Brand Management in Rural Markets


Nihar mohapatra
Tapas Ranjan Moharana
Sr. Lecturer
Dhananjay Beura
Asst. Professor
Global Institute of Management


Despite giant strides taken by the companies to create an awareness of their goods and services, vast segments in the rural sectors in Asian countries, still remain untapped. Lifebuoy was one of the first soaps with rural areas as the key target market. Its jingle tandrusti ki raksha karta hai lifebuoy is still fondly remembered by a large number of rural people. Needless to say it commanded great brand loyalty. Colgate , Dalda, Tata, Bajaj, etc., have shown that it is perfectly feasible to build a brand in rural areas, provided the organisation adopts right set of brand building tools and is committed to the rural market in the long term.


The term "brand" owes its origin to the Norwegian word brandr which means "to burn". Farmers used to put some identification marks on the body of the livestock to distinguish their possession. ( Majumdar, 1998)

A brand is defined as a name, term, sign, symbol or special design or some combination of these elements that is instead to identify or differentiate the goods or services of one seller or a group of sellers.

A brand, by definition, is a short hand description of a package of value, on which consumers can rely to be consistently the same or better over a period of time. A brand distinguishes a product or service from competitive offerings.


Branding is a process, a tool, a strategy and an orientation. It is a process by which a marketer tries to build a long-term relationship with the customers, a tool to position a product or service with a consistent image of quality and value for money to ensure the development of a recurring preference by the consumer. Branding provides differentiation strategy when product cannot be easily distinguished.

The process of creating a brand stems from research that starts with the concept of what the product is, and what its functions and objectives are. From this evolves the idea of what is should look, feel and talked about like. From these ideas generate the name and all its connation, after which packing, logo and communication strategies are developed. This is a simplistic view. Brand building is usually a long, tedious and methodical work involving segmentation, marketing mix, and packaging, technical and financial inputs.

A branding process, if executed well creates a brand ie equipped to handle changes in demographics, thinking from and functional changes as well as competitor actions.96% of new brands that are developed in the FMCG sector failed. This only goes to so that the market place in an unforgiving master. It suggests that branding is not a static phenomenon; rather a continuous change in product appearance and performance as well as the total value equation is must for survival of any brand.


The concept of branding has been a late entrant in rural markets. Consumers have graduated d to branded products with increased affordability as a result of increasing rural incomes in recent years. A brand name in the rural context facilitates easy brand recall and in drawing any colours, visual or numeric association. But some brands are known by their names, for example, Nirma and Baba Zarda. The choice of Sampoorna as the name for its rural television brand helped LG as it is a Sanskrit word meaning "wholesome" and hence it cuts across all regional linguistics barriers.

The challenges in creating a brand identity in rural involve the need to relate the brand with the rural lifestyle, or with appropriate status symbols, or with the rural environment. As most brands are introduced in urban markets and then move to rural, creating a brand identity in rural becomes a tough challenge. Britannia Tiger biscuits created an identity associated with a smart, active and sharp child.

Building a brand image

The brand should have a personality of its own. It should emote, empathize and talk to its consumers. Such an ability helps in brand connect with rural audiences and contributes a great deal to brand equity and competitive advantage. Mahindra & Mahindra have maintained their sterling image in rural. The Bhumiputra (son of soil) series of tractors, with its rugged features and the Sarapanch (village head) series have helped to improve sales. The sarapanch brand helped to draw close brand recognition between the product and the head of the village. In this way, it provided an opportunity to the consumer to relate himself with the sarpanch, who commands high status and respect in the village.

A significant percentage of sales in the rural areas comprise of branded products. Studies also have found out that the brand loyalty in the rural areas is much higher than that found in the urban ones. This only happens when the brand has found an acceptance in the rural market as the one offering good value proposition. But building brands in rural areas is a different science altogether. This requires a specific committed focus and may not happen as spill over from urban market or by doing slight modification in communication and brand building efforts that were planned for urban markets.

