In-depth Part 1: The changing face of Advertising in East and North-East markets

For a long time, the East and North-East markets have been outside the radar of major national advertising presence or consideration, barring Kolkata, which has always had a bustling advertising business. The East and North-East offer a highly diverse market comprising the states of West Bengal, Assam, Odisha, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Tripura and Sikkim. Some even include Bihar and Jharkhand in the East markets.

The East and North-East have a thriving ecosystem of their own – rich culture, tradition, lifestyle, language, consumer trends, content consumption, buying behaviour and more. The advertising industry here has evolved to embrace the diversity of this region and has been formulating a highly hyper-local strategy, perhaps long before national brands caught on to this strategy.

In this three-part In-Depth series, Adgully speaks to leading industry names to decipher the East and North East markets, how advertising has evolved in these markets, the key trends dominating these markets, how brands engage with their consumers, and much more.

Change in brands’ advertising approach over the years

The major focus of brands for advertising is backed by data-driven consumer insights. Neelesh Pednekar, Co-Founder & Head of Digital Media, Social Pill, said, “Being marketers first, we love to ride the wave of innovation and uptrend to ensure our clients get maximum visibility at the most substantial cost. Our approach has shifted to a data-driven digital focus. This shift was informed by the changing consumption patterns in the East, where digital media consumption has outpaced traditional media. We leverage analytics and consumer insights to tailor our messages, ensuring relevance and engagement, and then add the element of performance to the communication through digital amplification.”

“I would not say advertising has changed completely as the fundamentals have been the same for ages, using the simplest and easiest way to connect with your consumers,” remarked Angad Singh Manchanda, CEO & Co-founder, Chimp&zInc, adding, “However, the way your communication reaches the audience has changed completely. We have gone from newspapers and hoardings to interpersonal communication delivered through influencers, comedians, and technology. This change is inevitable and will add content that will look a lot different in the years to come. AI integration was not even a thing a couple of years back, and today, it has become mainstream. We have come to recognize that taking the lead in these advertising changes will present a significant opportunity in the future years.  The way the consumers feel about your products/ services has changed in the last 5 years. They are a lot more involved in the branding process and have strong loyalty preferences that we, as brand managers, need to recognize and reciprocate. Advertising is dynamic, but now, it is also simple and fun. Fun is a major part of the communication today. Nobody likes boring ads and that’s one definite change you will see taking over in the next couple of years.”

Saijal Jain, Media Buying Manager, Adbuffs, added here, “Our advertising approach has seen significant evolution over the years, primarily driven by the imperative to balance customer acquisition with retention in the face of intensifying competition. Initially, our strategy leaned heavily towards acquiring new customers at scale through broad-based digital campaigns. However, as the market dynamics shifted, we recognized the critical importance of not just attracting new customers but doing so efficiently and sustainably. This realization led us to refine our approach, incorporating strategies such as product diversification, pricing adjustments, and expanding into new categories to appeal to a broader audience.”

These tactics were instrumental in not only attracting a diverse customer base, but also in differentiating our brand in a crowded marketplace. Moreover, the rate at which brands acquire new customers has become a focal point of their strategy, necessitating a more analytical and data-driven approach to advertising. By leveraging data analytics, brands have been able to identify high-potential segments and tailor their marketing efforts to these groups, thereby improving the efficiency of our customer acquisition efforts.

Jain further said, “However, as competition intensified, it became clear that focusing solely on acquiring new customers was not sufficient. We have since recognized the critical role of customer retention in our strategy, prompting us to implement retention tactics such as personalized email campaigns, loyalty programs, and targeted offers to boost customer lifetime value and nurture brand loyalty. Acknowledging the omnichannel nature of today’s consumer journey, we have also expanded our presence across multiple platforms, from our own branded website to e-commerce marketplaces and quick commerce platforms. This omnichannel approach ensures that we meet our customers where they are, making our products more accessible and enhancing the overall customer experience.”

