At the village it is a magic show with a difference. Amidst the laughter of children, the magician breaks into the virtues of Tiger biscuits, sometimes even drawing them out of nowhere or making the packet disappear.
In between a nautanki performance, the lights go out. An artiste carrying a torch appears. The ray of light is so bright that it disturbs actors on stage and one says, "Who is there? What is it that is shining so brightly? This is Eveready trying to make its mark.
A puppet show targeted at the sugarcane farmers of Uttar Pradesh weaves a story around Round Up, a weedicide brand. This is a Monsanto sales pitch... The wheel of fortune game at the Nauchandi Mela in Meerut sports a different brand of tractor at every number. This is Escort's effort at brand differentiation...
As urban markets get saturated, these are some of the innovative ways that companies have been using to tap the rural market for the past few years. However, it is not easy to fathom the complexities of selling in the hinterland and companies are still testing the waters, watching others swim the rural sea and learning from past mistakes.
The latest study from Marketing and Research Team (MART), New Delhi, is a step in the same direction. Titled, `Use of folk media for effective rural communication and advertising', the study was conducted by students of the Management Development Institute, Gurgaon.
Focussing on about a dozen villages in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, the students interviewed rural consumers and audiences of folk media to gauge whether using traditional forms of media has had its desired effect. They also sought information from almost 10 agencies that have been conducting these rural campaigns.
The study found that the use of folk media was useful in several ways. First, generic issues such as Hindustan Latex's Swasth Gram Pariyojana campaign on family planning could be easily woven into scripts for puppet shows, nautankis, folk theatre, etc. Second, non-conventional media successfully raised hype about FMCG products, which in turn could propel sales volumes if it were backed by distribution. Lastly, as it is a sensitive media, it needed to be used with caution so as not to inadvertently hurt any community, caste, creed or gender.
The study, in fact, discusses in detail the advantages and drawbacks of each media and the need for detailed campaign planning in terms of content and timing.
For instance, if a campaign is held in the peak months of harvesting when rural folks are busy, it cannot have the desired result. In the same way if a campaign is not backed by availability of the product in the area, it loses relevance.
These and many more tips generated by the study could be crucial pointers for those eyeing the 120-million potential rural buyers. After all they are nothing less than 12.2 per cent of the world's consumers.