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Brand Building in Rural IndiaViews: 698
Apr 24, 2006 2:37 pmBrand Building in Rural India#

Sandeep Budhiraja
Hi everybody,
This article was published in USP Age in the mar 06 issues. Brickbats, thoughts and feedback welcome.

Brand building in Rural India

Branding is about consumerˇ¦s perception of the offeringˇ
how it performs, how it looks, how it makes one feel, and what messages it sends.
The offering needs to be in sync with the consumer aspirations. One doesn't say consumer needs as a smart marketer can always market a product to a consumer even if he doesn't need it.

But first of all let's examine the consumer buying process. The various stages of the decision stages of the buying process are as follows:
1. Brand awareness and product consideration
communicated through television ads, newspapers and general interest magazines
2. Product preference
fostered through niche magazines and product benefit focused advertising
3. Purchase decisions
triggered by point-of-sale promotions, direct marketing, daily specials, and other incentives
4. Brand loyalty
developed through product experience, buyer's clubs, newsletters, etc

Brand awareness and product consideration

The biggest challenge in the rural India is not creating Brand Awareness but the kind of awareness which translates into significant product consideration. With a very high penetration of cable most of the rural India (Here one is considering villages / towns with population of 5000 and above) gets to see what most of the hip urban India sees.

So from a marketer's point of view he gets a great spillover of his GRP's. But the question is whether it is indeed so great. Before we even start thinking of building brands in rural India, we need to answer the following questions:
1. Do we know what the rural India aspirations are?
2. Do we know how they react to the advertising?
3. Do we keep them in mind while creating the advertising which is largely targeted to urban India?
4. Do the creative people really understand the person in rural / semi urban India who is watching the ad?
5. Do the rural people really like some specifically targeted ads which seems to be talking down to them?

There has been lots of work done in rural India but from a communications point of view, there is quite a lot left. If this is where the future growth is, then one needs to start understanding the aspirations and the thought process now.

Marketers can't hide behind the fact that we are not present in significant strength in rural India and the distribution costs are so high. If their brand is reaching out to the population of Bharat and a perception is being formed, they need to know what is happening rather than taking these people for granted as always.

Till one does enough work in rural India one canˇ¦t pass a stricture that ads featuring provocatively dressed women are not well received in rural India. The good news is that a lot of creative talent lately has been coming from smaller towns. These people are not necessarily English speaking elite and hence are able to relate to common people much more easily. For them it is easier to understand where and how people like Bunty (of Bunty and Babli) are born and are there ways that there brand can tap them better.

There have been few brands who have kept Bharat in mind while doing their entire communication activities. Brands which have kept the rural consumers in mind like Colgate also enjoy a tremendous equity in rural India.

Brand building starts by having an understanding your consumer and it is time that quality of awareness in rural India was given due consideration.

As Prof Kevin Keller says, Power of a brand resides in the minds of customers and the challenge is to ensure customers have the right types of experiences with products & services and their marketing programs to create the right brand knowledge structures:

The corollary to the above, it is an interesting exercise to pick up the latest NRS report and find out how many in rural India watch TV on a black and white TV set. Then find a black and white TV and watch the current ads for a day on that set. Can promise you that the results would be interesting to say the least.

Product Preference

Thoughts of Dr. Tapan Panda, a leading academician and practitioner in marketing, Professor of Marketing at IIM Indore are :
Product is a problem solver in the sense that it solves the customer's problem and is also the means by which the organization achieves its own objectives.

Dr. Panda says that to create product preference in rural India one needs to understand the rural consumer first and then talk to him in his own language. More you talk to him in your language the more distant the product would be from him and product preference an impossible goal.

Another very important aspect maybe the most important for brand building is product availability. It is important to have a sustainable and effective distribution network. There is hardly a need reiterate to specify that if your product isn't there for the consumer for a repeat buy (function on an effective distribution) there is hardly a chance to build on product preference.

Purchase decisions

Consumers use heuristics or rules of thumb to simplify our process of choosing between brands rather than going through a well considered evaluation of the pros and cons of all brands.

The sources of heuristics can be psychological, based on social context, attributes and our relationships.

We figure out which brands meet these rules and over time they get entrenched and we buy without even thinking.