“Currently, our brands’ communication is heavily focused on authenticity and relatability. Recognizing the cluttered digital environment, we aim to cut through the noise by creating content that speaks directly to the consumer's needs, aspirations, and values. This involves leveraging user-generated content, real-life testimonials, and behind-the-scenes looks into our brand. Such content not only enhances credibility but also fosters a sense of community and belonging among our target audience,” he added.

Sharing Madison Media’s point of view, Vandana Ramkrishna, Chief Operating Officer, Madison Media Ace, said, “Madison Media has always been advocating consumer-first planning, resulting in us being platform agnostic even in Video planning. Our focus has, therefore, been working closely with our clients to leverage the opportunity of consumers who are now more muti-screen and ensuring that the key media metrics of reach/frequency are optimized and we have seen nearly 30% better efficiencies in the process. With the rise of consumers moving to CTV, snacking on short form videos, these have been integral in all plans even for clients in the East.”

Yousuf Rangoonwala, Founder of Kakkoii International Ltd, added here, “Our brand’s approach to advertising has undergone significant transformation over the years, adapting to the evolving needs of the market. While historical perspectives of advertising in Kolkata reflect a traditional outlook, we have proactively embraced innovative strategies to stay relevant in the changing landscape. Currently, our brand communication strategy emphasizes leveraging emerging trends such as social media content and performance marketing to resonate with the diverse consumer base in the Eastern market. By prioritizing digital channels and consumer-centric messaging, we aim to foster deeper brand engagement and drive impactful results.”

Tapasya Sharma, Global (Marketing and Digital Head), TERRA shared: "Over the years, TERRA has observed a significant evolution in its advertising approach, particularly in the East market. Through extensive research and analysis, we have recognized that the Eastern market is highly price-sensitive, yet it's experiencing a gradual surge in premium FMCG products. Despite the presence of various brands across product categories, there is an ample opportunity for each brand to carve out its niche and tap into this densely populated market. With our innovative Biodegradable Baby Wipes, crafted with pure New Zealand waters, we are well-positioned to cater to the growing caregiving sector in the region. This sector seeks quality, lab-tested, and verified products, aligning perfectly with our brand values."

 She further added: "Following our successful ventures in the US market, we have expanded into India and other East markets through strategic partnerships. These partnerships have enabled us to amplify our reach and connect with a broader audience. Given the high penetration of digital media and social media usage in the region, especially among millennials and younger generations, we have tailored our marketing strategies to effectively engage with our target audience. We are exploring new markets beyond metropolitan cities like Mumbai and Delhi, by focusing on areas like West Bengal, Aizawl, and Imphal, which exhibit metro-market trends and a growing sustainability consciousness."

Himmath Jain, Co-founder and Director, AS-IT-IS Nutrition said: "The Eastern Indian market is a pivotal arena for sports nutrition and fitness products, presenting an indispensable opportunity for marketers. Ignoring this market could be detrimental due to its unique dynamics and linguistic diversity. Consequently, our strategy necessitates significant adaptation in our advertising copy to resonate effectively with the Eastern demographic. This involves a tailored communication approach that aligns with local consumer behaviors and preferences, ensuring our messaging is both relevant and engaging in this distinctive market landscape."

Shivansh Tripathi, Business Development Manager, Mrig Sight Media shared: "The dynamic evolution of advertising in East markets firsthand. The landscape has transformed significantly, driven by rapid technological advancements, changing consumer behaviors, and cultural nuances unique to the region. From traditional mediums like print and television to the explosion of digital platforms and social media, the options for reaching audiences have expanded exponentially. However, navigating this diverse and complex market requires more than just adopting new channels—it demands a deep understanding of local preferences, values, and communication styles. By embracing innovation while respecting cultural sensitivities, businesses can unlock immense opportunities for growth and engagement in East markets. As we continue to explore this ever-changing advertising scenario, it's crucial for business development strategies to remain agile, adaptive, and culturally attuned to effectively capture the attention and loyalty of East market consumers."




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