Since time immemorial, India has been one of the most aspirational markets for international traders seeking exotic and unique products from India, which could be exchanged for goods from their land. We are all aware of the historic silk route and the era of behemoths like Britain, Spain, Portugal and other European powerhouses who ventured inland to India and were vying for the trading share of this exotic and prosperous country.
After India’s colonization, all the trading with different countries seized to exist and it did not improve much till India’s historic globalization policies in 1991 which led to foreign brands and companies to come and do business in India again. This further improved in 2004 when the Indian government brought in various policies that helped foreign businesses to trade and even invest in our country. This historic law along with the decade-old globalization policy brought India into the forefront of the global market and economy and brought most of the world’s top brands and businesses along with it to India.
Today the Indian market boasts of some of the biggest brands and businesses around the globe that are doing business along with the local brands. While some are doing great business, others have failed miserably in grasping the mindset of the Indian consumer. These companies came in India with strategies that they thought will work but they fail to understand India’s extreme diversity.
Following a certain marketing and communication strategy that worked exceptionally well for other markets will not work for India. The Indian consumer is drastically changing and evolving, the Indian market is evolving, policies and taxes are changing and the platform and tools of communication also, are rapidly changing. The role of PR in establishing brand loyalty has therefore become more important than ever.
Here are 4 key points that International companies need to consider when creating a customized communication plan focused on Indian markets.
Understanding that an Indian consumer is an emotional yet value-driven consumer is the first thing to be determined. This is true across areas, from small, daily need items to big-ticket purchases. If a product or service touches the emotional chord, an Indian consumer will end up buying it. This is why it is extremely important to build up a narrative that connects an international brand/ concept to the Indian psyche and makes them accept the brand. A well-defined and customized PR approach that can effectively introduce the brand to the Indian stakeholders can be the crucial differentiator in mapping the brand’s success in India.
Holistic approach to brand building
Designing a holistic communication strategy, depending on the business goals, consumer demographics and positioning of a brand is important to ensure maximum acceptance and awareness of the brand. Nuances like the use of local language communication used to drive the narrative need to be looked at very closely. India, with its varied linguistic and cultural diversity, is a conglomeration of many ideologies, social norms, and beliefs. Thus, a brand seeking acceptance from such a wide array of population needs to adopt a multi-faceted and dynamic communication campaign.
Companies like McDonalds and KFC, For example, undertook modifications and innovation in their standard product offerings, so as to suit the palate of the Indian consumers, and made a strong ‘consumer-first’ statement in all their communications. They are now raking in billions. On the other hand, many of their competitive brands have failed since they did not mold their offering according to what the consumer wanted and failed to create a narrative that could somehow entice the consumers to experiment. Be it traditional forms of media and marketing channels or new age mediums like social media, companies need to keep in mind what Indians want and build a story around it and this is where PR can be utilized efficiently.
If considered, the demographic, socio-economic background and culture of India, creating a versatile and respected brand positioning for the target audiences may seem like a daunting task. Add a saturated market with varied local and international players vying for the attention of these customer groups, and there can be a communication challenge with respect to positioning. To position the brand correctly, to the right TG, is very crucial for the survival and growth of any brand and that is where PR is important. PR helps a brand to create the right messaging and reach the right audience.
Giving a face to the brand
When competing with homegrown brands – those with local faces and figures who are well known and well respected, foreign brands have an additional burden of giving a face to the brand which is well accepted, understood and respected, despite being demographically different. PR plays an important role in creating this image of the brand spokesperson that the consumers, industry and peers can relate to. The rise of a socially and environmentally responsible millennial population also has been instrumental in the PR strategies and communications plans drafted for International brands venturing in India. With the right mix of empathy, understanding, respect and value-driven approach to the market, PR can help international brands be heard and valued in a diverse market like India.
Given India’s vast diversity and population, it is very important for brands to utilize the right methods to connect with the right audience. Strategies that have made a brand successful in other markets will not work for India and that is why taking the help and support of PR to build that narrative and take it to the audience efficiently and fast is very crucial for any brand’s growth and success.
By Anindita Gupta, co-founder, Scenic Communication