Brand Positioning in Rural Markets


Dr. C. Chitra
Management Consultant

Branding correlates with Image Building in an organization vis-ΰ-vis its products produced/services rendered. In the vicinity of today's Marketing scenario along with advancement in technology, Brand Management is the order of the day. In the process of branding, the aspect of brand activation at ATL (above the level) and BTL (below the level) makes a vital contribution for the marketing journey.

To attain a safe platform in Brand activation, the Marketing Managers pay attention and focus in a diligent manner on the value based credentials of the users in the Marketing arena. A full-fledged dedicated team with multi focused thoughts only can do the needful for the successful brand management.

Good branding strikes a chord with viewers help them relate with the product and reflect their aspirations.

The research approaches to get at brand objective.

1. Word Associations:

While using the logo, hoardings and exhibits, suitable jargons have to be deployed in the word association. People can be asked what strikes in their mind when they hear the brand's name. 

2. Personifying the Brand:

Visual control mechanism plays a vital role in identifying the brands in terms of personification. People can be identified the brands when seeing the visual pictures described.

3. Laddering up to find the brand essence:

Brand essence relates to the deeper, more abstract goals consumer and trying to satisfy with the brand. The attribute, a functional benefit and an emotional benefit brand essence constitute a technique known as laddering up.

Brands are increasingly getting more entwined with our lives. The debate today is not as much about 'why branding' as above defining a meaningful role for a brand in the consumer's life.



Views of the Expertise:

The theme addresses of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) Brands submit 2005. Pointed out, this increasing clutter in the market place and the changing consumer dynamics have thrown up a new set of challenges for marketers-of accruing, retaining and sustaining the relationship with the consumer.

A leitmotif of this is  that  the  consumer is at the center of all brands do, or at least need to do.

Dr. Erich Joachimsthaler, CEO, Vivaldi Partners and co – author with David Aaker of the seminal book brand leadership, says that this no longer means mere lip service on the part of the marketers. As he points out, perhaps to many a brand marketer's chagrin, brands don't occupy much mind space. In consumers, but revolves around other interest in their lives. Now as he says it's up to companies to develop products that fit in to consumers' lives rather than develop products, which they think consumers will prefer.

Prof. Ramaswamy says consumers are no longer passive beings that who will accept what is doled out to them as a product and service. Consumers today are seeking to  "co-create" their experience of a product or service with a company. This puts traditional business models in a bind and also has implications for companies' brands.

The next decade is expected to be quite cataclysmic for brands and an article by D.Shivakumar, ED of Philips India, captures the essence of the changes that are being wrought. But the refrain is the same. To manage and succeed in tomorrow's Brand world, marketing teams would need to be far more right brained than left brained they need to be more consumer connected and responsive than ever before. Speed, smart thinking and sensitivity will be the skill set of the marketer. An office desk will be a bad place from which to manage the future brand, says a clairvoyant Shivakumar.

Why Branding:

* Separate your brand from your competitors in a unique way
* Relevant and motivating to your customers
* Prospects and channels-it gives you value and make you special.
* Enhance your perceived value, there by supporting premium pricing, sheltering you from low price competition.
* Contributing to share holder value.
   (Companies like Morgan Stanley look to evidence of brand strength in setting buy ratings.)
* Provide resilience in times of negative press.
* Enable you to launch new products more quickly and cost effectively

Successful Branding:

As branding can make or break a product, marketer should handle it with the same concern as the artisans show in their work. All the activities that are taken under the umbrella of a brand add to or subtract from the value. The customer's evaluation of a brand is a result of all the consumer experiences he has had with the brand. Consumer experience includes product, services, personal contacts, advertising, promotions, word of mouth, etc.

This mix of memories, which are built up over a long time, makes the brand potentially the most powerful liver of the intangible perceived values. After all the first thought that comes to the mind of the customer prior to the purchase of the product is 'who has made it', if that brand has good reputation, it raises the level of confidence on the part of the customer to buy the product.

