Experiential marketing or on-ground BTL promotions have proven to be the most effective when it comes to rural marketing. However, as the digital factor integrates with the field of experiential marketing to create new possibilities to engage consumers, there is the question of whether the same can be made possible for rural marketing.
Vivek Bhargava, Managing Director, Communicate 2, believes it is very much possible to do so. Speaking to EVENTFAQS, Bhargava said that "rural marketing can be done through digital technology, specifically through mobile technology. The number of mobile users in India has crossed the 800 million mark and is a great way to reach out to the rural consumer."
Himanshu Shah, Chief Mentor, SOI Live Marketing & Events, expressed his agreement that mobile technology or handset technology, whether it be mobiles or tablet PCs, would be the best bet in engaging rural consumers. "What was once considered as rural is no longer the same. With the advancement in technology and communication, the rural areas that people generally perceive as having limited to no exposure to media and technology have reduced. Media penetration in rural areas is quite high due to TVs, radio and mobile."
Citing an example of how a brand could engage a rural consumer, Bhargava said: "Let's say that you put up a hoarding or advertisement with a number that allows a person to listen to jokes in the voice of their favourite actor. Let's say that joke is brought to you by a certain brand. The motto can be something that signifies that the brand spreads happiness."
Bhargava also cited video content as a way to reach out to the rural consumer. He noted that video content streamed through mobiles can be used to educate the rural populace while at the same time promoting a brand and its products. The video content could be anything from planting seeds to new farming related technology, or even showcasing the advantages of the brand's product. "What printing did for education, online videos are doing the same for learning today," Bhargava said.
Engaging the rural audience with mobile technology and other handheld devices appears to be a realistic possibility, given that many people are increasingly accessing social media through mobile devices, and the cost of android phones and tablet PCs has become quite affordable.
Shah also cited an example of a telecom company that came up with an idea to connect with farmers by providing them with an application that allows them to crosscheck the actual market price of their produce, enabling them to sell at better rates. He says that such digital technology is appropriate for the rural audience since they are utility-based and come in the local languages, making it easier to understand.
Bhargava also noted that weak infrastructure in the rural areas means that electricity is not a 24 hour resource. This is where mobiles and tablet PCs come in handy since they don't need to have constant electricity like a TV or radio. Wouldn't the lack of computer literacy and education be an obstacle? Bhargava doesn't believe so since mobile phones and tablet PCs are much more user friendly than laptops or computers. "Marketers have a great opportunity to engage the rural audience through mobile technology," Bhargava said.
So, can social media become a part of rural marketing? "Social media is a means to an end," Bhargava told EVENTFAQS. "Content can be created on social media like how-to-videos on farming and managing shops or small businesses. This presents opportunities for the rural audience to learn and gives a brand a captive audience. Mobile devices increase the reach of social media to an extent of twice that of television. Mobile technology provides a great opportunity for marketers to engage the rural audience."
"The speed of the revolution within the next five years will be many times faster than the amount of development that has occurred in the last 20 years. Media penetration in these rural areas is tremendous and will only grow further, mainly through handset technology," Shah told EVENTFAQS.