Ashish Virmani, AVP-Marketing, FreeCharge spoke to exchange4media about the growing vernacular influence in the digital space and the need for global players to adapt to this new trend to stay relevant.
How much of a role has the Digital India initiative played in the advent of vernacular content?
As of now it is still shaping up but it is going to play a very critical role and the main reason for that is the Aadhaar Card. The validation that the Aadhaar Card has got, not just from the Digital India initiative but also from the budget that was recently announced makes it a key fingerprint. Moreover, according to latest statistics, 80% of the people who will be using this card do not belong to the English speaking category. Hence, when you have to communicate with them you need to do it in their own language – something they are comfortable in.
For foreign brands with more global outlook in business, how will they adapt to this growth of vernacular consumer and content space?
It is going to be tough, but if they do not do it then they will not be able to break the market. If you look at brands, which are global, for instance, McDonalds, who follow the rule of global consistency in communication. Even a rigid brand like that had to come to India and they had to adapt to the local taste. The brands will have to appeal to the Indian audience, not just from a product point of view but also from communication insight.
How are commodities and quality of content changing with vernacular content taking importance in digital media platforms?
It has still not taken off but you will see that a lot of good content is now coming up in Hindi. If you look at The Viral Fever or look at AIB, their primary language of content is becoming Hindi. Other languages have still not woken up, but it is only a matter of time. If you look at the YouTube content that is being consumed right now, out of top ten videos, 5 would be in vernacular languages. And recently Rajan Anandan of Google said that it was vernacular content that has driven the growth for Google. Vernacular content users have grown by 80% in one year and English is stagnant.
What are the major advantages that the first movers in the field of digital media get in terms of vernacular audience engagement?
They will be able to get the first connect. If we talk about FreeCharge’s role in it, we integrated with The Viral Fever for content integration about three years back, so at that point of time it was innovation in the industry and it paved the way for other content creators and brands to look at this technique seriously. It gave FreeCharge the first mover advantage of being a pioneer brand for customers. A similar thing is happening now with other languages as well and the brands, which are ahead of the curve there, will be seen as pioneering and innovative brands, and will be able to create brand value with the consumers quickly.
What are the key differences in content between vernacular and universal languages in digital media?
The key difference is that how you make tweaks in terms of cultural nuances. An insight can work with any consumer in India but when you are executing in that particular vernacular, there are certain tweaks that you have to make. For instance, there was an ad campaign done by a FMCG brand, which had a police officer as a protagonist. Across the north-west markets, the inspector was played by a male, but in the east and Bengal market the same role was essayed by a female, since that region leans more towards matriarchy.
What are the audience assessments studies that you have done to gauge the potential for vernacular engagement?
When we give content out, we ensure that the reception is tremendous and the brand familiarity and liking is going to go up. We also do a lot of social media listings to get feedback on the kind of content that we are creating, for instance, digital banners, which are in local languages, generate three to four times more engagement than the universal language.