it has gained significant popularity in the North and West markets as well. Surprisingly, our sales of idli dosa batter are higher in Bombay than in Bangalore, while Pune and Chennai sales are relatively similar.”
He further added, “Although the product enjoys acceptance nationwide, it’s essential to recognize that we cannot communicate with a consumer in Delhi the same way we would with someone in Chennai. Understanding and catering to these regional nuances are pivotal in fostering a deeper connection with consumers across different markets.”
Brands are defying the conventional notion that prescribes a national product and proposition, which must then be translated into regional communication. Even widely penetrated categories are recognising that regional nuances have a significant impact on consumer preference and sales. To effectively address these variations, careful consideration is given to how a product is considered in different markets and the use cases associated with it.
Adani Wilmar’s approach focuses on priority markets that have a substantial addressable market and a strong brand presence. Viswambharan explained that the company identified ten socio-cultural zones where concentrated efforts are directed. Each geography is treated as a distinct marketing region, allowing for a targeted and customised approach. To illustrate, Viswambharan stated, “When you call your product poha, you alienate 50% of the country that knows this product as ‘awlakki’ or another term. Refining the product communication, the packaging design adds to the complexity when catering to multiple socio-cultural zones.”
Some categories are building language communication strategy from the perspective of building a deeper relationship with consumers and educating them about complex products. Additionally, understanding regional nuances also helps brands understand the propensity of consumers to buy certain products.
Narayanan noted, “Despite being an innovative and digital-first bank, we’ve observed that customers in regional markets still show a preference for visiting branches. They utilise digital channels to access comprehensive information about banking products, but their perception of banks’ trustworthiness is influenced by our staff’s ability to communicate in the language they speak.”