Cannes Lions

The Mother of All Reminders


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Duolingo, the world's most popular language-learning platform and the most downloaded education app, decided to kickstart its brand marketing efforts for the Indian market at the end of 2022. It wanted to not only spark curiosity and conversation to drive brand love among the Indian Gen-Zs but also influence an uptick in language learners from India on the app. As a free language learning app, this had to be done with minimal costs.


How can Duolingo connect effectively and impactfully with Indian Gen-Zs at large?


Raise brand awareness

Drive organic reach via shareability


When it comes to following orders, the only reminders that Gen-Zs understand are those of their mothers. So we replaced the persistent, relatable Indian mom with Duo, Duolingo’s owl mascot!

Every time our audience turned their attention away from language practice to social media, Duo used THE MOTHER OF ALL REMINDERS to remind them to get back to practising language learning. Like a real-life mom!

Duo’s nags were designed, timed and placed to hijack trending social media conversations.They showed up at key moments within Gen-Zs fandoms:

• When they stayed up till 3 am, gushing about the year’s biggest wedding (the Ambani's), Duo popped up on their feed to remind them to do their lesson

• When they were searching for the latest homework hacks, Duo spelt out a reminder

• When they were caught up scrolling through the Cricket World Cup 2023 memes, Duo stumped them with a reminder.


Navigating the attention challenge: We know that language learning needs consistent practice but with Gen-Z's goldfish-like attention spans, it presented a big challenge. With no barrier for them to jump from their Duolingo practice session on the Duolingo app to social media, the moment a notification pings on their phone, we needed a way to capture their attention where they were.

Choice of platform: With an estimated 230 million daily active Gen-Z users on Instagram in India, Instagram became the obvious platform of choice to introduce Duolingo to Indian Gen-Zs

Our strategy: Become the biggest fan of our fans!

How: Staying true to the global brand content philosophy of ‘unhinged’, we contextualized it for Indian audiences by mimicking the quintessential Indian mother. Our research showed us that the only person our audience was afraid of was their mother!


We had three levers to our execution:

1. Experiment, experiment, experiment: We kept a close eye on platform features and algorithm changes to ensure we took advantage of what the platform was pushing. Experimentation of formats has been key for us. So, reels over static; leveraging trending audio, and participating in trending fandoms are some examples that have helped us shore up organic reach.

2. Scale: Every fan matters. We took inspiration from a mother who treats every one of her children with the same attention and care. Duo responded to everyone, one-on-one, in the comment box. NO comment was ignored by Duo. He became a fan of our fans!

3. Implementation: Who better than Gen-Zs to understand and engage with Gen-Zs? We recruited a team of Gen-Z super specialists - Gen-Zs themselves - to intercept trending moments, create content and engage with fellow Gen-Z fans!


100 million+ organic impressions delivered, saving approx. US$ 125,000 of media spends

Engagement Rate (ER) went up from 0.7% in 2022 to 12.3% in 2023

(To put this in context: As of 2023, nano influencers in India have the highest engagement rate on Instagram at over 7%, while celebrities have an engagement rate of just under 3%. Source: Statista)

1230% increase in follower base

Shares went up by a whopping 1900% (from an average of 1170 shares in 2022 to 1.6 million in 2023)

3832% increase in comments

But most importantly, we were able to drive an average of 10,000 unique app downloads every month in 2023! With zero media spends!

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