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ATL or BTL? The best medium to tap upcountry and rural markets

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ATL or BTL? The best medium to tap upcountry and rural markets

The upcountry and rural markets hold a potential for many consumer durables and FMCG players, but what remains a challenge is to find out the best possible way to communicate to the target groups in these areas.

To begin with let’s clarify that rural and upcountry in most cases point to category B towns and to some extent category C towns. To address any person who belongs to a place with a population below 1 lakh, the perception is that these people any way come to town to do their purchase, so it’s a good idea to use various communication vehicles in these small towns, which then will make these visitors rush at least to the dealer if only for enquiry, if not purchase.

RV Rajan, CMD, Anugrah Madison Advertising, said, “I think while communicating to the top of the pyramid, mass media works, but if one wants to reach the middle and downwards in the pyramid, one has to take the support of BTL activities. There is a need to have a specialised communication, which includes local flavour, idioms and icons and add to it the ‘touch and feel’ environment, which can be best reached by BTL activities.”

Priya Monga, Business Head, RC&M (Rural Communication & Marketing) agrees to ATL being supported by BTL activities. She said, “While almost a decade and a half back POP materials, meeting people and AV shows would suffice and the companies would see an increase in footfalls in these markets. Today, to target rural and upcountry one needs to go beyond that. All ATL activities have to be supported by BTL as a lone TVC will not help in delivering numbers in these areas.”

RC&M is a rural and upcountry marketing agency that has been in operation for over 16 years, where they have been pioneers in conceptualising and implementing unique rural marketing initiatives.

RC&M provides mobile exhibits where clients are provided a product window, thus creating a showroom effect. The agency has 45 vehicles, which are customised and tailor made to suit the need of clients. Besides it uses innovative tools such as folk ‘nautanki’, puppet shows, rural theatre, video wall, district fairs, promo vans among others to attract customers.

Monga added, “Word of mouth becomes critical while targeting rural and upcountry markets. There is a need to create a buzz and any communication has to be supported with a 360-degree approach. We are constantly coming up with unique ideas to communicate in the rural markets where the penetration of TV is low.”

Even in ATL, in the past there have been commercials that have appealed to both urban and upcountry markets. Alok Agrawal, EVP, Bates Enterprise, gives the example of the latest Nokia CDMA commercial of Praveen Bhai Pocketwala that was aimed at both urban and semi-urban population.

He further said, “To target the upcountry traditionally the reach of mass media is seen as reliable. Radio too is effective. Besides visibility at rural congregation, haats, signage and mobile vans are seen as suitable communication vehicles.”

Consumer durables have huge potential in the upcountry and even to an extent in rural markets. Who would have thought that an air-conditioning company would want to foray into upcountry markets?

Gauran Malik, Marketing Manager, Voltas, said, “Our TVC was planned with the aim of targeting the upcountry (category B towns), especially those in Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Punjab. As a result we have seen an increase in our sales by 40 per cent in the first quarter as against market growth of 20-25 per cent.”

Malik sees ATL as the medium to approach as it helps in addressing in masses and is cost effective, but along with that Voltas was present during various melas, where it provided easy finance schemes where along with national players they had roped in regional finance players too.

While reaching the upcountry and rural market the challenge is that there is a lot of opportunities, but there is a need to find a customised communication tool. There is a need to establish a subtle connect and the campaigns have to be an ongoing affair not just a onetime affair. This will only happen by supporting ATL with various BTL activities throughout the year.


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