Rural India, touted as the real India, is being bombarded with brands as marketers flock to the interior India with gutso. The rural population is understandably being subjected to more choices and thus better quality.
No longer can marketers build their brands in rural areas by tweaking the urban brand and presenting it to the population in these areas as a second cousin to the urban one.
With so much diversity and perhaps a little lack of confidence on mass marketing mediums, doesn’t word of mouth marketing become imperative? So are why marketers not paying much attention to building brands the word of mouth way?
D Shiv Kumar, Executive Director, Consumer Electronics, Philips India, pointed out that marketers could not afford to ignore the word of mouth medium, but at the same time they were not paying too much attention to this. “It takes too much of an effort to build brands through word of mouth in the rural areas,” he said.
Dr C R Sridhar, CEO, SRS Icon Brand Navigator, felt, “Somehow word of mouth is still not an accepted form of building brands, primarily because marketers believe that people believe that mass media is more effective than word of mouth. This is because the delivery of message is not necessarily the same when marketing through the people reference method, and word of mouth has never being considered as effective medium in a formal way. Having said that, this medium can effect a huge change in people’s perception and it works wonders.”
There always was a doubt, marketers felt, that in a commercial context people might not take word of mouth publicity seriously, but on the other hand it made a huge difference when social issues like in politics, etc, were concerned.
According to Ranju Mohan, VP-Sales, Henkel India, the word of mouth method was effective depending on the product category as well as on the personality of the influencer.
“Word of mouth is viewed effectively by marketers, but again its effectiveness depends so much on getting the right contact to have that positive persuasion. But the hindrances are in disguise of commumication and cost of reach in consumers for the rural areas,” he said.
Rediffusion’s Ashish K also said that with literacy rate being low in rural India, word of mouth played a crucial role. There are brands that have been built strongly through word of mouth like Eveready and Colgate, which should be set as benchmarks.
While professionals agreed that little was being done to build brands in rural areas through word of mouth, which was effective and important, marketers certainly should not ignore the mass mediums.
“I think we will need both, clearly, one cannot do without branding, but word of mouth will strengthen your proposition. Brand proliferation is clearly happening clearly; in a market where consumers have had limited choice set so far, but is suddenly facing a lot of choice set. They will neccessary turn to people around them for advice or opinion or past users of the brand. But if a brand is not present and not in their mind, they will not even ask about it. So it will have to be both. Word of mouth is clearly strongest proposition for any brand. So that can not been ignored,” articulated CNBC TV18’s Haresh Chawla.