Channels in Rural communication, Developing effective communication27th March 2021
Promotion mix decision is very important especially for a low involvement product category like FMCG. It is not only the cost factor, but the dependence of overall results on this decision makes the in-depth analysis very important. The right promotion tool needs to be identified and then only marketer can dream of any success in a complex rural market of India.
To communicate effectively with rural audiences, it is important to understand the aspirations, fears and hopes of the rural customers, in relation to each product category, before developing a communication package. The organisation may have a national strategy but it has to act locally. They have to develop special creative strategy aimed at homogeneous rural segments, which may be quite different from urban market communication.
A well-known brand of shampoo which entered the Rajasthan market some decades ago with a creative commercial that showed a beautiful model featuring bouncing hair, the product bombed. Post-research showed that it was considered indecent for a girl to show off her hair and the audience refused to connect with the brand.
Though rural communication is so vital in rural marketing, it is being given a step-motherly treatment by most organisations resulting in their getting inadequate results from the efforts. This clearly indicates poor understanding of rural marketing in general and the role of rural communication, in particular, in building brands in rural India.
Though companies have total advertising annual spends amounting to Rs. 1,00,000 crores, rural advertising budgets are minuscule. The rural advertising budget of companies is generally between Rs. 6 crores and Rs. 15 crores. Though it does not seem enough but Rs. 10 crores spent in rural market in the villages achieve the same ‘visibility’ as Rs. 50 crores in the towns and cities.
Thus, when it comes to promotions in rural markets, most of the companies are only doing some short-term sales-oriented below the line activities without laying any emphasis on how the core message of the brand is communicated to the rural masses. Most of them use the same communication package, which they are already using to target urban audiences.
Doing just a van campaign, once in a blue moon, is not rural marketing in true sense. To dub a film from one language to another using the same characters relevant to one region can have only limited effect. For sustained results it is important to plan an integrated campaign covering both mass media and below the line activities.
Integrated rural campaigns of Philip’s Consumer Electronics Division, ACC’s Suraksha Cement and Shriram Transport Finance have proved this point. It is very important to invest in developing the specific and right communication package aimed at the rural audience, if an organisation expects to build a brand, in the rural market.
Some of the promotional strategies for the rural markets, which can be adopted by different organisations, are classified here below:
(i) Education Instead of Promotion:
The basic premise for communicating a promotional message for rural market is that it has to be essentially an educational message. This education provider in interactive, interesting and entertaining format brings better results. Rural consumers’ needs not only to be told the benefits delivered by a brand convincingly but also how the benefits outweigh cost that he is going to incur.
The important thing to be considered is that the benefits that have to be projected in the rural areas should be in accordance with the needs and lifestyle of the rural consumer. If the benefits, which are highlighted in the urban areas, are presented to the rural consumers they may not produce desired results all the time.
The rural buyers who are entering the market for the first time for many product categories need to be guided with regard to usage and benefits of products also. Therefore, demonstration becomes very important in the rural market. When benefits of brands like Chik for shampoo, Colgate for toothpaste and toothpowder were demonstrated, there was creation of a huge market, which did not exist earlier altogether. If they had just relied on ten seconds commercial on the mass media then the results might not have been the same in the rural market.
(ii) Customization of the Promotional Message:
Tricky, clever, gimmicky or even suggestive advertising does not work with the rural audience. All flicks using expensive computer graphics without human elements go over the head of rural audience. The communication targeted at the rural audience must address the specific problems, needs, aspirations and the hopes of the rural folks.
Slice of life stories having characters that rural consumer can identify with will help create a greater empathy and understanding. Using aspirational urban looking model but using simple and direct communication which is not complicated, works well with the rural audience. The anchors conducting demonstration in rural areas needs to be trained to speak in the local language or dialect during the road shows so that they can connect better with the audience.
(iii) Regionalization of Advertisement:
The first step in the development of any communication package is the in-depth study of the mindset of consumers of each region and for each product category. Perceptions, traditions and values vary from state to state and in some cases from a region to region within a state.
MRF, while marketing bullock cart tires found glaring differences between western UP and eastern UP with regard to requirement of cart tires. While bullock carts in western UP were smaller with a single buffalo, in eastern UP there were bigger vehicles pulled by two bullocks. In western UP the villagers spoke Hindustani whereas in eastern UP they spoke Bhojpuri. To develop the communication packages these facts had to be kept into consideration.
Unique promotions need to be designed as what work in north may not in the south. At times even dubbing the commercials in local linguistics may not work. Emami had Madhuri Dixit and Amitabh Bachchan as brand ambassadors but for Andhra Pradesh, it signed Chiranjeevi for the same. When Phillips was developing rural campaign for their radio for rural Tamil Nadu, they developed the punch line Enga Veetu Superstar meaning; ‘The superstar of my home’ based on Tamil superstar Rajnikant.
