No ‘One India’ in Advertising

Not many people would argue about the diversity of the culture in India. This is the country where the language and the taste of water changes every 100 km. The question is – how does this diversity affect the marketers to communicate their products? How does an advertiser look at this diversity? Is there a magic mantra that cuts through all these linguistic and cultural diversity?

Research done by Milward Brown suggests that there is no single mantra in advertising that works for the whole country. There are very few advertisements that worked well across the country. Some of the observations from the research are:

1. Celebrities can be the glue that binds markets

Celebrities can work across markets, but that definitely doesn’t guarantee the success. Using a celebrity reduces the risk of failure of     the advertisement across markets. Particularly in the South, the use of local celebrities is more followed as it is observed that people connect well with the local celebrities. Cricketers can certainly help communicate across the markets. It is true that every Indian lives on Bollywood and Cricket.

2. Children can certainly help

Children can help raise empathy and likingness quotient in the ad. However, an interesting stat is one-third of all the ads that don’t do well have kids in them. So, the mere presence of a child doesn’t increase the likingness of the ad. Generally speaking, it is observed that people tend to be active watching ads of children. Children, if used properly, can help in breaking the clutter.

3. Effect of humour is variable

Humour in India works well when it is based on visuals and music. Humour which is based on regional situations and wit may not do well across the markets. While some of the ads have worked well in some regions, the ads based on regional humour caused some serious trouble to the brand in other markets.

4. Product demonstrations are less likely to do well

Advertisements that focus on product demonstrations are less likely to do well. Differing expectations from advertising are at the root of this difficulty. There are clear differences across regions and town tiers in this regard. South India tends to be driven more by the need for information, as does small-town India.

Regional differences in receiving ads

First, something that all of us (in India) suspected: North is North and South is South, and never the twain shall meet. These two regions show the poorest creative transfer; an ad that does well in the South is unlikely to do well in the North, and viceversa.

Second, the West is a poor receiver of ads from the North. Looking at ads tested in those two regions, only 34 percent of ads that were highly enjoyable in the North did well in the West, while close to half the ads that did well in the West also performed well in the North. Therefore, if we need to prioritize between the two regions, the West provides a better litmus test of likely performance.

Third, the South is neither a borrower nor a lender. Ads that do well in the South transfer poorly to the North, moderately well to the West, and well to the East. Therefore, if the South is relevant for a brand, it must automatically be selected as a test centre.

Fourth, successful ads in the East transfer well to other regions, though within a specific and limited context. To clarify, the East is an important market for relatively few brands and categories, so any principle of travel would apply to this rather specific set of brands. The East also tends to be more critical of advertising compared to other regions. Hence, purely from the perspective of creative transference, strong performance in the East is an indication of good performance in other zones.

Most of the research above is done based on the Link scores, a evaluative tool of advertising by Milward Brown. Whether your objective is to raise awareness, promote trial, develop rational or emotional brand associations, or to convey a very specific message, Link will tell you how your ad will perform.

Thank you.



3 thoughts on “No ‘One India’ in Advertising

  1. Pingback: No 'One India' in Advertising « Brandalyzer | AdvertisingAdvertising

  2. Pingback: No 'One India' in Advertising « Brandalyzer « Tips On Advertising

  3. Superb! Very short, sweet and to the point! Let me just fill in what you have left unsaid… the North South divide has nothing to do with Language, but rather it is more due to complete cultural difference. At least that is my opinion – correct me if I am wrong. Great research- thanks for sharing it.

    Vishal (

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