India's USP

India is shining then! India is Unique in many ways. A population that is large, heterogeneous, largely English speaking and a cultural heritage that runs back to thousands of years. India is young. India is vibrant. The major segmentation of mass population is located in rural area. So, the market potential is large in number. So we can expect the market strength in rural area. Now, the educational Institutions are also concentrating on rural marketing and doing market research in rural places. Rural markets are rapidly growing in India but have often been ignored by marketers. Most of them are remote-fully ignorant due to the reason of diversification of products produced thereby slitting into disposable income.

A glance at the following statistics will help you get a fair idea of the consumers in Rural India:

* 46 percent of soft drinks
* 49 percent of motorcycles
* 59 percent of cigarettes
* 18 million TV Sets
* 50 percent of 2 million BSNL mobile connections
* 53 percent of FMCG products
* 59 percent of consumer durables are sold in rural India.

Some facts about the rural sector:

* There are nearly 42,000 rural haats (Super Markets) in India
* In 2002 – 2003, LIC sold 50 percent of its policies in rural India
* Of the 20 million who have signed up for Rediffmail, 60 percent are from small towns
* Of the 1,00,000 souls that have transacted on Rediff's shopping site, 50 percent are from small towns
* The 30 million Kisan Credit Cards (KCC) issued so far exceed the 25 million credit-plus-debit cards issued in urban. A whopping Rs. 65, 000 crore has been sanctioned under the KCC scheme.
* Electricity Consumption increase from 17.6 percent in 1980 – 81 to 20.2 percent in 1999 –2000. During the same period, the industry share has dropped from 58.4 percent to 34.8 percent.
* Hindustan Lever, the largest FMCG Company in the country. More than half of its annual sales of Rs.11, 700/- crore come from the rural market.
* The proposed agricultural reforms in the tenth plan, the easy availability of agriculture credit Rs 60,000/- Crore Village road programme introduced recently to connect 1,90,000/- village and the improved communication network (STD and Mobile).

Branding strategy in rural place.

a) Rural Product Development:

The rural market is a fast growing one and has a huge population with a great level of disposable income. To encash this, products have to be specifically developed to meet the needs of rural markets. Sometimes, existing products might have to be modified to suit these markets too accordingly.

Rural product development has the strong edifice on a great deal of research like feasibility studies, rural aspiration, rural profiling and so on. This paves way for a great deal of infrastructure and expertise in this area.

b) Rural Branding

Rural branding bears quite different stand from urban branding. The first step towards rural branding is to research and gain insight into the working of rural markets. Based on this communication campaigns have to be developed with a lot of rural sensitivity.

Rural branding is attained by way of opting to a greater percentage of local media and a smaller percentage of the mass media. Rural gatherings like temple festivals, melas, cinema halls and so on can be used as venues to promote brands. Direct Marketing and events like road shows; film shows, melas, street theatre can also be used to promote brands.

A well-planned rural branding campaign cannot just create brand awareness but help your target relevant to your brand and promote sales. A long-term campaign will keep your brand at the top-of-the-mind and build brand loyalty. So the brands are in safe hands.

c) Rural Market Research

Rural markets behave most differently from urban markets. While many marketers have tried to market their products in rural areas, just a handful of the same only has succeeded. A strong insight into rural consumer behavior and sensitivity to their values and beliefs is essential; to upgrade the rural market rural market research encompasses not just gathering data but analyzing them and linking the findings to promoting your products.

d) Rural Communication Campaigns:

Communication for rural markets calls for a different kind of outlook. There must be a strong accent on helping the target relate to the message.

The entire communication and media strategy has to devise a system based on research findings. These have to be developed in the regional vernacular languages and set in the local culture for easier acceptance and reach. Unlike communication campaigns in urban areas that rely greatly on the mass media, the strategy will be of crying in the wielderness in rural areas. Besides mass and outdoor media, rural extravaganza like temple festivals, melas and other events where the villagers come together can be used for promotions.

e) Rural Events:

In the rural context, one of the best ways to capture the attention of the audience is through Event-management. Since rural areas have limited venues for entertainment, conducting an event in rural areas can bring a good response.

