Tara Kapur

India Marketing Head at Duolingo

Tara Kapur on Navigating India's Diverse Market Landscape

Explore this profound dialogue with Tara Kapur, a transformative force in India's ever-evolving business world. Kapur lays bare her rollercoaster ride through this vibrant industry by exploring content marketing, brand building, customer engagement, and embracing diversity with enriching insights. From unveiling her thought-provoking journey — a blend of inspiring stints at Supari, and Netflix, to her current pursuit at Duolingo — to addressing the nuances of reaching India's heterogeneous audience, her revelations are a treasure trove for anyone eager to navigate this diverse landscape.

In conversation with Madhusha Bhati, ex-senior Account Executive at Pepper Content, Tara Kapur, India Marketing Head at Duolingo, dwells on her proudest campaigns and her musings on localization's growing significance — a foundation in contemporary marketing strategy.

Here are some distilled gems:

1. Could you please share your journey with us?

Looking back, my journey began with a clear passion for media and creativity during my teenage years. While I initially aimed to be a journalist and filmmaker, the job market led me to a business news channel. However, it wasn't the perfect fit. A turning point came when I joined Brand Equity at Times Group, allowing me to explore the marketing side of things. This ignited a desire to create content and understand the industry from a different angle.

Despite challenges, I pushed to transition from journalism to marketing, eventually finding my place at Supari Studios for several years. As my career evolved, I sought new challenges and learning opportunities, leading me to Vice, Netflix, and Duolingo. Each step shaped my journey, culminating in my current role as a marketer crafting impactful campaigns and reaching diverse audiences. My story might be long, but it's a testament to perseverance and growth that I'm proud to share.

What does the consumer want is the question that you have to keep asking, right?

2. Could you discuss your involvement in brand building at Supari Studios and elaborate on your strategies for engaging the broad Indian audience while working with Netflix?

Marketing encapsulates transforming products into compelling brands that evoke consumer emotions. At Supari Studios, I initiated the Vitamins 3 brand, addressing a market gap and employing distinct marketing strategies for differentiation. Crafting a unique identity, pinpointing the audience, and conveying brand value were integral. YouTube served as our platform, and strategic distribution yielded awards like Shorties, Webbies, and YouTube recognition. These milestones energized our brand-building journey.

Transitioning to Netflix, individualized campaigns for each show were paramount. Unlike Netflix, with no universal campaign model, each show targeted its audience. A standout moment involved marketing the "Money Heist" season finale, collaborating with the Spanish team to localize the Indian campaign. An anthem blended Indian languages, local stars, and Indian vibes, achieving immense resonance. The impact, even making its way to cabbie ringtones, was gratifying.

3. How do you envision the evolution of the localization trend, especially considering your current role at Duolingo, where localization is central?

Having collaborated with several global brands, one crucial lesson I've imparted is the immense diversity within India. It's essential to recognize that our nation is more like a continent, with each state constituting its own unique ecosystem defined by culture and language. To navigate this intricate landscape, there are two major approaches. Firstly, casting a wide net demands localization across the board, ensuring authenticity for each subculture. While there are unifying factors like cricket and certain Bollywood icons, there's no overarching Indian culture.

Alternatively, one can adopt a more focused strategy. My role at Duolingo involves catering to a niche audience – individuals pursuing education abroad. This allows me to pinpoint their location in metros, affordability bracket, and the unifying factor of English proficiency. Interestingly, in India, English often serves as a stronger unifying element than Hindi. This highlights the need to tailor strategies based on the audience's characteristics and preferences.

4. When managing various marketing priorities and pursuing essential goals, how do you strike the right balance and create a potentially viral campaign while avoiding offense to specific Indian communities?

Certainly, finding that elusive balance is a complex dilemma that doesn't have a one-size-fits-all solution. My career path, transitioning from journalism to client-side roles via an agency stint, has granted me an understanding of the entire marketing spectrum. To navigate this, I focus on editorializing the brand, a concept at the heart of content marketing. I aim to go beyond mere PR plugs and engage consumers by addressing their interests and curiosities. For instance, with Netflix, it's crucial to structure narratives catering to the consumer's desires. It's about understanding the audience's yearnings and shaping the content around their needs.

