India is a diverse nation with multi-cultural and multi-language existence. People in different parts of the country speak in their own local languages. The trend is more pronounced in tier-2, 3 cities and beyond. With rising digital literacy, increasing acceptance of smartphones and adoption of the internet, there is a new set of customers across the country that brands can easily engage with. These customers are not well versed in English or Hindi, but speak in local Indian languages. As per a recent Google-KPMG survey, India already has more than 234 million Indian languages online users in comparison with 175 million English users. The study further revealed that Indian language user base on the internet is expected to reach 536 million by 2021 at CAGR of 18 per cent, whereas English users will reach only 199 million with 3 per cent growth.
The last couple of years have witnessed the emergence of regional communication and content marketing, as brands have realised that people connect better when the communication is done in their preferred language. Major platforms have started recognising this paradigm shift and supporting non-English languages. From brands standpoint, the early movers were telecom and FMCG brands who began with local language creatives as well as sending out communication on specific local festivals, to build a stronger brand connect.
Better customer connect
Today, increasing number of brands are embracing regional language communication across new age platforms, like TikTok, ShareChat, and Helo. Also, brands like Pepsi, Coca Cola, Ponds, Kurkure are creating television advertisements in regional languages to build local connect. Coca Cola used Tamil superstar, Vikram for the ‘Thanda Matlab Coca Cola’ campaign in Tamil Nadu, while Aamir Khan was the face for the north India campaign. Brands are using the local celebrities to create buzz.
Regional content and communications tend to drive a better customer connect, owing to the fact that people love their local language as well as have an in-depth connect with their culture and tradition. However, it is important for brands to understand local nuances before working on regional communication strategy, as there is no one-size-fits-all approach.
Moderated and personalised content
Increasing number of consumers are consuming content on the mobile phone, which has become an essential part of our daily lives. A majority of these are becoming increasing dependent on technology to help them make their lives easier. According to a Zinnov report, 36% of respondents prefer recommended content over searching for content on their own. This indicates that moderation and personalisation will be a key online content preference going forward. This creates an opportunity for regional content as individuals tend to prefer the flavour of their local nuances in the communication from brands.
Short and crisp videos
Videos are taking the lead in content marketing, across B2B and B2C brands. Majority of consumers prefer video over text content. This has resulted in exponential rise in visitors across video platforms like YouTube and TikTok. These platforms are being used by brands to connect with customers in an entertaining way and create brand recall.
Also, increasing number of consumers are preferring content in regional languages. The popularity of global apps like Helo and local apps like Glance, which is the fastest growing Indian content platform, is a clear proof of this new trend.
If a brand can get regional influencers on its platform, it could work wonders. There is a need to tap influencers who are popular in the rural India and get them to curate content. This strategy works well as consumers trust an influencer a lot more because of relatability. They instantly connect with the customers, owing to the use of local dialect and flavour.
When I was working with a beauty brand, we conceptualised on-ground fashion events with local celebrities. These events were a big hit and helped to create brand awareness and recall. Also, we leveraged local celebrities on social channels like Instagram to connect with customers in a specific state.
Content that can be consumed and shared
Brands need to create content that is interesting and shareable. The form factor should be readily consumable and the content should be shareable across social media and chat platforms like Whatspp. The brands need to up their game and look at producing regional content to capture the next set of audience. With massive growth of internet users in smaller towns and villages, the digital content is expected to become more relevant to masses, mirroring the content on television, to suit the needs of this untouched target segment. Content like videos and audio content will work very well in regional media. In case the brands can leverage local influencers to drive content, it could act as a great multiplier.
Newsdog, an app by a Chines entrepreneur is a good example of a brand that delivers regional content. Newdog received early success and today has over 50 million downloads.
Increasing customer base
While YouTube already supports 11 major Indian languages, big brands like Google and Facebook are also expected to offer all of their services in major Indian languages in the times to come. Companies are offering distinctive services in regional languages to cater to the rising demands of regional content.
Global and content driven companies like Quora, UC Browser and PopXo have already started publishing content in Hindi. With a low percentage of English speaking population in India, regionally led campaigns open doors for tapping on newer customers, for brands across industries.
The way ahead
India is the one of the fastest growing smartphone markets in the world. It is touted to reach more than 650 million smartphone subscribers in 2021, thereby becoming the second-largest internet market in the world. As per a recent study by Zinnov, the 4G user base in India is estimated to increase from 600 million in 2019 to close to 900 million by 2022 across tier-1, 2 and 3 cities. Hence, brands cannot take the risk of communicating in standard/global languages. To be able to cater to the new and first-time internet users, brands need to leverage regional language content.
The regional and digitally active community is an avid mobile user and wants progressive information. The members of this community thrive are curious to know about a subject, understand it in depth and evaluate. These may or may not be individuals who are financially backward. The common thread for the community members is that they are not well-versed in English, and are giving rise to an industry that will drive meaningful engagement for both brands and consumers alike.
The coming years will be the rise of regional led brand and communication strategy. Brands may hire local experts to be able to understand the nuances of a specific area and help create impactful communication. The content marketing strategies around the usage of local dialect will be more effective. Needless to say, early mover will have an advantage.
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