The North and South Divide!

It is not a new concept in the business to debate on ‘targeting’ the communication for your consumer.  Everyone talks about targeting, a lot of time goes into defining the key consumer, the insights that come about that audience and a lot more goes into testing the products with the core consumer you want to talk to. But after all the humdrum of segmenting, targeting and positioning the message, it’s a pity! You will find that it will be broad based at the communication development part or at the end messaging part.

Let me explain, we all know certain markets behave differently than certain others. We are well aware that what works in a metro, may not work in a rural area, we are also well equipped with the knowledge that the people, behaviors, wants and needs are slightly different in North India and South India. Then why do we create a pan Indian communication? Still!!

The sentiments may flare up in an advertising agency when this topic arises, because an office sitting in Mumbai or Delhi is driving the core aspects of a business, managing client expectations and went to great lengths in creating a piece of communication that works pan India. But how! Logic, many a marketing books, great minds and in fact the agencies own planning documents have already clearly stated to focus on the Target audience, then why have we always accommodated a pan Indian communication messaging.

Which brings us to the question of does no Pan Indian commercial work? Absolutely not, some do. Especially those large scale products that talk to a broad mindset of people and do not worry about the way in which the person’s preference, and is not based on any regional factors, some places where Pan Indian communication may work could be the following:

Broad base Usage:

–          Luxury products which already talk to a niche set of audience at large,  like cars or pens or clothes that have well defined socio economic group which has a same set of aspirations towards the product wherever they may be located across one country

–          An education institution (which has the same national sentiments towards learning)

–          A health care institution

–          A hotel chain (Its pitched at a value proposition or luxury based)

–          Banking, financial products, I still feel when you do regional branch launch it still needs to be locally thought out

–          Hmmm that’s all I can think off!!

Some categories there may not be a common point  when it comes to selling the following:

–          Soaps / shampoos  (especially when there is a regional favorite)

For eg Tamil Nadu is a huge market for long black hair so if there was a version of Sunsilk that can cater to it, I would try and make a connection

I strongly believe Lux would increase its share of voice if it concentrated on a kollywood lux woman too

–          Health drinks, beverages, colas

–          Washing soap, powders

–          Personal care like deodorants

–          Of course snacks and biscuits and confectionary

–          Retail  – clothes, consumer electronics and mobiles

–          Regional Media

–          Fmcg products and even some consumer durables

–           The list can get endless when you come to think of it!

Ok why should the communication be different, because it will just work that much harder for the brand.  I will just take the case of the Tamil target audience as an example to explain.

Someone in the depths of TamilNadu is not going to be inspired by Kartina Kaif sipping a mango drink but, may be engaged if it’s a reigning heroine form the south that  they are able to relate to and definitely will not appreciate a Tamil ghazal, its not doing anything for them since they are not used to those aspect and may not be able to see the idea. Similarly someone does not appreciate tacky dialogues of what the tamilians call ‘Junoon Tamil”  which does transliteration of a joke or an idea that is regional specific. The communication will have to be  instead re written, re though in Tamil, with the flow of the language and written in a language dialect that is understood.

Some common National Ads that did not make the Tamil cut are the following – Opportunity missed!

–          A popular telecom brand with a youth centric song the tamil dubbing was transliterated and not written to suit the youth in Tamil Nadu, it had great music, great idea and only if the content was written in the Tamil context it would have been a hit! Instead of it being a joke.

–          A popular snack brand had a tacky one liner which created a double meaning to what they were saying, it reeked of tamil culture, nice cast and it even had a famous tamil heroine but the twist in the concept did not translate to the tamil audience

–          Music in many of the ads in this genre are more for the Hindi audience case in point a popular television brand focusing on colours, the mango drink advertisements gazal,

–          A popular shampoo brand which has international models, we can’t relate to Indian women with fancy fake hair and imagine that  we need to do the same  with international models !

Some Brands that have used Regional creative for targeting markets successfully are the following

–          Vim

–          Mirinda

–          Horlicks

–          Nescafe

–          Bru

–          3Roses Tea

–          Close up tooth paste

–          Colgate tooth paste (salt version)

So what does it take then? Is it so difficult to address this and make communication work harder for national brands?

Absolutely not! Infact all major communication partners chose their agency specifically with presence across the country for this very reason.

I would assume that it was to control and use expertise in this kind of scenario’s. Specifically for cross market expertise, but what I would urge brand practioners to not just have a con call to understand what works and what does not. In fact brand professionals should stop thinking about this facet as an expertise that they gain over the years. Its not! Only the guy who has soaked himself in the idly sambhar land will make great idlys, the Punjabi can but its not his expertise at the end of the day.

Leave it to the market experts simply because it matters, the consumers in the south are different, the consumers need attention as much as other markets and finally there is great chance of redefining the way that brand performs because of the focused targeting.

Finally, a south based communication is best worked by the practicing south based agency and that’s the edge the agency told the client at the pitch!

Anita Pradeep Daniel, The Author is an independent Brand Professional

                                                                                   and all views  are her own and not representing any organization.


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