What Shah Rukh Khan, YRF and ‘Jabra Fan’ can teach brands about localisation

Watched the non-Hindi versions of ‘Jabra Fan’ yet? The title song of the Shah Rukh Khan (SRK) starrer ‘Fan’ released in eight languages other than Hindi, a marketing tactic never tried before in India.

Fan1Yash Raj Films and SRK have always been film marketing thought leaders and this innovation at once celebrates and capitalises on India’s diversity. SRK – whose appeal cuts across age, demography and geography – is the common thread, emphasising the oneness within the diversity.

The campaign – the non-Hindi versions are in Punjabi, Marathi, Gujarati, Bhojpuri, Bengali, Telugu, Tamil and Odia – has garnered millions of views on YouTube and thousands of conversations on social platforms. Fans in places as distant as Malaysia have made videos of themselves dancing to the song and there’s even an Arabic version of it!

Screen Shot 2016-03-20 at 12.32.24 pm

The campaign is primal – it connects with people in the language they think in. It recognises that India is large and diverse, better approached by marketers as a subcontinent rather than a homogenous nation. It reminds brands of the importance of localisation.

Brands are getting it

Globally, brands are recognising that they can create value by engaging audiences in local languages. By going local, you can create relevant content and authentic engagement.

The evidence has been with us for a while. A 2012 Facebook (FB) IQ report said local FB brand pages grow twice as fast as global ones and have 50% higher engagement. Underscoring this was a Nieman Journalism Lab experiment that showed that geo-targeted posts registered six times more engagement than others.

Localisation makes audiences more open to sharing information and to marketing messages. A report by AdNear said that 53% of consumers are happy to share their locations on mobile devices for relevant content, while Nielsen said 26% of social media users are fine with ads based on their profiles. What’s more, 60% of consumers stop engaging with multiple brands due to poor targeting.

In fact, expensive campaigns sometimes result in obscure – even offensive – messages. Brands would do well to invest in local cultural insights that deliver better brand value at lower cost.

Not doing this can be costly. Kraft didn’t do its due diligence while promoting Mondelez, its food company, in Russia. The name translated as ‘oral sex’ in Russian!

Think, then act

The best global brands don’t charge into foreign markets; they invest time and money in understanding local culture. See how McDonald’s Indian-ised its menu to include aloo tikki burgers and chicken Maharaja Macs. In New Zealand, it offers you a Kiwi burger.

California State University found that “74% of multinational enterprises believe it is most important to achieve increased revenues from global operations”. The Globalisation and Localisation Association said that 56.2% of consumers think obtaining information in their own language is more important than price.

So, what can brands do to ensure successful localisation?

  • Strong local roots: Intra-company linkages between HQ and local teams can make or break the campaign. Robust communication will matter. What works in one market may not work in another and sometimes even a single country or region may be too heterogeneous for a uniform approach.

    LG Electronics understood this. When they entered the South Pacific market, they discovered that Australians were more self-deprecating, which led to the slogan ‘Life’s Good’. In New Zealand, where the citizens have a more sunny outlook, LG altered the slogan to ‘Life’s Great’. It’s an example of how you can nuance your outreach while staying true to your brand values.

    Life's Good

  • Humanise: While customer-facing assets certainly need adapting, they are often aligned to universal insights. For instance, IKEA’s mission is to “create a better everyday life for people”. IKEA sees its core task as solving human needs, which is fulfilled via local sensitivity.


  • Realign and learn: Coca-Cola improved global-local marketing alignment by facilitating faster internal communication. When sales soared in Australia after a campaign that let customers send friends a Coke with their name on the label, the company quickly launched the ‘Share a Coke’ campaign in 30 other countries.

Share A Coke

As the global middle class grows from 2 billion to 5 billion by 2030, mindshare and positioning will get even more important. Want audiences to be your ‘jabra’ fan? Make sure your brand balances local, multi-platform relevance with global consistency of vision and values.


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