The big wave of content marketing is reaching Tier 2, 3 cities and rural areas

Regional and dialect-based content companies such as Slow Content, Nukkad by STAGE, Make Joke Of; Meme pages like Jo Baka; and content creators such as Super Sindhi and others are on the rise. This gives a huge opportunity for brands to engage and connect with the audience in Tier 2, 3 cities and metros in their cultural context

Akansha Srivastava
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Marketers rely heavily on data, and data shows that lakhs of people migrated from cities to their hometowns during the pandemic. Internet penetration increased across the country. Tier 2 and 3 cities were better off than the metros during the pandemic and disposable income in Tier 2, 3 and rural increased. Content platforms are also seeing a huge chunk of their audience coming from non-metros.

According to reports, during the festive season last year, Flipkart’s BBD Sale had 52% visits from Tier 3 cities and beyond. PayTM witnessed a two-time increase in the number of visitors from Tier 2-3 cities. Myntra saw a 180% spike in new shoppers from Tier 3 cities.

But amid the data mentioned above, it is noteworthy that the culture of ad avoidance is penetrating deeper even in non-metros. So it’s time for more and more marketers to join the bandwagon of taking ‘content marketing to non-metros’ and associate with platforms that create content specifically relatable to people of Tier 2, 3 cities and rural areas.

Manan Shah

Manan Shah, Director of Marketing, Truecaller India, seconded, “A huge part of our audience is from Tier 2 and 3 markets and it is extremely important for us to talk to them in their language and about their issues and interests. For this, we closely work with a lot of content creators and platforms to get our communication across to them. Such platforms and creators help us as a brand to be relatable and also help in creating long-term affinity.”

The good news is that there are several platforms and companies such as Kanpur-based Make Joke Of, Neelesh Misra’s Slow Content and Super Sindhi catering specifically to the audience of Tier 3 and rural, Nukkad by STAGE, which is creating dialect-based content, local meme pages like Jo Baka, and several other such setups that brands can use to engage via content with the audience beyond metros.

Runa Sinha

Dialect-based content platform Nukkad by STAGE has worked with brands such as Yono SBI, Nobel Hygiene, Insurance Samadhan, ETMoney, Coinswitch to name a few. Runa Sinha, Vice-President, Nukkad by STAGE, said, “In the digital era, print and TV advertisements are not sufficient for a complete marketing strategy. Brands are associating with the localised content platform to touch the heart of the audience by creating customised content and are solving queries, problems and educating them about the product and providing solutions. Instead of wasting time on making your own channel, it's better to go there where audiences are already present.”

Nukkad by STAGE has a monthly reach of 100 million-plus, of which almost 80% of the audience is from Tier 2, 3 and rural areas.

Jo Baka, a Gujarati meme Facebook and Instagram page with a following of over 10 lakh Gujarati people, has already worked wonders for brands such as Brand Factory, Adani Realty and many other Gujarat-based companies.

The Founder of the page, Saurabh Patel, told BuzzInContent, “The audience that we cater to is the one that not just speaks in Gujarati but also reads Gujarati. Brands associate with us when they want to reach specifically to Gujarati audiences that can read in Gujarati. It’s not necessary to create content and associate with platforms that have a universal appeal. You can reach out to the audience despite being niche. A lot of brands have started experimenting with the same. We have several monthly plans and meme creation costs ranging between Rs 1,000 and Rs 3,000 for brands.”

Just as the saying goes, ‘One size doesn’t fit all’, a single piece of content doesn’t necessarily relate to a diverse audience base in a country like India. Brands must keep in mind the culture, language and consumer needs of people from different regions in India in the process of creating relatable and relevant content to engage with people.

Prashant Sinha

Prashant Sinha, Co-Founder, Momspresso (a content platform largely catering to mothers), “Pan-India content is made keeping a generic audience in mind. It might or might not connect with the population in Tier 2 and 3 cities. Also, translation in local languages doesn’t help. Now the content that is designed for rural and Tier 2, 3, checks all the boxes of relatability with the audience. Apart from language, they capture the local insights, cultural nuances, and other minute details which make the content completely tailor-made. The platform connects with the Tier 2,3 and rural audience with 3 Vs—Vernacular, Voice & Video —because that works better than textual any day.”

About 60% of Momspresso’s audience is from Tier 2,3 and rural areas with over 75K content creators creating content in multiple languages.

