Do you want a coconut oil bottle to talk in your language?

Considering I have been tracking brand communication with regard to the language (the use of Hindi as a pan-Indian medium of communication, in specific), I see another interesting, related trend: product design and product labeling regionalization.

One of the best examples I remember in this regard is Bisleri water bottles that launched the Indian language labeled packs in 2017. The product comes in as many as 11 Indian languages, besides the standard English label as the 12th variant.

A search on the many online shopping websites reveals that I may not be able to find or buy language-specific bottles, but I’m assuming the idea is not meant for online selection but mainly for offline distribution. The idea seems to be to make these regional language label bottles available in specific states so that they may be picked by choice, as against other water bottles that have only the English brand name label.

Most national products and brands play it safe by labeling their products in English. Bisleri is a good exception to this rule and shows how much value they lavish on regionalization, even at the labeling level.

But many regional brands consciously choose to label their products more in the regional language with a smattering of English where needed, or an equal mix of both languages.

For example, consider SRM Coconut Oil, from Kangayam in Tirupur District, Tamil Nadu. The product label has a Tamil element that spells the product in Tamil – ‘Thengai eNNai’, besides English.

Another example: Cardia Gingelly Oil from Kaleesuwari Refinery, Chennai. The product label mentions the Tamil word for gingelly oil – ‘NalleNNaI’. The brand’s groundnut oil has ‘Kadalai eNNai’ in Tamil.

Are there more examples like Bisleri? Oh yes.

Consider Parachute Coconut Oil. The brand recently announced a Tamil Nadu-centric pack that included the kolam-motif and Tamil text on the pack’s front label!

Or, take Coca-Cola’s Bangla effort! They have Coca-Cola, Sprite, ThumsUp, and Limca with prominent front-of-pack labels in Bangla where the product name itself is in the Indian language! Like Parachute’s attempt, this one is single-State centric.

But such regionalization need not always be pivoted around language. It can also be built around a deeper understanding of each region where the national brand is trying to endear itself – an actual deeper understanding or showcasing a perception that they understand.

A solid example in this direction is from Tata Tea.

Tata Tea Premium range has region-centric packs targeting States like Odisha, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Haryana, among others.

The packing label is in English (except West Bengal that has Bangla text too!), but they also carry state-specific imagery and the state’s name and specialization at the front. Whether the product is any different in each state’s variation is something I cannot comprehend even if I try all the different tea packs 🙂 But, Tata is making an effort to cater to state-centric attitudes.

The same Tata Tea’s other sub-brands like Kanan Devan and Gemini have front-of-pack labels in Malayalam and Telugu, respectively!

Probably the most interesting and far-reaching product localization is by Titan watches that launched watches with Tamil text on the dial! Of course, there is a big difference between regionalization in product labeling where the packs are thrown away after usage and a watch that will be sued as-is. But here we have – a watch in Tamil!

Why only Tamil? Is it possibly because Titan started as a joint venture between the Tata Group and the Tamil Nadu Industrial Development Corporation (TIDCO) in 1984? Are more Indian language watches being planned? I don’t know, but I can see the appeal in a watch with Tamil text – it is a niche, no doubt, but also extremely unique and appealing to Tamilians!

Compare that with Colgate Mouthwash. The product’s marketing slogan is ‘Aao Refresh Karein’, a typical, advertising-style slogan, most probably concocted by the brand’s agency sitting out of Mumbai or Gurgaon. That explains why no one at the agency side or the client-side didn’t find it odd that the product’s caption/slogan is primarily in Hindi, though written in English script when it is available all through India.

If the caption was being used only in advertising, the brand has the opportunity to localize the campaign as per the release/media choice. But if the product is labeled with this phrase, there is no localization possible the way Bisleri, Coca-Cola or Parachute are attempting.

The larger question around product label regionalization is this: does it matter?

In simple terms, imagine yourself at a departmental store, in front of the soaps section. If you see a soap pack with your mother tongue in the front of the pack, compared to all the other soaps that have only English text, would that induce you to buy the product?

Personally, that would induce me to take a serious look at the product, take a picture or two on my phone and talk about it. But whether I buy it or not goes far beyond product label regionalization.

So I believe that product label level regionalization (the way a Parachute is attempting, as I showcase above) is perhaps more useful from a PR point of view and less on product appeal that may need actual product quality to make a difference. No doubt, the PR buzz gained from the label-level regionalization could induce trials closer to the date of announcement. The effort and money spent on label-level regionalization are perhaps better spent towards regional campaigns while the label itself remains in English.

But if a product has a state-centric product distinction (the way Tata Tea Premium) is framing it, it could appeal to both trials and product uptake even if the packs don’t have language-centric labels.

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