If everyone gets vocal about local, who will be heard?

Updated: May 21, 2020 11:12 AM

Being Indian will not be a differentiator by itself, how it manifests will.

‘Local’ is not a strategy. ‘Local’ is not a strategy.

By Gokul Krishnamoorthy

The lot of opinion writers owe a great debt of gratitude to the current Indian Prime Minister. Every once in a while, he drops a gem that provides fodder for a thousand perspectives. Atma-Nirbhar did not just fire up social and mainstream media, but also corporates that decided to wake up to taking pride in their ‘local’ brands. With so many getting ‘vocal about local’ there’s a lot of noise, bordering on cacophony. With many singing the same song including some in dissonant notes, can ‘local’ still be a potent differentiator?

  • Yes, it can help brands stand out against brands that are not ‘local’, provided there is a preference for ‘local’. A preference for ‘local’ demands another condition: ‘other things remaining equal’. Let us assume the latter is true, for the sake of argument.
  • Yes, if your ‘local’ is radically more vocal than every other ‘local’. Think news channels and nationalism.
  • Yes, if your ‘local’ is more believable than other claims.
  • Yes, if your idea of ‘local’ is in sync with what the consumer in that segment looks up to a local’ brand for.

If there are 10 detergent brands promising a ‘whiter’ wash, how does white become a differentiator? Cleaner white or brighter white won’t cut it. Maybe, as white as the white in the Indian tricolor, and the values it stands for?

‘Local’ is not a strategy. Just like ‘white isn’t. They are positions brands might choose to occupy and leverage – how is the question.
I would argue that the ‘Born in India’ tag doesn’t guarantee anything in most product or service categories except categories that have their roots in India. Brands in such categories can leverage the tag better.

The tag can possibly also help corporates born and brought up in India to an extent. But ultimately, not every Indian company’s rights issue will get the reception RIL’s started receiving yesterday (20th May). I hope no one contends that RIL is attractive because it is ‘local’ in this context.

Among airlines, when flying domestic a few years ago, we didn’t have as many choices as we do today. And all of them were Indian. There used to be a Kingfisher for those who wanted an experience, once upon a time. For most corporate travelers, it boiled down to Jet for many years after that. There were still some who preferred Air India, for only one reason, other things – read fare and time – remaining equal. That reason was that it was India’s national airline. How did the Jet Privilege vs Flying Returns numbers stack up?

Amul is not loved and held in high esteem just because it is an Indian brand. There’s history. There’s a legacy. Of heralding change and making lives better. Of the delightful Amul girl who has a point of view on all things of interest to Indians. And last but most importantly, a great product in multiple dairy categories that is second to none.

Being Indian will not be a differentiator by itself even with a best-in-class product, but how it manifests could well be.
The brand must lend itself to being Indian and tell its story compellingly. And the brand must stand out while being Indian, while delivering a product that’s best in class.

Bollywood star kids have a point. Being born in an A-Lister’’s family doesn’t guarantee anything except maybe a first break from a filmmaker and a look-in from the audience. They need to live up to the legacy they inherit. Even if they don’t, they need to deliver what audiences want if they need to last. They can of course leverage legacy if they do deliver. But doing that takes tact. Just like brands ‘Born in India’ too need tact to leverage the legacy of their roots.

Otherwise, they might sound something like this: ‘Jaanta hai mera baap kaun hai?’

(The author is an independent content consultant, Founding Editor of StimulusMag.com and Founder of ClutterCutters.in. Feedback: goks18@gmail.com)

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