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Connecting with audiences has become the order of the day for many platforms and brands, who are going the extra mile, in the right direction, to touch base with their followers. Netflix’s separate platform for South India, however, created a stir among netizens.

Culturally inaccurate 

In order to create a deeper connection with South Indian subscribers, Netflix set up a Twitter and Instagram handle. But the posts on these social media platforms seemed to be transliterations from another language and laced with grammatical errors and mispronounced words. The targeted audience also felt under-represented as only two languages were represented out of the many that are spoken in the region. 

According to a Mintel research, every one in two urban Indian consumers and almost half of rural Indian consumers feel that the statement ‘it is important for me to feel part of a community’ describes them very well. Thus, while the underlying aim was to reach a wider section of audiences, Netflix’s attempt at inclusivity backfired. The incident created a dent in the credible work that has been previously done by the OTT platform. 

The consumers’ reaction is in line with the Mintel Trend, ‘Decline of Deference’ which states that people are challenging, questioning and subverting the system like never before. It points out that our patience for businesses that put their customers’ best interests on the backburner is thinner than ever, while most importantly, the internet has permanently and enormously magnified the speed and scope of our dissent. The Mintel trend ‘Culturally Connected’ also states that for consumers, especially Gen Z, reconnecting with elements of their heritage offers a lifeline of connection, and in return influences their future. It emphasises that brands play a large role in this conversation. Thus, it is essential for brands to do it right.

A case in point is the Saudi Radio that is testing transmission of a 24hr Urdu Service, covering a plethora of programmes – discourses in Islam, teachings of the Quran, Ahadis and history of the religion along with its evolvement based on the geopolitical structure of the World. Other languages including Russian, Spanish, Japanese, Hebrew and Chinese will also be part of the project. Another example is United Colours of Benetton that created an all-encompassing campaign touching upon key impact points of simplicity, cleanliness and religious unity. It helped make its mark in a culturally and religiously diverse country like India.

WHAT’S NEXT

OTT platforms share a symbiotic relationship with their audiences. Thanks to these platforms, many regional languages have gotten the recognition they need and have found a far-reaching penetration in Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities. The need for allocating more air time to regional and inclusive content will thus be higher than before. The communication by OTT platforms should suit the sensibilities of people of various regions. A little thought into it will not only make people from these under-represented communities feel equal, but it will also bring to them a sense of inclusion and empowerment. On the other hand, any disregard for their sentiments will only damage their efforts as there is very little tolerance towards misrepresentation on a national/global stage. It is crucial for these platforms to fully understand their user identities, before projecting them.