Making marketing communicate

Rajendra Khare | Updated on January 20, 2018

Finding direction Marketing has to explore ways to appeal to everyone

A look at how advertisers have attempted to appeal to diverse audiences

The recent 4G ad campaign by Airtel takes viewers through a panoramic ride across the country.

Sitting by a lake in Shillong, a tribal girl plays a song on her phone that has 4G connectivity, as Sasha Chettri, the chic urban face of Airtel, looks dumbfounded. In another commercial, riding on a bullock cart in the forests of Ettimadai in Coimbatore, two urban girls watch 4G come alive again, in the hands of a rural woman who tells them where to turn at the crossroads, thanks to the GPS on her phone. Yet another ad in the series shows villagers watching cricket high up in the snow-clad mountains of Mashobra near Shimla. The latest is the Rajasthani woman in Pushkar proud of ‘her man’ having a 4G connection in desert land.

Apart from marketing the wide network of the telecom brand, the ad campaign also captures the diverse locales and cultures of the country, possibly united by technology.

A varied market base

It is said that in India the taste of water changes every three kilometres and the language every 12 kilometres. A ride in the good old train is a lesson in the much celebrated diversity of this nation, with its rapidly changing landscapes and the myriad hues of the soil and the fields, at every corner and each turn.

From language, demographics and clothing to food, festivals and traditions, no two states in the country are identical. This is what makes India a truly fascinating multi-cultural tapestry held together by the thread of unity.

Zeroing in on the differences

It is not easy for marketers to communicate with such a diverse customer base, without an awareness of the regional preferences and cultural experiences across the far corners of the country.

A successful business model moves out of its comfort zone to understand the market dynamics of different regions, so that it can utilise its marketing resources wisely and get the right fit. Merely changing the language of communication (for instance, a Hindi ad dubbed into Tamil or Malayalam) will no longer work. It is important to choose the right tone and message, bearing in mind the values, buying habits, perceptions of different socio-cultural groups and even aspects such as food, fashion and weather.

What appeals to the North of India may not go down well in the South. And what works in Tamil Nadu need not necessarily hold true for Kerala or Karnataka. Marketers have for long ignored the North-East, a region with its distinct identity and culture and a lot of potential. And even within a culture, there are evident differences, be it in ethnicity, age, gender, profession, family and environment. Of course, with greater assimilation and intermingling of cultures, popular perceptions may no longer hold true. Marketers are advised to back their marketing promotion with solid findings and research instead of falling for stereotypes.

Success stories

The diversity in the country has been used successfully by certain brands. The Incredible India campaign is an illustrative showcase of the overall vibrancy of the country, its colours and cultures.

Local brands use regional celebrities and local contexts to micro-connect with customers. Good examples of this would be brands such as Shakti Masala, Gold Winner, Lion Dates, MTR, Muthoot Finance and Hasmukhrai tea. The medium of radio plays a big role in local brand advertising.

National brands such as Tanishq, Nescafe Sunrise and Airtel also have region-specific ads and marketing initiatives such as music shows and talent hunts.

Apart from regional segments, marketers are also targeting socio-economic sections, age groups, generations, gender and rural-urban households, across various mediums and platforms such as television, YouTube, Facebook, and on-ground activation in melas and malls.

Perhaps one of the best ad campaigns screaming unity in diversity are IPL ad campaigns every year. From Chalo bulava aaya hai, to India ka tyohaar, IPL ads have been effective in creating a sense of unity amongst supporters of different teams across the country. The binding factor is, of course, the game itself and the entertainment factor. This season’s campaign, Ek India Happywallah, strengthens the integrity in diversity element further with children appeasing belligerent adults indulging in unlawful activities.

It’s clear that despite differences, the overall psyche of Indians, in terms of the emotions people share and the values they hold, is more or less the same. Buying patterns and preferences are unique and diverse and herein lies the true challenge for the marketer.

Rajendra Khare is Founder, Chairman & Managing Director, SureWaves MediaTech

Published on May 19, 2016

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