Is rural point of purchase going to be always delivered through wall paintings? Dr. Panda says that rural consumer is also as much swayed by point of purchase material as an urban consumer would be. In fact according to him an urban consumer has much lesser time with him at point of purchase than a rural consumer. So the point of purchase materials actually might work better at rural consumers than urban consumers.
The rural consumer has also defined his own metrics for picking out the fake from genuine product. As literacy is a problem, he tends to make his decisions basis the quality of packaging, the kind of van (in case he is buying from the van) and the quality of POP materials.
It might be worthwhile not to undersell to the rural consumer and treat him at par with an urban consumer.

Brand loyalty

Brand Loyalty as per David Aaker can do the following for the brand:
An increase in customer loyalty of only 5% can lift lifetime profits per customer by as much as 95%
In some sectors, an increase of customer loyalty of just 2% is equivalent to a 10% cost reduction
Over 50% of customers would be willing to pay 20-25% price premium to the brand that they are most loyal to.

Loyalty and consumer loyalty is an area where lots of work has been done. However it is still an area which marketers struggle with. What are the moments or delta moments which make a person switch a brand? What exactly makes a customer loyal?

The above questions are the ones which each marketer tries and answers for his customers. Most of the work which has been done in understanding the loyalty aspects has been done with urban consumers.

Rural consumer doesn't have the same brand choices as an urban consumer. Also with distribution being seasonal and irregular at times, even if the rural consumer is brand loyal, he finds it quite difficult remain loyal to the brand.

Needless to say sustainable and effective distribution system has to be a given. Once that is established a rural consumer might actually turn out to be a more loyal consumer than an urban consumer. The reasons being that he has less brands fighting for his mind space and he has also got more time to reflect about the brand that he uses. So if feels that the brand is delivering value to him he might be more likely to stick to it.

Also for lots of urban consumers due to their fast paced lifestyle they switch to auto pilot mode and brand choice becomes a habit. Reasons for the habit are forgotten. While for the rural consumers they have time to reflect and talk about the brands.

It is maybe far easier for brands to become part of the life of a rural consumer than an urban consumer. The challenges are there in the infrastructure and the biggest challenge is in way we think and market to the rural consumers. We need to change the way we look at them and talk to them in their language. There is quite possibly a goldmine there and as usual the first movers would stand to get the maximum benefits.

Private Reply to Sandeep Budhiraja

Apr 28, 2006 12:09 pmre: Brand Building in Rural India#

Aashish Argade
Hi Sandeep,

The article is very informative. I feel that not much attention has been paid to the aspirations of the rural Indian consumer. If I sit in front of the TV watching ads, I can relate to some, some are aspirational and some are alienating. If I conclude that most of these ads have been made keeping the urban consumer in mind, I dont know what kind of message they communicate to the rural consumer.

As was mentioned in the article, the product is supposed to be a problem solver. And this aspect needs to be communicated to the consumer in such a way that he can relate his needs to the product's problem solving capacity. Therefore a blanket approach of brand positioning will not work.

All said and done, accessibility is the major problem that a marketer faces to reach rural markets. Transport and communication infrastructure are the major bottlenecks. But let us also remember that seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, fuel, and to some extent medicines have been available to the rural populace. Perhaps a common vehicle (I dont mean a transport vehicle, but a medium) for all the goods can be of benefit to all marketers.


Private Reply to Aashish Argade

May 10, 2006 6:22 pmre: re: Brand Building in Rural India#

Quality is not an act, its a habit
Hi from another Sandeep to you....

I have been working with a FMCG client for the past 10 months now in my current capacity and who has identified rural India as one of their primary drivers of growth here....and this means volume growth. I guess some are seriously reading CK Prahlad's "Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid".

What I have learnt while working with them on their brands and giving them research support, is that communication efforts in rural India needs to be altogether different from what urban India consumes or understands. Brand awareness is a big factor in rural India, without which sales cannot be driven and volume growth cannot be achieved....even though the previous post talked rightly about spillover GRPs and the taste rural India has towards media....it is important that TV be used in a very intelligent manner while targetting rural India. Marketers are increasingly using the "promotional" route to enter rural India and establish its presence there.

My client believes that brand awareness can be more easily built up in rural India through promotions and shop level activities that through TV advertising. And it is right that rural specific advertising has never being created. The reasons for that are also manifold, because the rural market still hasnt justified the advertising monies required to break it, and also know one surely knows what kind of advertising would a rural audience prefer....

So, I guess brand building in rural India is a painstaking effort of building up awareness, then inducing trials, then establishing repurchase values and then garnering loyal users for your brand. Integrated Marketing Communications is a system which fits the rural marketing bill perfectly....

Private Reply to Quality is not an act, its a habit

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