Should advertising merely fuel our clannish behaviour or create new culture codes?

As if linguistic borders weren’t enough, some folks in politics are creating the regional divide too for the vote bank. But if they have garnered the support of the masses, chances are it’s not a malaise restricted to the ‘estate’. Indian history has always seen a rule over several centuries by princely states. And while migrations did occur, cultures intermingled and the migrant often absorbed the city code. However, while in the past immersion into the culture of the community was natural, life in the last 2 decades has seen an emergence of regional identity crises. Triggering frantic ownership of a linguistic, cultural DNA. Push it a little further today and we hear those voices loud and clear especially in the stereotypes that advertising presents.

This is seen in many of our brand stories, that are universal & commonplace or then region specific hence parochial. Does it say anything new about the people or their deep down culture codes? Does it even attempt to blend the stories to create an entirely new brew that’s tasteful and makes us discover something that enlivens us? Yes, advertising to create impact must reflect the ‘larger truth’ that drives populi. But as story tellers aren’t we also agents of change?

We did a ‘Culture Comfort’ study among married couples with children aged 5-15 years, who were adapters to the new nuclear family culture. They threw light on the concept aptly titled: ‘identity ownership’. It was initiated by observing their responses to many events & moments that have conditioned them. Shared here are a couple of the observations in a summary format.

Harishchandrachi Factory

Movie Comfort: How many of us are comfortable watching movies in the top 3 most familiar languages?  And how many of us really explore films made in other languages, that are beautifully scripted with stories from other regions of India? If many can experiment with Hollywood & world cinema isn’t India a treasure trove of regional cinema that is possibly just as outstanding? But we turn a cold shoulder and rather draw our movie watching borders with our mother tongue and maybe, a couple of other loosely ‘understood’ languages at best.

That is the ‘Culture Comfort’ passed on to the generation that follows. That is also creating clear boundaries that’s only with broken with travel, intermingling or then a wider interest. Today however, efforts to discover new culture codes through regional movies in India are niche.

News & Entertainment Comfort: Since sensation drives news more often today, stories from many cities and states may have found their space in people’s living rooms. But it’s often to foment stereotypes, evoke sympathy and move on. Rarely does a story about one state permeate our lives and teach us something new. Of course many travel & tourism or then entertainment channels have small episodes that showcase a city or a traveler’s story. But does it evoke TRPs? Not surprisingly, we are excited when a foreign land is shown. Its affluence, progress and rich entertainment is a joy. So are their folk dances and quirky behavior vs. say the Zeliang tribes’ (Nagaland) dance.

The ‘Culture Comfort’ here is to fuel and confirm what one already knows. It serves as a response to the social conditioning that we have grown up with. At best it can provide comic relief. Any thing else simply gets too regional or unpalatable in its accent.

At the start, just these two examples are a reflection of the how many of us respond to the world outside our immediate microcosm. Outside of our personal culture code. Proving how rigid and unflexible we are to cultural flavors that are not ours.

So should marketeers continue to encash on this stark differentiation? Should they continue their search for big human insights?

Or then create a third wave, a new paradigm that blends culture codes & human truths?

Photo Credit: ravages/flickr

Can a new model family and a new model way of living, that dissolves these regional differences be flaunted? Can discovery of a culture be a new way to sell for example, a ready to eat Bisi bele bhaath (Karnataka) or Mangodu Alu ki Shak (Rajasthan). Can a detergent’s dirt blasting stories come from stains that spoil kids clothes when they play the local sport of a state they are visiting? Or then can a paint company derive inspiration from colors that define the many states. Seen for example more commonly in the apparel or prints worn by residents of that state? How about a real estate firm that creates a complex with hints of architecture from the regions?

Photo Credit: P.A.U.L/flickr

After all a varied mix of Indians would reside there & their homes could be a heady blend of the many flavors of India. Interesting how when we look at our own geography the possibilities are myriad.

Surely playing to the stereotypes will be the most dulcet melody, when sales is the only target. A shift to break those familiar codes may create the much needed disruption, while also fomenting a change. It may help create new culture codes, that may be based on not just a larger homogenous truth BUT a larger harmonizing, memorable truth. Brands as ‘change agents’, takes a whole new meaning no?

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14 Comments

  1. Hi Sandhya. Creating new codes is a genuine plea for disruption or then true relevance but impractical. Because it is impossible for brand owners to create multiple such codes. The belief is that codes are so ingrained that one cultures norms will not be accepted by another. So it leads to regional communication & advertising monies spent. Will it justify ROI?

    • freshbrew team |

      Hi Vinay. The idea is to fuel some new thinking. I believe the classic universal human truth is possibly fading away. It’s upto marketeers to evoke some inspirational, stimulating & novel truths from many sources, that can be made relevant at a larger societal level. Yes the contrary is also true. It is the era of specialization. So, it runs the risk of being interpreted either way.

  2. freshbrew team |

    Hey thanks Keeley. I’ve responded on the gmail id you provided. By all means share the info with your people. Would appreciate though if you reference the source. Enjoy.

  3. Hi,this is Keeley Brommer,just observed your Blog on google and i must say this blog is great.may I share some of the information found in your website to my local people?i’m not sure and what you think?anyhow,Thanks!

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