A well-planned event can get the product the mileage that we want. Some of the interesting events that can be conducted are Road Shows, Melas, Street-Theatre, Film Shows and so on. These make a visually strong impact and build long term brand recall. Rural public are the target audience and hence the portfolio of event management has to be handled professionally with diligent care and broad perspective.

f) Rural DM Campaigns:

Direct Marketing (DM) is one of the most powerful way to meet the target on their turf and build product awareness as well as promotion. The success of any DM campaign depends on the field workers and their sensitivity and emotional connectivity to rural markets.

In the area of Direct Marketing, rural team has to be trained, to be sensitive to rural culture and beliefs. They can handle activities like Door-to-Door sampling, marketing and product promotion. These activities can also be carried out innovatively at places like local cinema halls, melas and festivals, in the midst of cross-cultural gatherings and conglomerations.

g) Database Creation & Management:

Marketing, branding and promotional activities in the rural context can be highly effective and thereafter have to create a database of prospects. The question is how will you source this critical data? The data will contain details of your target segments at the village level / town-level. This data is essential for us to reach our target accurately and helps our marketing plan and communication strategies. Management Information System along with Database management paves ways  for a congenial rural marketing through the information and data available for effective interpretations and use. 

There are seven C's steps for brand positioning:

1. Capacitate:

Understand the company history, its products, top management's objectives their view of the market and their commitment to branding. So, our brand should capacitate in the customer's mind. The mind-sets of the customers shall congenially work out the strategic goals and action plan thereupon to ameliorate the situations prevailing in the rural market.

2. Cabochon:

Our brand is the achievable, differentiating, compelling, attractable, and for long run. The pragmatic approach in the marketing field in such way to differentiate/ discriminate, identify the branding activity in an achievable manner for long run.

3. Caesarism:

Our brand is unique, creative, are catchy, asked question forever "do I brand or do I sell product," Answer: 'yes' to both. Caesarism literally means the creative and unique thought, ideas and actions in a catchy manner to penetrate the customers' mind regarding the brand of the products in the selling –buying process.   

4. Cameraderic:

By learning from environment be strong enough to make changes as needed, yet have the faith and courage to be patient and let your marketing programs build your brand. It is friendly in nature and branding program is creating awareness, attitude shift etc. The trust worthiness and consensus of minds prevailing between the market personnel and customers/consumers will largely contribute to the attitudinal pleasure.

5. Calibre:

Obtain feedback by setting up a response analysis system for individual media, as well as tracking system to measure effectiveness of marketing investments where they are best tested in the market. Efficiency and effectiveness, the two extreme scales in a continuum of the rural market shall develop the calibre of the members present in the game of Direct marketing in rural marketing. 

6. Clincher:

Incorporate consistency in media scheduling, adequacy of spending levels and extend brand message across products and campaigns. Don't just plan a launch campaign for short period and then 'Go dark' for the balance of the period. Our customer should demand for a particular brand campaigning, media scheduling, etc shall incorporate the brand activation at ATL and BTL.

7. Catagorize:

The company's should outline very exact specifications of what they hope to accomplish. The company has to invest often in emerging technologies and services simply because what all the customers earnestly believe will eventually set a standard. The company can predict the outcome, should do professional services and introspection, long term vision, and initiate steps to dedicate for the customers. Virtually speaking, "categorize", the seventh step will be the gate-way for customers as well the marketer in the journey of brand positioning.  


1. Marketing Management by Philip Kotler – 11E.
2. 'Advertising Express' ICFAI Journal Jan 2006 – Branding India.
3. Indian Management – May 2007.
4. "Positioning" – A1 Ries and Jack trint by warner Books.
5.The Power of Branding praxis – Business line's Journal on Management – May 2005.
6. The Marketing White Book-2006 by business world 2E.
7. "The future of competition"  by Prof.Venkat Ramasamy Co-author with C.K. Prahalad.

Dr. C. Chitra
Management Consultant

Source: E-mail January 2, 2008



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