The big shift has been new internet users in India coming from smaller towns, which may not be primarily English speaking or English-comfortable. Says Vikas Tandon, managing director at Six String Ventures and ex-founder of Indigo Consulting, “Even major apps and operating systems like Facebook, Chrome, Android, WhatsApp, etc now natively support multiple Indian languages.” This provides a replacement avenue for brands to marry local insights with social media opportunities.
Iconic chocolate brand 5 Star, as an example, was facing stiff competition in Tamil Nadu – one among its key markets – from players like Mars, Snickers, KitKat, etc.
Along with obvious choices, like middle-aged bike enthusiasts or teens interested in sports-related travel, social media is particularly adept at reaching time constrained audiences (like new moms, and shift workers – airline crew, for instance) who can’t be reached by traditional media.
Interestingly, while making the media-plan for his own book Building the right Beast – What Really Happens in Brand Management pitched because the world’s first brand-management comic, George used specific social media platforms to drive the campaign (LinkedIn to primarily target FMCG professionals as also MBA students, Facebook/YouTube/Instagram to target comic and anime enthusiasts.). Limited budgets, during this case, made him search for even more sharp and cost-effective ways of reaching bent the TG. Brands have an avenue for focused reach like never before. Are they ready to work hard enough?
1. Understanding the rural audience
Around 35% of the population in India is below the age group of 40 and are residing in rural and semi-urban geographies. This section of the audience due to income constraints struggles to fulfill all their desires. Hence, aspires to experience products or services that are affordable, trendy, technologically advanced, and eventually enhances their social status. This segment of consumers is mindful and intellectually evolved. Rather than aimlessly following brands, these consumers settle for their instructed choices and consider the option that offers the latest features with affordability, and reliability.
If we narrow down the psychographics of the target audience from itel’s perspective, currently a number 1 mobile phone brand under 5K in offline channels, this consumer segment is broadly partitioned in two types i.e. minimalists and aspirers. The minimalists are feature phone users and appearance forward to purchasing their first smartphone. While the aspirers are existing 3G or 4G smartphone users who are willing to upgrade to a better version with advanced looks, features, and technology as it is their social status card.
Hence, it is of utmost significance to conduct meticulous research, gain insights on their behavior, and comprehend the target audience basis their need, demand, desires, and aspiration quotient.
2. Developing the relevant product portfolio
As the rural populace seeks value, affordability, and connects everything with his social status with the purchase of products & services, it becomes increasingly important to develop a product that is relevant to their needs, desires, and aspirations.
For instance, in the mobile phone industry, to cater value-seeking attributes among this rural populace, handset manufacturers and service providers joined hands to offer bundle offers i.e. handset with a service offer comprising free mobile data and cashback.
Another instance from the FMCG sector, India was always the promised land for FMCG with a sizeable population and pent up demand for products that were ‘value for money’. While higher costs, big quantity pack, poor distribution, and high landing costs kept this consumer away from these products. To transform this challenge into an opportunity, these brands brought sachet pack offerings which were ultra-affordable and had one-time use quantity. These two attributes of the offering not only drove the sales but also helped in evolving consumer preference and purchase behavior.
3. Create a customized marketing and communication strategy
Deep market penetration and understanding the consumers’ aspirations etc. while assuring a robust service promise are the key tenets for winning the rural consumer. The core principle here is to connect with the consumers in a way i.e. localized, relevant, and personalized. Brands that take this mantle of responsibility stand out and build consideration or intention to get. A large part of this awareness is made via Point of Sales Merchandising, Shopfront Activations, On-ground engagement programs through Market Storming, Nukkad Natak, local connect activities and festivals.
With this context, Transsion’ s sub-brand itel has crafted a differential marketing strategy that varied from region to region, counting on consumer requirements, language and sensibilities with the proper balance of conventional and unconventional marketing initiatives to ensure brand connect, saliency and visibility.
4. Focus on the right medium to create connect
With the advent of the internet in hinterlands, the rural market is constantly evolving. As per the InMobi research report, over the next five years, it is expected that 9 out of every 10 new Internet users in India are likely to prefer regional languages to access the Internet. Hence, it is important to ensure that consumers see the brand at the right touchpoints.
With regional conversations becoming a predominant trend, brands operating in the rural markets must work on regional centric merchandising to bring impact and engagement. Another important aspect of this segment is the use of newer and highly engaging digital entertainment platforms such as Tiktok, Likee, and Helo apart from Facebook and Instagram. Other highly receptive platforms for awareness include Out of Home (OOH), Wall Painting, and Retail visibility for building engagement in this region.
It being a mass-market brand also caters to this segment with strong local connect activities which include association with entertainment sport like Kabaddi and participating meaningfully through l festivals like Kumbh Mela, Pongal, Onam, Makar Sankranti, Gudi Padwa, Kanwar Yatra, Shravani Mela, Baisakhi, Bihu, Rath Yatra, Ganesh Utsav, Navratri and many more across different states.