Nelson Mandela once said: “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.” This quote is particularly resonant in the Asia-Pacific region, where numerous local languages are a way for brands to create meaningful and more impactful relationships with consumers.
India—home to 22 major languages, written in 13 different scripts, with more than 720 dialects—is emblematic. Research shows that 88% of Indian-language Internet users are more likely to respond to a digital advertisement in their local language than they are to one in English. Considering that the number of Indian-speaking Internet users is expected to reach 536 million in 2021, the study stated, the opportunity for marketers is sizeable.
CMO.com sat down with Umang Bedi, president of multilingual news and content-aggregating service Dailyhunt, to discuss how language and culture impact content success in countries with diverse and growing populations. (Note: Bedi is former managing director of Adobe South East Asia.)
CMO.com: Why are local languages an important consideration for content marketers in a county like India?
Bedi: India is a very diverse, non-homogenous society. Every time you pass through a different state you know the language and culture changes, and that’s what makes it exciting. We’re seeing this diversity increasingly reflected in India’s Internet usage, which is pivoting to local language content.
Three-fourths of Internet users in India are expected to be local-language consumers by 2021 [according to KPMG]. For marketers, this represents a very large audience and an even larger opportunity.
The appeal of content marketing is in its ability to use valuable, personalised content to reach audiences and build awareness and trust—and local languages enable marketers to do just that. Such personalisation provides a strong customer experience throughout the APAC region, offering both customers and brands a host of benefits.
CMO.com: What’s the recipe for effective adaptation?
Bedi: Adapting content is not as simple as writing English-based content and translating it. Local context is crucial, and effective adaptation comes down to two factors: the type of content and who is translating it.
Written content is the easiest to adapt, followed by gifs and images with text. It takes longer to understand video and audio content, to rerecord and dub it, but this is still worth doing as local populations look for this content.
We have found that 2.5 billion videos are being consumed by Indian users on Dailyhunt per month, and this is predominantly in local languages because English content makes up around only 10% of the platform.
In the translation process, it’s important to take local cultures, context, and customs into account. What sounds appealing in Hindi may translate poorly in Bengali, which means the message needs to be tweaked, too.
CMO.com: Can you give an example of how brands might approach adapting their content to local languages?
Bedi: While adapting marketing campaigns for a richly diverse and highly populated country such as India involves more layers of work, the digital world is evolving to make the process much simpler, with local creative agencies that offer translation services and dynamic content forms.
Specialised agencies offer content translation, creative, and advertising across different languages and dialects, allowing cost-effective, contextual translation of marketing to create dynamic content that adapts to each audience on the go.
At Dailyhunt, we’ve worked with food-tech platform Zomato in India. When people look them up, Zomato sends offers from the nearest restaurant using localised ZIP/postcode-level targeting. The creative changes on the fly, the offer changes on the fly, the name of the restaurant changes on the fly, and all of this happens across 14 different languages automatically.
CMO.com: Beyond greater personalisation, what other incentives are there for brands to embrace local language content?
Bedi: Data presented in the [aforementioned] study suggests the click-through rate of local language content is about two times that of English language content. Higher engagement means greater opportunities to drive higher conversion and better leads for your brand.
CMO.com: What strategic advice would you give to APAC marketers looking to break into a multilingual country like India?
Bedi: Devising an effective content strategy involves four phases. The first is research: Study the country and observe all the divisions and subsectors, then take the time to understand each of your individual customer segments and cultures. This will help you decide which demographics you intend to target.
The second phase is messaging: Create a central theme or message as part of your campaign and translate it for the local markets. Take local context into account, too.
Execution is third. Decide which content types to use and, if you can, adapt them “on the fly” to each group. This includes planning what continuous nurturing looks like in each language for each region to capitalise on upselling, cross-selling, and long-term loyalty. It’s important to ensure that the whole journey, from initial clicks to landing pages, is consistent in each language.
The fourth phase is growth. Introduce platforms and services that allow you to scale up and support expansion of the first three phases.
CMO.com: Any final thoughts?
Bedi: There’s a philosophy to the way you approach languages in marketing. Different people from around the world may speak to you in English because you work in a global organisation. But the level of comfort and trust they have with their own language represents an amazing opportunity that needs to be served–not ignored.
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