But when campaign was to be developed for Andhra Pradesh punch line developed was Maa Inty Mega Star-that is, ‘mega star of my home’, reflecting, Chiranjeevi, the most popular cinestar of Andhra Pradesh. Had they used the word ‘superstar’ it would have meant Late N.T. Rama Rao, the superstar of Andhra Pradesh but not the current one.
In order to build the association with the promotion, Philips used photograph of village’s own girl – to sell transistors, TV’s, so that the rural audience of a region can relate to it and perceives that the product meant for them.
The regionalization of advertising campaigns by many leading multinational companies indicates a healthy trend for the advertising business. Few clients are looking at developing special advertisements for rural markets. The success of ‘Thanda Matlab, Coca Cola’ campaign, which was aimed at the rural market, is a case in point. The marketer therefore needs to specify region, use specific media and then develop, ‘regional messages’.
(iv) Understanding Role of Mass Media:
Mass media with its known and perceived to be efficient cost per contact is the most favorite medium to spread the promotional message. The benefit of mass media is its huge reach and the easy tracking comparison with other below the line promotional activities.
TV is the most preferred mass media a significant part of the budget of rural marketing companies goes to TV because no other medium has that wide a reach across the country. According to the National Readership Survey, the print media reaches about 23 per cent of rural consumers in India, while 36 per cent have access to TV. The reach of cinema stands at approximate 26 per cent.
The mass media reaches about 57 per cent of the rural population, although, the reach of television rural India is high. Frequent power-cuts restrict viewing time considerably. Two out of five Indians were unreachable by mass media.
Rural India has a very high ownership of transistor radios and as these run on batteries, radio; can once again be expected to become a popular medium for reaching rural masses.
Mass media is too glamorous, interpersonal and unreliable in contrast with the familiar performance of traditional artist whom the villager could not only see and hear, but even touch. Television also does not distinguish between urban and rural. For marketers who use mass media like TV, this becomes a big challenge, as television does not distinguish between urban and rural audiences. There can be a common TV commercial for both urban and rural audience particularly for FMCG products provided the communication is not gimmicky or suggestive and is easy to comprehend.
(v) Outdoor Media Options:
Large numbers of outdoor media options are available with the media planner to lake the message to the rural market. Different options can be selected based on the demographic profile of the population of a region. Available infrastructure of the post offices, weekly markets, exhibitions, public distribution system, cooperative societies and banks could help in strengthening the existing promotional efforts. A vast network of 1.38 lakh rural post offices and 22,000 primary health centres need to be tapped imaginatively for education and information.
Some of the available outdoor media are described below:
(a) Wall Paintings: They are an effective and economical medium for advertising in rural areas. They are silent but a speech or film comes to an end, but wall painting stays as long as the weather allows it to. Retailer normally welcomes paintings of their shops, walls, and name boards, because it makes the shop look cleaner and better.
(b) Video Vans: Video van concept started with the political parties who were not getting access on Doordarshan to have contact with the rural masses. The video van is one of the very effective means of reaching out physically to the rural consumers and providing them with touch and feel of product and the brand.
The promotion using these vans create a lot of word of mouth publicity for a brand in the region which is much more effective than the promotional campaign run on any mass media. The people who have experienced the benefit themselves are likely to talk about to many people who were not present. If conducted in a proper manner then the promotional campaign can be the regular discussion at choupal for many days.
These vans although have a very good potential to deliver the intended communication and demonstration, but are costly to hire and maintain. Considering the vast spread of the rural market, cost per contact can come to many times more than what the conventional mass media can achieve in the urban markets.
(vi) Unconventional Platforms to Promote Brands:
In order to communicate the message to vast multitude of rural population, marketers have to experiment also with unconventional media along with the traditional mass media options. Rural Market offers the opportunity to the media planner with a wide range of platforms that can be used to carry the message ‘to the target market residing in rural areas’. These platforms can be used as complementary to the mass media options.
Using these media, the marketer can provide touch and feel aspect with regard to their brands, which is very essential in rural areas where good number of consumers are living in media dark villages. In the area of communication, corporate marketers have perhaps failed to recognise that a rural consumer may be buying a particular brand or even the product categories itself (particularly durables) for the first time.
With hardly any key influencer within the village and few sources of information (since print and electronic media have limited reach), the rural consumer feels inhibited and ill equipped to buy confidently.
Hence, there is a strong need to build the reassurance and trust about product quality, service support and company credentials in the minds of rural consumers. This is best done through the face to face below the line touch, feel and talk mode at haats, melas and mandis.
This not only spreads the message amongst the audience at these platforms but it also creates word of mouth stories, which carry the message in the entire region. Some of the platforms available for brand promotion are presented below. The relevant platform according to the product categories can be selected for communicating with the rural audience.