As someone who has been in the area of Digital marketing for the past few years (close to a decade now), it’s interesting to note and see how it has evolved. Right from the open market economics that AdWords grew upon to the game theory dynamics of Search Engine Optimisation, the way the entire industry has been changing is fascinating.
This article on English Tax and building for the next billion Indian users by Sajith Pai makes you stop and think. At this point, all the marketers and brands are busy selling to that sliver of audience who are online and are english speaking, affluent, willing to whip out their credit cards and make a purchase.
The next Billion
However, there is a larger audience out here, 10 times as much. A billion people, who may not be comfortable with English, who may not have approved credit cards and credit lines … but who are online.
Thanks to the launch of Jio, you now have an audience who may not be affluent, but who are there online. The same audience is being targeted by brands in a language that is not native to them.
What is the English Tax? It’s the overhead that a user has to go over to understand what is being said. English is not my mother tongue, however after just under 4 decades of being subjected to both formal and informal education, I have started to think of English as my primary language.
However, that may not be the case of the next Billion. They may not even understand English, and thanks to Google or Apple, they would still be able to browse the web online without even typing a single English letter!
To top it all off, this audience is not being targeted online, not because they do not have a foot print, but because they do not understand the language in which they are being targeted.
This is bad.
Not only would they need re-phrasing of communications, but also a lot of mis-selling and mis-communications would be currently done to them.
Responsibility in Media
Yeah, this section is a joke! However, as digital platforms evolve, can the major players like GAFA take a much more responsible stand on exposing the India2 to the internet?
It’s not as if something is wrong with them. Please note, I am not saying that. However the internet which is most relevant for India2 is in the making and a lot of players are just ignoring this huge blue ocean that needs to be made.
There are content oriented players like BhaDiPa (Bharatiya Digital Party) and TVF (The Viral Fever) who are making content in regional languages, pretty sure there are many more as well. However, one look at the keyword search volumes in Hindi and Marathi, and I know that we have still miles to go.
This audience for instance may not be doing a lot of searches, however, they definitely are there on Facebook, on WhatsApp, etc.
What can we do to engage as brands and marketers with this audience?
One step is always to speak the same language. I always loved the devnagri script, it just looks graceful when in comparison to the English script. Call me biased. However, as a marketer I would love to see some really good creatives, copy and content being pushed out there in regional formats.
I have seen this being done by some organisations, and just going by their data consumption numbers makes one re-think the language in which they are publishing! Similarly, the concepts of marketing wont change, but since the language is changing, so would therefore the format and forms. Just taking a Facebook update and translating it to Marathi won’t do. It has to be not just re-phrased but even re-thought … some of the memes and mental models that one language/culture has may pretty much ensure that the whole line of messaging be irrelevant.
I think as an industry based in a country that’s slowly emerging online, we are barely scratching the surface on these things.