The following tools, approaches and strategies have been employed by different organizations, to successfully build their brand in the rural markets:


An in-depth study of rural markets is the prerequisite to find out the needs, wants and aspirations of rural consumers by directly contacting them. This can be followed with creating or 'reengineering' a product to make it relevant to the need of rural consumers. The entire brand building efforts has to be built on the basis of their needs and aspirations from a specific product category and the corresponding value provided by the brand.


It begins with the brand name itself and it is important that the brand name or the punch line is in vernacular language and is in tune with the ethos of the market and the social milieu of the market in which the product is going to be sold. The same logic applies to the colour, logo, slogan and every aspect of communication so that it strikes a right chord with the rural consumer and they can relate to the message. The successful advertisement campaign by Coca-Cola with the tagline  'Thanda matlab  Coca-Cola', has a celebrity endorser not as a hero but as one who is depicting an identity of population of different regions, speaking in the regional idiom; it was a campaign to which audiences could relate to.


The media selected to promote the brand is very important, as the conventional mass media may not prove to be very effective when used alone in the rural market. Therefore, organisation should select other below the line media as well; to arouse the interest of rural consumers. The media selected should build a desire for a particular brand i.e. live demonstrations, or contests depicting the qualities and the strengths of a given product.

Demonstration vans with audiovisual equipments , which clearly demonstrate how a given product will solve the existing problems of rural consumers, are likely to have much deep-rooted impact, than the short commercial on TV.

The brand building, which is done in the Mandis, Melas and other gatherings, can be followed by the presence of the organisation in the regular Haats and Mandis for live demonstration of the benefits and actual sales of a product. Because of high level of interaction, haats can be an effective medium for rural advertising. Villagers are in buying mood at the haats and mandis. Around 7,600 mandis , all over India provide a good opportunity to have direct interaction with up to 200 farmers a day.


Message should be in the local parlance and such that the rural audience can easily decipher the intended meaning. Message should meet the rural sensibilities and should be modified in accordance with the cultural variation from one region to another.

Simple 'Slice of life' message with touch of emotions and storyline are more effective with rural folks. Commercials with gimmicky hi-tech story that is fast paced may not work well with the rural audience. Message should be utilitarian and narrating the functional benefits of the product.

Rural consumers have strong visual sense. As they relate more with logos, colour and symbols, icons. Therefore, these have to be built prominently in the overall communication. Otherwise the entire brand building effort can go haywire.


The vast multitude of the rural population either does not understand English or even is illiterate. Therefore, it becomes extremely important that the illiterate rural consumers or those who can not understand English can be certain that they are getting what they are thinking of or desiring to have and not the cheap imitation or a fake product having a similar name.


Rural communications effort undertaken by an organization should be such that it can generate a lot of publicity in the oral collectivist culture of rural India. Therefore, targeting the right set of opinion leaders with the campaigns which lead to oral publicity in the region is more likely to develop the brand recall than the five or ten seconds commercial on the TV, which the rural consumers are likely to forget at the time of the purchase.

The rural consumers want more credible information and in order to be doubly sure they prefer to hear from other people whom they feel to be more dependable than the TV or print media advertisement. The stories they hear from others are more believable in the from of hints and tips.


Branding as a phenomenon is getting established in the rural market. But the response of consumers towards brands varies from one region to another, from developed to the developing and underdeveloped districts. Different age groups with different socio-economic profile approach the branding phenomenon very differently in the rural market across different product categories. But the basic underline for preference for brands in rural areas is the functional and not psychological benefit.


Rajan,R.V (2005), "A profie of the Rural Consumer" , Catalyst, The Hindu Business Line, February 10, 2005

Gopalaswamy, T.P(2008), "Rural Marketing Environment, problems and strategies," Vikas Publishing House.

Kashyap, Pradeep and Raut, Siddartha (2007), "The Rural Marketing Book, Biztantra,  New Delhi.

Krishnamoorty, R(2008), "introduction to rural marketing," Himalaya Publishing House, Mumbai.

Nihar mohapatra
Tapas Ranjan Moharana
Sr. Lecturer
Dhananjay Beura
Asst. Professor
Global Institute of Management

Source: E-mail February 9, 2010


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