India versus Bharat: A 'one-size-fits-all' strategy can no longer work

In the second part of 'India versus Bharat' story, marketers point out that brands will need to be 'innovative' in leveraging targeting propositions and focus more on regionalisation and vernacular content

Shreya Negi
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India versus Bharat: A 'one-size-fits-all' strategy can no longer work

With the gradual narrowing down of the divide between India and Bharat owing to technology and other advancements, marketers believe that it is important to cultivate aspirations across regions of the country with differentiated communication strategies. The ongoing practice of ‘dubbing’ content for multiple regions will have to change, and new strategies should be implemented on the ground.

Marketers also stated that there are a plethora of opportunities to tap into in Bharat today, and they are only going to increase in the years ahead. Therefore, strategies keeping the non-metros, rural areas, Tier 2 and 3 cities and different regions should be prepared and executed by all brands which are planning to capture the target audience which lives here.

Yesudas S Pillai

As per Yesudas S Pillai, Founder and CEO, Y&A Transformation, the smaller markets offer unparalleled media or communication delivery opportunities which are unexplored.

Giving an example, he stated that the Mathrubhumi group in Kerala, the number 2 daily for media planners, has a program called #GatewayToKerala where they bring all their media assets (print, TV, digital and radio) together to deliver on specific client briefs and KPIs - such as deeper consumer connects, including specific community engagements, content and first-party data, engaging almost 30% more consumers at a cheaper CPT compared to an ad in the number 1 daily in the state.

“But in the entire rat race and herd mentality, none of these voices get heard. I really hope marketers sit down, take a breath, and look at markets, particularly those which are media isolatable uniquely rather than a new one-size-fits-all India Vs Bharat strategy trend,” Pillai opined.

Chandana Agarwal

In the views of Chandana Agarwal, President-North and East, 82point5, Bharat as a segment is no longer just ‘potential’ but is already driving consumption and growth.

“The next three years will see Bharat shift gears and accelerate not just in terms of user adoption but also in terms of consumption metrics, commerce metrics and driving India’s market growth,” she said.

She also agreed with Pillai and went on to point out that the marketing fraternity needs to spend a little more time understanding Bharat as it is not bound by geography, socio-economics class, or education and affluence because Bharat currently lives in metros too.

“There are some myths around Bharat that we need to dispel in our own minds. We need to use local influencers and we need to think about regionalisation with a focus on vernacular content,” she said.

Ajay Singh Parihar

According to Ajay Singh Parihar, Marketing Head- Healthcare OTC, Dabur India, the earlier notion of rural India being ‘media-dark’ cannot hold its ground in today’s scenario as the RoI and reach of traditional mediums has become better with the emergence of regional channels.

“In terms of new-age mediums, today marketers also have the availability of digital mediums to reach out to rural audiences. The amount of customisation that marketers used to earlier think of for urban India has to some extent become possible for its rural counterparts as well,” he added.

In fact, in his opinion, the RoI for rural areas goes beyond traditional media and the internet and that one cannot undermine the power of reaching out to the masses directly through participation in fairs, and other rural activations, which allows the customers to interact with the products and variants of any brand in a better manner.

“Sometimes, the RoI in rural areas cannot be measured in short-term on a quarterly or yearly basis, because it is difficult to get the loyalty from rural audiences, but when a brand has it, they stick around for a longer period and time as compared to the urban masses. The digital medium in the case of rural areas often acts as a reminder medium for the customers thereafter,” he pointed out.

Rohan Mascarenhas

Rohan Mascarenhas, Head- Brand and Marketing Communication, VECV (Volvo-Eicher JV) also pointed out that the main challenge for marketers herein is ‘content creation’ which is customised to each pre-defined audience set because short and engaging content formats like snackable videos, voice ads, influencer Reels, etc. seem to be catching the fancy of both Bharat and India.

“It’s extremely important to keep the brand promise and brand world guidelines in mind when creating customised content for various audiences across Bharat and India because as long as the look and attitude is true to them, one can stretch the idea and execution to create a stronger connect,” he added.

Mascarenhas also stated that statistics clearly show that Bharat users are digitally savvy, and as per the 'Bharat - The Neo India' Report, they are even interacting with digital content more (29% vs 22%).

