In the last article, we read about the importance of `Commitment from Top management` as a first step in the ‘Fourteen Step Approach to Rural Marketing’. Here are the next two steps:
It is important to clearly define, in the early stages itself, what you want your rural marketing efforts to achieve. Generally, the rural initiatives of corporates can be classified into:
• Tactical efforts to achieve increased sales in specific areas, targeting specific audiences.
• Building a strong equity for a brand in rural India.
Most companies take up rural marketing with only the first objective in view. On the other hand, it is very important to have a long-term brand building strategy in rural India. Ideally, an integrated campaign covering both mass media and below the line (BTL) activities should be launched. Many companies simply use available vendors to implement whatever ideas a company has developed for rural marketing. There is very little effort to tailor the communication involved in such endeavours to suit the temperament of the local audience. Equally, there is no attempt to fit such marketing efforts into an overall mass media campaign strategy. Naturally, such haphazard efforts lead to less than satisfactory results; both in terms of brand awareness and in the long-term impact of the efforts in the targeted markets.
Choosing the right product
Rural consumers prefer only cheap products is a myth. Experience has shown that in making purchasing decisions regarding any product or service, rural consumers actually look for value for money.
The concept of branding in rural India is a recent phenomenon. While companies like HUL, ITC, Eveready etc. have been promoting their brands in rural India for many decades with phenomenal results, other companies have started exploring the rural markets for brand promotion only in the last couple of decades.
Marketers interested in building brands in rural India should keep the following factors in mind while deciding the product mix that can be promoted in rural areas:
In the case of FMCG (fast moving consumer goods) sector, introduction of sachet packs at affordable unit prices has made it easy for companies to make an entry into rural markets. It is important to decide which product in a company’s product mix suits the rural market. Marketers should use research data to decide on the choice of products. The product mix may vary from region to region. Since the nature of rural markets limits the scope of stocking multiple SKUs (stock keeping units) of a brand, consumers have little say in the choice of pack sizes. It is important to remember that rural retailers pick those brands and pack sizes that bring them attractive margins.
There are sizeable chunks of rural consumers who associate brands with colours, numbers and visuals. It is also not unusual for consumers to ask for a brand or a product based on a price category like ‘give me a five rupee soap’.
Since rural markets are not homogeneous, it is not possible for a product to be in a particular lifecycle stage across the entire country. It will vary depending on whether a particular market is developed, developing or under developed. For example, Tamil Nadu is a more mature market than Bihar. It is necessary to develop different product strategies for each such different market.
The lifecycle of a product in rural markets is often longer than it is in urban markets.
Rural consumers are brand sticky, and do not easily shift their brands. They feel comfortable purchasing time tested brands. The first mover brands in rural markets have invariably become generic names for a particular product category. Like vegetable oil is associated with Dalda or mosquito coil with Kachua Chaap. The same reasoning applies to a higher priced brand like Clinic Plus shampoo that has become popular in rural India.
Packaging a product or a brand for rural market must ensure the following:
a. Have a longer shelf life, compared to urban SKUs.
b. Must be capable of withstanding extreme weather conditions.
c. Must be capable of tolerating sudden and jerky movements, on bumpy, dusty roads, while being transported.
d. Use brighter colours compared to urban equivalents.
e. In the case of consumer durables, it is advisable for companies to decide on specific models from their basket of products and price them appropriately while targeting rural consumers. It will be even better to specifically design products suitable for rural markets for assured success.
f. Remember, the majority of rural consumers do not like to pay for fancy features. They are happy to deal with products which offer them basic functions.
Customising an existing product to suit the rural markets is another route to take. LG with its Sampoorna range of colour TVs, Godrej with Chotukool refrigerator, Mahindra & Mahindra with Mahindra Max, Tata Swatch water purifier from Tata, low cost ultrasonic ECG machines from GE, Tata Ace mini truck from Tata Motors, Bio-mass Stove from Shell Foundation, are some examples of such initiatives.
(Excerpts from ‘Don’t Flirt With Rural Marketing’ by RV Rajan. Next article will feature the step 4 – understanding the mindset of rural consumers and step 5 – getting a dedicated task force.)