India is a global village of intertwined cultures. While some people may think that cultures and brands can operate in isolation, it is just the exact way around. Everything around us operates in memorable stories and experiences. Each state in India is like a miniature country in its own, having their own set of culture, customs and traditions. When people think about West Bengal, they are able to relate to Durga Puja to it, infact the plethora of brands competing for a particular location has let to sky rocketing prices of OOH media during the festive season. If you were to look at Orissa, they have Bihu, which is a part of the folk media and leveraged by brands to promote their products with the help of culture. The Kumbh Mela which takes place in India, is the largest gathering of devotees in the world. Colgate for example distributed about 3 Crores Toothpaste tubes in the recent gathering. It provides a massive stage for the brands to showcase new product launches as well as collect survey data within a few weeks. In another instance, Google used Diwali to market Gpay, the campaign is specific to India in which users were encouraged to trade Diwali stamps among themselves. If you look at Kolkata, a tram car was converted into a restaurant, to allow dinners to experience a unique and nostalgic feel of old Calcutta. Even international brands like McDonalds uses sea food toppings for most of Asia but curry topping are specific to India. In this manner the brands are localizing experience for each of its users.
Brands can also use ethnic aspects to reflect changing cultural values. Patanjali reflected the views of the Indian middle class to stay fit as well as gain access to a large variety of grooming products as well a wide range of herbal medicines. Johnson and Johnson tries to replicate and inculcate the value of mother’s care which has been a core value of the Indian cultural system for a very long time. Lays is trying to reach out to the millennials and generation Z to post a selfie along with their chips packet which has the bottom half of a face printed on it. Swiggy’s new ad campaign focuses on sending sweets to your loved ones during Diwali. In case of Nirma, it created a product for working women, who wanted to wash the clothes within a pocket friendly budget. Culture is not only about using festivities but it also helps to identify certain work patterns and lifestyle of specific demographics.
Let’s take a little deep dive into a few products:
Hots for Oil
In South India, the Coconut has always been an integral part of everyday life. From the tree to the husk, no part of it is ever wasted. The use of the oil is an essential a part of the grooming ritual in several parts of the country on a daily basis. Women apply it almost every day, due the nutrimental & traditional value it holds.
While being abundant in South India, certain parts of the country are not suitable to grow coconut trees. Thus this elusive oil was only available to a select market due to price point. Parachute, took charge and began selling this magical hair oil to the lower economic strata of society.
Parachute’s “Advansed” was positioned towards appearance-conscious young women. They introduced several variants of the brand that offered something for everybody. From plain coconut oil to coconut oil infused with herbs that when applied and massaged into the hair, provided a calming wave of warmness over the user. It also takes into consideration the fact that Indians in general love getting head massages.
Maggi Maggi Maggi
Easy to cook and great taste. The current generation has a craze towards this delicious meal that can be prepared in mere minutes. If you ever visit hilly regions, you’ll find street venders selling a small plate/cup of piping hot Maggi to keep you warm in near sub temperatures.
However Maggi almost never made it into our hearts when it was initially launched. Only after it was rebranded as fast, tasty, easy to make late afternoon or early evening snack; did it spread like wildfire. Over the years Maggi has developed a vast range of flavors to choose from and there is no slowing down this giant. Maggi will always be a late-night savior for any hostel party for years to come.
A lot of brands like Manyavar are promoting family culture and gender equality through their ads. Although we are the largest democracy in the world, we suffer a lot from inequalities in everyday life. Female child infanticide and Dowry are still plaguing our society.
Brands are transitioning from their normal advertising method to a more socially responsible type of advertising. These ads are often played in movie halls and reach a large audience on a daily basis. The core idea of the ad is to institute gender equality within the masses and to instill the idea of normalizing it.
Old is Gold
Brushing of teeth with salt or Neem sticks have been an age old tradition for people across the country. Colgate introduced a product that reflected these beliefs and ran a very amusing ad campaign in order to propagate this new product. It became an instant hit and Colgate Salt was widely sort after by everyone. Children would even ask each other if their toothpaste had salt in it! The popularity of the product was immense.
Coming back to Indian culture, need has been used as many things over the years. From toothbrush to pesticide. Its importance in our culture cannot be understated. Nowadays it is highly used in skincare products and is in high demand. Traditionally Neem leaves have been dunked into bath water and let to soak before having a bath. These days we have Neem soap that does the same job. While our methods have changed, the ingredients have remained the same.
The point is, without localizing all your content creation, which would be incredibly expensive and inefficient, as well as risking creating a disjointed brand, there is no full-proof way of using cultural diversity to drive marketing content effectiveness. However, having a better understanding and appreciation of the cultural differences and codes of countries you are targeting is a great place to start.
You don’t need to change who you are as a brand across borders. However, you are likely to find taking culture into consideration in your marketing content pays off in effectiveness. The best way to determine when and where along your customer journey to adapt content campaigns, imagery and messaging for specific markets, is to build test and learn programs to measure differences in effectiveness.
Takeaways from the article:
- It is very difficult to localize all your products and services if your company operates internationally but it always helps to take the local customs and traditions into consideration.
- Culture can be a friend or a foe to your product depending on the amount of research that you put in to study the consumer behavior of a particular geographic area.
- The fusion of culture with a product can lead to very interesting origin stories. Lesser origin stories can also help propagate your product or service.
- The use of culture in brands aids recall and captures the share of mind.
- Stories act as part of legacy from generation to generation.