Reaching a billion faces with vernacular content and micro-influencers

Brands that embrace localised content not only attract a larger audience through better recognition but also develop trust and an emotional connection, leading to increased conversion rates

70% of Indians find vernacular digital content more reliable than English
70% of Indians find vernacular digital content more reliable than English

By Ankit Agarwal 

When Lufthansa launched the “More Indian than you think” campaign in 2014 no one anticipated its success. The airline created digital ads in vernacular content and a microsite that catered to several Indian languages. The campaign managed to hit all the right chords and lifted passenger growth by 13%. 

The campaign’s success became proof that English was not the lingua franca of the internet anymore. At least not in India, a place where 90% of the population speaks in vernaculars that span hundreds of languages, and thousands of dialects.

Today, more and more brands, both Indian and global, are having the same eureka moment. To cater to the audience of Bharat, they need vernacular versions for their ad campaigns.

Marketers must embrace the regional spin 

English may get the message across to consumers, but real connection is built through communication in the local language. That’s why the click-through rate of regional creatives is much higher and why 70% of Indians find vernacular digital content more reliable than English, according to Google & KPMG. 

An exemplary example of a brand banking on regional content to reach out to a more targeted audience is Tata Tea. The beverage brand uses a hyperlocal strategy to tap into different states like Kerala, Haryana, and Tamil Nadu. Instead of dubbing their Hindi campaign in the relevant dialect, they create region-specific ads by employing a creative team from that state. 

Brands that embrace localised content not only attract a larger audience through better recognition but also develop trust and an emotional connection, leading to increased conversion rates. However, such a targeted approach demands content in the many, many languages the consumers speak and read.

The challenge of a language-driven market

Communicating in multiple dialects simultaneously is a tedious and exhausting exercise for brands, both in terms of time and cost. The emergence of apps like Dubverse, Skit, and 22 Languages that help create and distribute local language content stands testament to it. 

Producing thousands of multilingual marketing assets is just the first of the many challenges. Another is that regional marketing cannot be homogenised. First, the product or service needs to be shaped for the region. For example, a Havells fan for the South of India would need more rotations per minute than a fan marketed to Himachal Pradesh. Second, the messaging must be moulded to the local audience and take cultural nuances into account. 

Merely translating an existing message into the required dialect doesn’t cut it. Each marketing communication must demonstrate a thorough understanding of the target region’s lifestyle, interests, and colloquialisms. This requires familiarity with the target audience at a massive scale, and brands rarely have it. 

The solution: localising content through influencers

A quick solution most marketers have adopted is collaborating with celebrities or mid-tier influencers to reach out to consumers in local languages. The strategy is sound, but it has two drawbacks. 

One, these big creators are based out of metropolitan cities. They may be fluent in a vernacular, but their fan following rarely matches the target audience, which primarily lives in tier 2 and tier 3 cities and semi-urban areas. The tactic is similar to putting all the eggs in one basket, a basket destined for someone else’s kitchen table. 

Two, using mega-influencers for sponsored posts and branded content is a costly endeavour that only a few brand pockets can afford. What moves the needle for brands is collaborations with nano- and micro-influencers. 

Finding a better tangent with regional creators

Nano and micro-influencers are small creators with modest online followings. These creators traffic in one currency: regional content, and while their fan base is limited, it is hyper-focused on a specific region and deeply loyal. 

Partnering with them for campaigns augurs well for brands. The messaging is infused with local flavour, the campaign brings in hard results, and it is cost-effective. With the same budget as a single mid-tier influencer, a brand can work with hundreds of small regional creators.  

More importantly, by roping in small creators from diverse parts of the country for the same campaign, brands get instant access to content in different vernaculars in one go, allowing personalised advertising at scale. 

Take, for instance, KhataBook, a fintech startup that provides a digital ledger app to small and medium-sized businesses. It reached 1 million downloads using a vernacular content strategy. The brand leveraged hundreds of static and video creatives produced by influencers in multiple Indic languages to increase brand visibility. As a direct result of the campaign, the install volume of the app jumped by an eye-watering 60%.

The only obstacle to collaborating with hyper-relevant regional content creators is finding them. An influencer marketing tech platform solves this with ease. When brands rely on a platform to accurately identify influencers, automate campaign workflow, and measure impact, the complexity and cost of a pan-India, multilingual campaign are significantly less.

Reaching a billion faces and a million tongues 

David Ogilvy said that when you’re trying to persuade people, “use their language, the language they use every day, the language in which they think.” Distil the words and they imply a strong marketing strategy with a focus on vernacular is crucial. 

However, merely translating or transliterating campaigns in English or Hindi into a dialect is not enough. Keep in mind marketing is not about mere comprehension. It is about persuasion. 

To persuade a billion faces that speak a million tongues, brands need the finesse of a paintbrush and not the brute force of a sledgehammer. And there is no one better to build a persuasive narrative in the right lingo than nano and micro-influencers.

The author is founder, Do Your Thng

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First published on: 05-03-2022 at 10:58 IST