Rural markets initiative of FMCG companies

In the cyberspace, Ms SB has successfully managed to attract eyeballs. Offline, it could soon be others. To be sure, SB has no relation to her infamous online character, but an icon created by consumer goods major Procter & Gamble to hard sell its stuff in rural India.

After a two year long push into the hinterland, P&G has come up with a new addition to its marketing strategy in the form of a character called SB, a dedicated housewife. The personality was conceived to push P&G’s leading brands, Tide and Head & Shoulders as a dual proposition called ‘kamyab jodi’ in rural areas of the country. After much deliberation over the eight to nine categories that P&G operates in, marketers picked the detergent brand Tide and shampoo Head & Shoulders as the focus in this particular rural initiative.

Last March, more than 100 villages in central UP were covered as part of the pilot stage of the ‘kamyab jodi’ initiative. The exercise involved teams narrating SB’s story, an educated married woman, who highlights the benefits of using the two brands. The country head – Xpanse, the agency handling the particular rural activation, says the particular style was used to communicate the value add proposition of the brands. Tide is a value added brand priced higher than the regular brands. The challenge was to communicate it to the target audience on the benefits of using a brand superior in quality.

Considering that the rural markets has been a battle field with national players like HUL, Dabur and even regional players like Ghari looking to penetrate further, P&G has its task cut out. When contacted, marketing director, P&G India says that the company’s endeavor has always been to not only improve lives but also continue to touch as many more lives as possible. India is a consumption driven economy and P&G are cognisant of the importance of the growing rural segment in that context. P&G is constantly evaluating growth opportunities not just in this segment, but across India and will use the right brand portfolio and marketing techniques to do so. The move underscores the point that rural market is important considering rural India comprises 12.2 % of the world population.

Through this initiative, P&G is attempting to generate user trials for both SKU pack size as well as satchets. While the marketing chief refused to comment on future plans citing company policy, it is understood that after studying the initial response to the pilot program, the company is planning to roll the initiative further to cover nearly 5,000 villages across the state of UP. Also, to ride on the demand generated from this exercise, P&G is simultaneously beefing up its distribution network to ensure reach and availability of the products. But P&G’s rural march takes on established rivals like Hindustan Unilever that has over the years added to its rural distribution muscle through dedicated programs like Project Shakti.

Similarly, cigarette major ITC through its echoupal network has been able to create a network to further its FMCG ambition by pushing brands like Superia soaps and shampoos in smaller SKU pack-sizes. P&G has been a late entrant in the Indian market and it’s only in the last two years that the company is looking to probe further. The company is playing catch up given that rural markets for categories like shampoos has been a huge growth driver. Surely, P&G’s hoping SB will tide over the competition. And also keep her head firmly over her shoulders.