When I meet freshly arrived foreign expats from my social and professional circle, the focal point of our discussion usually centres around how in a country like India, which is highly diverse – ethnically, culturally and geographically, you don’t have to tread very far before you find differences in language, dialects, opinions, outlooks etc. And sooner or later, those on the path of familiarization with India are often drilled with information about its diversity: 22 scheduled languages, home to close to 400 living languages, 29 states carved out on linguistic and other grounds, a country host to every major religion, more than 30 lip-smacking cuisines and so on. The list is literally endless.

You can now imagine the kind of challenges Indian advertisers must face within their own country when rolling out an all-encompassing national campaign. Now imagine how a foreign marketer might fare in this market without having any grassroots knowledge and local expertise?

Recently I saw an advertiser make a glaring communication faux pas. I can only assume that they did not consult an Indian agency or hire consultants who could have given them sharp local insights. They made the most elementary of mistakes in their online advertising and website, while quoting testimonials to strengthen their brand image. Their blunder lay in the fact that they combined Hindu first names with Muslim last names. What a mess! These fictional names do not exist. And these testimonial banner ads stood out like a sore thumb on various websites. Bloopers like these do nothing for your credibility. Especially when you are positioning your product via testimonials.

As an advertising professional I can only give one piece of advise to those planning to enter a diverse and vibrant market like India – never make the mistake of creating your communication strategy without the support of a strong local team which brings deep cultural insights to the table. There are no shortcuts in ‘brand building’ and worst, you don’t get second chances!