Similarly, with my current role at Duolingo, where the goal is to promote an English test for studying abroad, we address broader challenges prospective students face. This aligns with their journey and positions our product as a solution, making the process easier. The art lies in intuitively grasping what appeals to the audience editorially while staying true to the brand's essence. It's a fusion of intuition and data-backed insights. The challenge lies in understanding the demographic and their preferences and effectively merging both facets into a cohesive approach. This blend of art and science is the formula for success, although it remains a puzzle without a definitive answer.

5. Have you observed a recent shift in how marketers prioritize it compared to performance marketing regarding budget allocation?

The interaction of performance and content marketing continually shifts in the marketing landscape. Content marketing is pivotal for establishing brand recognition and resonance, while performance marketing drives product awareness. Striking a balance between these two is the challenge, with brand-building's qualitative impact and performance marketing's quantifiable metrics.

Marketers must customize the blend for each product. Some brands lean toward content marketing for visibility, like Netflix, focusing on content excitement. Conversely, products like Duolingo's English test need performance marketing to reach students actively seeking it. Content marketing answers why to choose a test. Balancing these strategies and selecting platforms is an ongoing task that shapes the marketing approach.

You're at least going to attract the consumer that you're interested in...and you're speaking their language. So it's a mixture of intuition as well as science.

6. With your background in content creation, what key components do you believe are essential in crafting compelling content, especially in formats like blogs or videos?

It starts with a unique angle that shapes the narrative, resembling a journalistic hook. Outstanding content is founded on audience understanding, blending data-driven insights with creativity to unearth compelling revelations. At Vitamins 3, recognizing educated girls lacked health knowledge despite accomplishments led to a shift from edgy feminism to fundamental education. This understanding became our core insight, driving engaging content.

The takeaway is the heart of content creation—a resonating message after audience engagement. Yet, creation isn't the finale. Effective distribution is crucial. Amid the digital saturation, strategic dissemination using SEO, placement, and distribution plans ensures content reaches the audience when sought.

7. As someone entering the marketing field, what's the crucial consideration when assembling a marketing stack?

Your marketing stack should align with your organization's unique needs and preferences, ultimately adapting to their chosen tools. I recommend breaking it down according to the different stages of marketing. Begin with the planning phase, where collaboration is crucial. Embrace collaborative platforms like Slack that streamline communication and teamwork, leaving traditional emails in the past. Google Suite is my go-to here for its collaborative editing capabilities, though Microsoft's tools are valuable for more complex needs.

Transitioning to the budgeting stage, I rely on my organization's tools, such as Planful or Anaplan, for comprehensive budget planning. Execution demands a tailored approach; I utilize agencies' finalized content pieces. For scheduling and distribution, Sprout serves as an effective tool, while Asana aids in content planning. Regarding data analysis, platforms like Google Analytics offer valuable insights, while each organization's data analytics tool of choice provides specific insights tailored to their operations. As the cycle of planning, execution, analysis, and reiteration continues, the key is to maintain a well-balanced toolbox that fits seamlessly within your marketing ecosystem.

8. What's your perspective on the emerging role of technologies like chat GPT and generative AI in shaping the industry's future?

As I reflect on staying current in the dynamic landscape of marketing, a guiding principle I swear by is that content remains paramount. It's crucial to follow the consumer's lead, recognizing whether a product is a trend or hype, which dictates the urgency of engagement. Platforms like Bereal serve as an example where I've explored its potential impact and adapted to its mechanics but realized it may not be my forte. Maintaining relevance entails learning the ropes of new platforms, even if they don't align naturally with my preferences.

Regarding emerging technologies, it's essential to remain open to their integration. AI, in particular, is the backbone of our tech-driven education product. I view AI as enhancing efficiency, leaving room for human input. Tools like ChatGPT have assisted in streamlining our brand's scale-up process, albeit with a human touch. Embracing technology empowers marketers to deliver better results, but our unique perspectives and insights genuinely make the content resonate. As technology advances, we leverage it to amplify our abilities, ensuring we evolve alongside the industry's transformations.

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