Most marketers these days acknowledge that the largest, most challenging as well as the most lucrative consumer groups today, reside far beyond our metros. More and more people are recognising a truth about Indiathat Mahatma Gandhi, the father of our nation, noticed decades ago—that it is a country with boundless potential at the grassroots. Indeed, the consumer market is not only growing but becoming more sophisticated in our hinterlands due to a rising standard of living in small towns and villages. A recent study by MART shows that milk supplement brands like Bournvita and Horlicks and a variety of electronic goods have now made their way into rural households. According to Hindustan Thompson Associates’ research arm, IMRB International, in the FMCG category, milk food and drinks has witnessed tremendous expansion in rural volumes to 41% in 2011 over the previous year. Better options in healthcare, real estate and education are auguring this hunger among the emerging consumer class. These signs are promising because they signify an important shift in the Indian consumer market.
Choosing the right medium
Given this backdrop of golden optimism, the problem that most marketers continue to face revolves around attracting this consumer group. To create a bridge, marketers firstly need to understand the rural mindset and tap the right nerves. For instance, modernisation or not, Indian villages continue to suffer gaping inequities relating to infrastructure. The availability and adequacy of power continues to be a pressing concern in small towns and villages. Given such handicaps, advertising to this population through TV channels like Doordarshan cannot guarantee visibility. On the other hand, it is possible to create alternative touch points. In small towns and villages, locals are seen regularly travelling intra-district or further for studying, employment, shopping, legal work or business. The opportunity to reach them while they are on road can invaluably help advertisers connect to the masses. In fact, advertising on a local level has a better chance to connect to people than through TV and cable. It enhances not only brand visibility, but also brand loyalty. For instance, Vritti i-Media’s OOH audio network medium has helped advertisers draw impressive enquiries. Given lower literacy levels, such media also allow masses to easily grasp audio and visual content better than newspapers.
Creating a memorable campaign
Speaking of OOH, hoardings, information boards, ST bus panels, public vehicle branding, pole kiosks and audio networks for announcements at ST bus stands are among the most successful offerings of Vritti i-Media for rural reach. These modes offer fabulous opportunities to advertisers to communicate interact and engage with people when they are on the move for work, education or recreation. Yet, the real challenge is styling OOH or Digital OOH (DOOH) communication to aptly convince the audience. So, it is important for communication to be different, unique and relevant. A right balance should be created between disseminating and withholding information, with regard to the advertisement, so as to create curiosity about the brand.
For effective OOH, the core idea should be simple and easy to grasp. The OOH campaign should be unique and clutter-free, while the theme should resonate with the social fabric of the region to trigger mass sentiment or a wow factor. Vritti i-Media’s Digital OOH audio network at ST Bus stands, for example, garners plentiful interest of its captive audience as it integrates advertisements with content of public utility. Since advertisements are meshed with bus arrival and departure announcements, it engrains the advertising message in the minds of alert travellers, presumably people who impact buying decisions in their households. This is a very innovative concept and has worked well for several prominent brands inIndia.
An interesting case is that of 9X Jhakas, a newly launched Marathi music channel. Since the intent was attracting residents of small towns inMaharashtra, Vritti i-Media adopted a cent-percent OOH approach for them. To this end, an MSRTC bus was hired and embellished with the brand identity of 9X Jhakaas. The bus was then used to provide free rides to commuters. Audio announcements as well as hoardings and sign boards were further put up at MSRTC bus stands to inform masses about the free rides provided by 9X Jhakaas. The point was to garner significant captive audience through the rides for ensuing engagements with them during their travel by the bus, which included quiz contests and music shows. Participants were awarded a range of freebies. The initiative was a true 360-degree awareness connect through an outdoor medium for rural masses and its success helped 9X Jhakas reach out to more than 15 target districts in Maharashtra.
Given the growing dynamism of life in metros and beyond, such a 360-degree integrated approach can immensely impact consumers. Appropriate implementation of an integrated marketing strategy will vary as per industry vertical and dictate which medium will have greatest impact when coupled with OOH. For instance, FMCG sector loves to combine outdoor with TV, while banks go for a 360-degree approach by roping in TV, newspaper, radio and outdoor media. Today, DOOH media such as Vritti i-Media’s audio and audio-visual networks bring both, time and cost efficiency to the table. They are the very embodiment of dynamism in rural advertising today and are extremely affordable as well. Given the invaluable benefit of reaching consumers inIndia’s remotest areas, the relevance of DOOH will only increase in times to come.