“Not only do they have equal purchasing power as compared to India, but they're preferring digital payment gateways as well. Moreover, thanks to many online platforms that help quickly transcreate content into regional languages, tactical campaigns can be rolled out in multiple languages almost simultaneously. However, for strategic campaigns, a more customised approach based on regional insights will be required,” he opined.

Saahil Nayar

As per Swiss Beauty’s Saahil Nayar, the first and foremost challenge for any brand is ‘marketing’ and the goal is to penetrate the mediums where the ‘Bharat’ customer consumes content from - as these can be very different from that of the ‘India’ customer.

“Once you crack that, you work on creating content that the customer can resonate with all alongside working on strengthening your offline retail network as that is of utmost importance in Bharat,” he added.

Nayar also added that language also becomes a barrier in certain areas, which is precisely why creating vernacular content is extremely important for brands to succeed in rural regions.

Nisha Sampath

Throwing light on the culture-based segmentation that brands today deploy, Nisha Sampath, Brand Consultant and Managing Partner, Bright Angles Consulting, said that one can manage North and West with one language but when there’s a brand with a very strong south presence, one may want to do a separate cultural edit for the region.

Backing her viewpoint, she also shared that today a lot of the popular faces from the entertainment industries in the south like Ram Charan, Mahesh Babu, etc. are known to the public across the country - which is why some of the marketers first try to rope them in and if that doesn’t work they opt for a re-shoot.

Sampath further went on to add that marketers need to understand that when they’re spending more money on mass media, they need to be more sensitive to the differences of the audiences in Bharat and India.

“People have also reached a stage with digital where they have realised the limitations of the medium and have figured that they would ultimately have to go back to TV if they want to scale, particularly in an inflationary economy where recession has started to hurt people’s purchases,” she opined.

Nirmalya Sen

Nirmalya Sen, Founder and CEO, The Rethink Company, suggested that marketers must bear in mind three things. The first one being- Every consumer, whether in India or in Bharat, has the same view of any brand and what can help achieve that is a Brand Purpose which is equally inspirational and relevant to consumers, whether they reside in India or in Bharat.

Secondly, there seems to be a view that Bharat’s IQ level, exposure to what’s happening in the world and the ability to comprehend are all significantly lower, but that cannot be farther from the truth in Sen’s views.

“In many ways, Bharat has greater potential, enterprise and a hunger to progress and with tech adoption and exposure to media growing at a significantly faster pace in Bharat, there is reason to believe brands can up the game when speaking with Bharat,” he said.

The third thing that marketers should be wary of in Sen’s opinion is that while focusing on the differences, one often tends to overlook the similarities. “We are all human and we are all Indians. This ensures that there are certain values that India and Bharat come ingrained with and these values can be used effectively to minimise the need for different approaches, while being relevant to both,” he pointed out.

Commenting on the challenges that the marketers will have to address while keeping in mind the ethos and the divide between Bharat and India, 82point5’s Agarwal stated that there are no challenges so to speak, but it’s just that the audiences are different and if the content needs to connect then it has to be created keeping them in mind.

“It is challenging when the expectation is to create content that is expected to work across, as we all know, that what works for everyone, works for no one. Hence, the content needs to be created by people who think in the local language as it needs to be regionalised in its nuances,” she added.

Because India has two-tier challenges when it comes to the linguistic component- one by region and the other by regions that have a multilingual nature when it comes to the urban and rural audience, Dabur’s Parihar emphasised that the brand should make sure that when it comes to regional marketing initiatives, these are not Hindi ads or the adaptations of the same anymore.

“We’re not running any adaptations anymore and are trying to run copies in the native languages of the audience we’re trying to target, and rope in regional celebrities to ensure that the tonality of campaigns and the brand connect is inclined to the specific rural areas,” he said.

VECV’s Mascarenhas also pointed out that if one doesn’t have an innovative idea and compelling content, no digital platform will be effective as the RoI is all about using performance marketing tools to define the business objective and KPIs clearly, after developing sharp digital profiles of the audience sets and precise research on their online customer behaviour.

“I believe that the seamless integration of offline and online retail will be the most effective-sometimes the brand experience is created virtually, to drive purchase at the store and sometimes it’s exactly the other way around,” he said.

Dabur marketing initiatives digital mediums Swiss Beauty brand affinity traditional mediums on-ground activations Volvo-Eicher JV Bharat and India cultural segmentation consumer targeting customised content creation vernacular ad campaigns 82