Amarpreet Singh Saini

​​Amarpreet Singh Saini, Senior Vice-President, Bhojpuri Cluster, ZEEL, seconded Sinha’s thought. He said, “The content has to be sharply clued into the nuances of the prevailing ethos of Tier 2, 3 cities. They are very different from metros and are specific to the pocket one is addressing. While there may be universality in the messaging, its projection has to be hyper-localised for better connection. Brands have to walk a tight rope between maintaining the universality of their relevance and at the same time imbibing localised connect for their deeper penetration. Localised content platforms help in striking that balance through more localised integration of the brand ethos with localised content.”

Giving an example of ZEEL’s Bhojpuri channel Zee Biskope, Saini said, “At Zee Biskope, we had Nestle coming on board for multiple initiatives, including Emoji Lahariya, Litti Chokha Diwas and the world television premieres. We catered with focussed in-content brand integration in our vertical movie line-up on the day we telecast the winners of Emoji Lahariya. Comedy scenes were integrated with relevant emojis and packaged as Nestle Munch Emoji Moment of the Day. That’s how a national brand has been given localised hues through the association.”

This doesn’t mean that platforms such as TVF, Pocket Aces, ScoopWhoop, Momspresso and Rusk Media don’t reach Tier 2, 3 cities and rural. It means that content marketers now have a vast gamut of platforms to associate with at their disposal.

In fact, one can note the rise of social commerce platforms such as Trell, Roposo and short-form content apps such as MX Takatak, Moj, HiPi, and others that are making deep inroads into Tier 2, 3 cities and rural areas. Not just this, India is now home to several influencers who come from small towns and have their own set of localised fan followings. TV isn’t behind the league: Bhojpuri channel Zee Biskope caters heavily to the audience of Jharkhand and Bihar.

Sonal Mishra

Sonal Mishra, Associate Vice-President, Marketing at Unacademy, said, “In order to reach out to Tier 2,3 cities, our focus has been on creating relatable content and collaborating with creators/platforms that help us to reach a larger audience. Brand collaborations with partners such as TVF, Dice Media and MTV have helped us effectively to tap the audiences. On the other hand, their distribution networks help us build a top-of-mind recall.”

Giving examples of how such bigger content platforms have worked for Unacademy even to engage with the people other than the metros, Mishra said, “TVF Aspirants helped us in reaching out to audiences who were preparing for or were interested in the civil services. Similarly, Dice Media’s Operation MBBS helped us tap into learners interested in pursuing medicine as a career. In terms of content initiatives, our ‘Let’s Crack It’ campaign helped increase the horizon of the top-of-mind recall for the brand. It reached out to Tier 2 and 3 cities. The insight for the campaign was based on real-life scenarios. In the film based in Ladakh, we had instances where women in that region were fighting against all odds for an opportunity to learn. These insights and experiences also made the content relatable and real.”

Another big trend that will help brands reach and engage more with the non-metro audience is the rise of social commerce platforms such as Trell, Roposo, Meesho and KikoTV. According to a report, social commerce is set to touch $16-20 billion in GMV over next five years.

Pulkit Agrawal

Pulkit Agrawal, Co-Founder and CEO, Trell, said, “Over 60% of Trell’s user base is from Tier 2 cities and beyond. With the onset of the pandemic, more people have started coming online, fast-tracking the initial estimated number of Indian internet users. A large number of these users are coming from Tier 2, Tier 3 cities. According to a recent Deloitte report, more than 50% of online shoppers in 2021 will consist of people from Tier 2 and 3 cities.”

He said, “Consumers today expect a more inclusive and interactive experience, leading them to discover the right products that fit their needs. Built on the hybrid grounds of a social network and commerce, glued together with the promise of trust, social commerce enables easier discovery of products and services and helps brands penetrate deeper into the consumer cohort with regional language amplification through creators who have already established trust with their audiences.”

Not just this, many agencies and platforms have started launching customised divisions for brands to reach out to the audience of Tier 2, 3 cities and rural areas. For example, most recently, The Q, which acquired ChtrBox, announced the launch of ‘BharatBox’ to cater to the audience beyond metros. Independent digital agency TheSmallBigIdea launched ‘TSBI Bharat’ in 2019 and earlier this year, Dentsu’s digital agency WatConsult also introduced a separate setup ‘Bharat by WatConsult’ to create customised solutions for brands to communicate with the audience in non-metros.

Mitchelle Rosario Jansen

Mitchelle Rozario Jansen, AVP Operations (West), WatConsult, said, “A lot of brands are now ready to talk to Bharat as opposed to India. Brands are open to tie-ups with regional influencers as a gateway into these platforms. They are also open to investing in paid media efforts to gauge the ROI. A Google report highlights that 90% of audiences prefer content in their own languages/mother tongue. Personalised content has a good conversion rate as opposed to generic content.”

The big wave of content marketing