RURAL MARKETS AND MARKETING MIX
The marketer will need to adopt the marketing mix to suit the rural conditions and the maximum adaptation will have to be in the distribution and media mix.
The product for the rural markets will have to be simpler, easy to use and serviced or maintained. Consider the example of tractors. One of the reasons of Eicherâ€™s success in the tractor market has been the ease with which it can be serviced and maintained in the rural areas itself. This has been different from Escorts which marketed Fergusson brand of tractors-more complicated and difficult to be serviced or maintained by the rural mechanics. A Fergusson tractor owner had to call a mechanic from the nearby city to service it. Though as a product in terms of technology it is claimed to be better than Eicherâ€™s but since the latter is easy to use, service and maintain, it has been more successful.
The product literature has to be simple enough for the rural customer to understand and as far as possible have illustrations of doâ€™s and donâ€™ts. This will help in faster diffusion of the product in the rural society.
Further, the product should be dispensable in single units. For example, a typical rural buyer buys one unit of match box unlike an urban consumer who may buy a full pack of tens or twelve match boxes. Likewise, a rural smoker may either buy a packet of bidi or just a single cigarette stick.
Product packaging needs to be functional and capable of dispensing smaller units of the product. Sachet packaging is one alternative which has been successfully used by tea, shampoo, toothpaste, pan masala and even tomato ketchup manufacturers to penetrate rural markets. Today, one finds that a typical rural kiosk stores sachets and smaller sized products of well-known products like Colgate, Lux, Liril, Cinthol etc.
A typical Kiosk, which earlier sold only cigarettes, bidis and pan is a mini departmental store today serving daily needs of consumers in the rural areas.
Brand identity in rural markets is often created through the visual logo of the product or the color of the product or the taste of the product.
The rural consumer is price sensitive mainly because of his/her relatively lower income levels than the urban consumers. The marketer will have to examine methods by which they can make the product more affordable by the rural consumer. In the case of consumer durables, one way is to work through rural banks and offer hire purchase terms to the customer. Tractors, pump sets and even television have been marketed through this approach.
Another way is to offer smaller unit size, at a lower unit size, at a lower price. Toiletries are marketed n rural areas in smaller unit size thus making these products more affordable than their larger sizes. Thus, while in the urban stores Lux toilet soap will be available in 100 gm or even bigger sizes in the rural markets the same brand is available in 10 gm to 25 gm sizes. A firm may even consider buying the product from smaller firms and marketing it in the rural markets. This strategy can help a large firm pass on the benefits of lower costs of a small firm to the customer in the form of lower prices.
The marketer also has to understand that the rural markets are far utilitarian and price conscious and fancy advertisements, high profile sales campaign, introductory discounts or gifts alone may not be enough to penetrate the market.
While no significant change in the advertising copy be required, it is important to note that well-known film stars and common people, next door neighbors are able to successfully communicate the message. Jingles, folklore and music can combine to make a message and the brand name memorable. Visual copy has a greater appeal than just the audio or the print. In terms of the media, television, radio, wall paintings, and even roof paintings have been found to be effective. So have been the bus panels and hoardings. Wall hangings and other point of purchase material like stickers and shelf display are effective in getting the marketerâ€™s message through to rural consumers.
Rural sports like Kabaddi, Kho-Kho, bullock-cart race, rural fairs have a special place in the rural consumerâ€™s life. Firms like Bajaj Electricals, Hindustan Levers, Parle, ITC etc have successfully used them to promote their brands. A Parle franchise in Ahmedabad, sponsors rural Navratri shows in October through a breathtaking display of the companyâ€™s brands of soft drinks.
Personal selling is also important here. But it doesnâ€™t have to be through a flashy, flamboyant and aggressive sales person. Research shows that a simple but subtle salesman can deliver better results here. Hence many companies use local young boys and girls to sell the product.
Distribution is the key to penetrating rural markets. It is here that the firm has to deploy a mobile distribution strategy. The firm may either have its own fleet of vans or hire the services of a distributor having his own fleet of vans. This is crucial because, today, a firm can no longer afford to wait for the rural buyer to come to the city to buy his/her requirements. Competition is driving firms to reach out to the buyer. One single village can consume the entire van load of products the firm can derive economies by covering several villages in a single van cycle.
Another key to effective distribution is the weekly rural market or also called the rural haat. Itâ€™s important that the firmâ€™s products are available here either through small petty traders or through its van.
The firm should also link the village grocer with the nearest wholesale distributor so that the market is not starved at any given time.