3 ways cultural authenticity is going to score HIKE more users

Hike has managed to distill a universal emotion and dovetail it with our cultural landscape. The result is an endearing authenticity that many marketing heads should take cue from.
It’s the only Indian homegrown chat application in the market. Hike has over 35 million users (90% Indian users and 80% under the age of 25) and is leading the game with its communication intelligence. A couple of weeks ago, Hike released its first short film, Love is Never Strange, celebrating India’s idiosyncratic version of romance: dizzy, silly, sweet, and NOT talked about at home.

Here are three important reasons why Hike is creating a revolution in Indian consumer engagement.

Keeping it Real. Keeping it simple.

Love is Never Strange targets the 18-25 age group and casts very relatable faces. The film captures a cultural dichotomy. Love and romance is something India  simultaneously  encourages and disapproves of, a confusing but thrilling time for semi-rebellious college kids and young adults moving into their first jobs.

Hike managed to capture the two faces of romance, (1) a country that runs on Bollywood inspired romance and the melodramatic  I-can’t-live-without-you sentiment. (2) a country where we don’t casually discuss dating or being in love with our families, and where most marriages are parent arranged. And yet love is love, and today, phone calls and chatting is where most of India’s romance lives and breaths. Here’s a brand that understands and real-talked their target market.

Not Afraid of Breaking Stereotypes and Pushing the Progressive Button.

Hike could have played it safe and only used hetrosexual characters who portrayed stereotypical gender roles; and they still would have made a significant impact on social media. This is why Hike deserves an applause for choosing to be inclusive  and progressive by featuring one character who is gay and in love, and another boy in love with a girl who is a boxer. Orthodox parents, caste bigotry, and even the simple awkwardness  discussing love with an indian parent all play a critical role in the way the youth works around being in love.

Hike earns major points for opening up a space for those who don’t merge into  dominant gender roles and sexual orientation, this fuels a larger dialogue today’s youth can engage in- a branding sweet spot.

Vernacular Wins

Hike is known for its regionally-crafted stickers that feature language specific slang and phrases that resonate uniquely with its speakers. If you take a peek at their advertisement on youtube you can see a couple examples of how they use a common setting:  a boy and girl trying to grab a few romantic moments in an office elevator only to be interrupted by a barrage of colleagues who enter.The boy sends her a Hike sticker that has a regionally specific meaning. In the Bangla version the sticker the girl receives is a boy with a heart declaring “Eh to Ashchi” which loosely translates to “there now, I am coming” but this translation doesn’t hit the cultural endearment that the language lends. This message finds itself replicated in a Kannda version too, again with a phrase that wouldn’t translate or resonate as well in English. Capturing the vernacular specifics in the way we bond and form relationships is a potent communication tool and Hike is a fine example.

So there you have it. Simplicity and authenticity blended with honesty and a fearless but thoughtful way of pushing cultural boundaries. Hike has managed to set up a communication campaign that will have consumers a little bit in love with their chat application, and possibly make more Indians choose Hike over other established applications, simply because they made an authentic connection with their target consumers.


Rheea Mukherjee has a dark twisted soul, but on the outside she is pretty chirpy. She co-runs Write Leela Write, a content and design laboratory in Bangalore. Her fiction has been published in in Ultra Violet, Southern Humanities Review, CHA : An Asian Literary Magazine, Quarterly Literary Review Singapore, The Bombay Literary Magazine, A Gathering of Tribes, Everyday Fiction, Bengal Lights and Out Of Print Magazine. She bakes in her free time.