In context of contemporary times, the DNA of Indian consumers is changing. There is a distinct shift from basic necessities to a demand for evolved products and services across domains. Inevitably, the messaging, tools and positioning in marketing is changing to cater to these evolving needs and behaviour. And rural is no exception to this.
The marketing divide
Urban and rural regions are markedly different in terms of demographic composition, interests, and opportunities. While the proliferation of technology coupled with easy and cheap access to smartphones have led to certain similarities between these consumer types, broad differences continue to persist. The urban consumer is accustomed to various kinds of promotions. On the other hand, the rural consumer has unique requirements, that distinguish them, from the urban consumer. These differences necessitate the need to adopt different marketing strategies.
From a bird’s eye-view of rural marketing approach will tell us that the efficacy of Above the Line (ATL) techniques may not yield the same results as a Below the Line (BTL) approach. Rural marketing is predominantly underlined by BTL activities, enabling the brands not just to reach the ground but also to feel the tangible impact of their marketing initiatives.
Essentials of rural marketing
Generally, the pace of change in rural areas is not the same as urban areas. Thus, consumers who live in rural areas need more customised communication and may respond best to one-on-one marketing done by people who take the time to establish themselves in the community and earn the consumers’ trust. Since BTL marketing targets specific groups of people with focus, it tends to work very well in rural settings. Another approach that can be quite effective with the rural demographic is hyperlocal marketing, as it drives traffic to nearby physical locations. The three imperatives of rural marketing include:
Communicating in the local language: India is a vast country with more than 19,500 languages or dialects. Of these, 121 languages are spoken by more than 10,000 people. While most people in an urban setting understand English and 2/3 local languages, the landscape changes dramatically in rural areas. Thus, marketing collateral in rural areas must be made in the local language.
Using relatable messaging: Effective marketing is all about connecting with the consumer and ensuring that the product or service offering resonates with the consumer. Individuals living in rural areas have limited exposure, and thus, messaging that might be intuitive to urban consumers might not make sense to rural consumers. There is a need to communicate through stories and anecdotes that are relevant to them and their lives.
Educating/Awareness: Due to low literacy levels and limited exposure, most rural consumers might not understand the product or service you are selling especially financial services. Thus, education is one of the three pillars of rural marketing. In a rural setting, you have to go the extra mile to educate the consumer about the product’s pros and cons.
An excellent example of rural marketing activity is our insurance awareness campaign in Ribhoi, Meghalaya. We reached out to the people in the region in their local language and created a local female caricature as our communication mascot for the campaign. This not only met the three imperatives mentioned above but also had a high recall value.
Inarguably, marketing is an integral part of an organisation’s overall strategy. However, for marketing to be truly effective, brands must understand the nuanced requirements of the consumer rather than taking the push approach.
(Shefali Khalsa is the head of Brand and Communications at SBI General Insurance. Views expressed in the article are author’s own.)
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