Marketing Communications in Rural India


Marketing communication is the collective term for all the communication functions used in marketing a product, and its purpose is to add persuasive value to a product for both customer and the company. Marketing communication is one of the major elements of four ‘P’s of marketing literature, and is popularly termed as “Promotion.” With the help of marketing communication, marketers attempt to inform, persuade, incite, and remind consumers – directly or indirectly – about their marketing offers. Marketing communication behaves as a spokes person of the brand and initiates a dialogue with consumers on behalf of the marketer. In these ways, marketing communication allows marketers to transcend the physical nature of their products or the technical specifications of their services to imbue products and services with additional meaning and value. Marketing communication plays an important role in building and maintaining stakeholder relationships, and in leveraging these relationships in terms of brand and channel equity


Marketing Communication: Recent Trends:

In practice, there are different vehicles available depending on the various modes of communication i.e. either verbal or nonverbal; marketers choose different elements to communicate with their consumers. Each element has a distinct capacity to communicate. Selection depends on the company, brand, or product being promoted and the consumer segment being targeted. Five major elements of communication are advertising, sales promotion, PR, personal selling and direct response media. Each component has a specific task to achieve and the message is greatly enhanced if it is reinforced by other tools in the mix. Effectiveness largely depends on three qualities namely ability to communicate, costs entailed, and control maintained by each individual tool. Over the years, marketing communication has witnessed dramatic changes. Digitalization, information technology, intellectual property, and communication systems are major interrelated building blocks driving changes in the marketplace and thus driving marketing and marketing communication. Due to presence of these phenomenal changes, researchers have advocated the importance of taking a broad view of marketing communication programs and have suggested that, marketers should go for a right integration of available options, to reach to their consumers and there is urgent need to opt for integrated marketing communications (IMC) approach, to support their brand communication. The marketing and communication manager of the 21st century must recognize that there are multiple markets, multiple marketplaces, multiple customers, multiple channels, and multiple media’. In the past, competition was not so intense and marketers were able to communicate easily with their target segment through available media options. But, this certainty of communication is fast disappearing. Due to an overcrowded competitive market and media clutter, consumers are slow to recognize and respond to communication through conventional media. Accordingly, the diversity of communication options available to marketers to connect with their consumers has increased in a rapid manner. As a result, there exist potential interactions among the different options that make up a communication program that profoundly affect consumer response to any one particular option. To break the clutter, marketers are trying alternative media like internet, mobile networks, and product placement to create a bond with their consumers. Among existing alternatives, product placement in film and television programme is becoming essential part of a successful communication plan. Advertisers often make the reasonable assumption that, by building associations with these programmes and stars through brand placement, they can reinforce and build brand image across national and cultural boundaries.

 Communication mix

Communications mix describes the range of approaches and expressions of a marketing idea developed with the hope that it be effective in conveying the ideas to the target audience. The traditional media with its effective reach, powerful input, and personalized communication system will help in realizing the goal. Besides this, when the advertisement is couched in entertainment, it goes down easily with the rural consumers. Even the language and content must be according to the suitability of rural environment.

The Indian society is a complex social system with different castes, classes, creeds, and tribes. The high rate of illiteracy, added to the inadequacy of mass media, impedes reach to almost to 80% of India’s population who reside in villages. Mass media is too glamorous, interpersonal, and unreliable in contrast with the familiar performance of traditional artist whom the villager could not only see and hear and even touch. Traditional media can be used to reach these people in the marketing a new concept.

Reach of media to rural consumers

Media reach in rural parts of India is very limited. Rural India consists of about 127 million households of which only 54% come in contact with any of the conventional media. The existing media-mix for reaching out to the consumers in rural U.P needs improvement. Various problems prevailing in rural areas like low literacy, traditional bent of mind, inaccessibility to different media necessitate the adoption of a different approach for reaching out to reach them. Few companies have customized their rural advertising but still the outcomes are far less that those expected. Communication and promotion strategies also need to be tailored to suit rural customer needs. It starts with the media plan. For value brands like Godrej No.1, GCPL has stopped advertising on private cable and satellite channels, preferring the cheaper and more widely received government-owned television network, Doordarshan, as well as All-India Radio. In addition, it advertises on regional language TV channels and in local publications.

The hair color brands and soap brand Cinthol also retain a more conventional media plan, including ads on cable television. The commercials that appear on regional TV channels and Doordarshan are quite different from those on cable television, keeping local sentiments in mind. For instance, visuals of people playing with their hair or running their fingers through their hair would be frowned upon in conservative villages, although it’s a common image in hair care product advertising across the country. Emphasis on the following points may help in increasing the effectiveness of marketing communication to the rural poor:

Emotional Attachment with Rural Customers

An effective way to increase the emotional attachment with rural consumers is the use of local languagein the communication designed for a specific target group. This increases the involvement of the consumers with the brand. Moreover the promotions should be designed with local concepts and practicesso that the consumers can relate them with their day to day lives.

Relationship Building with Rural Customers

The communication should focus on building relationships with the rural customers. This can be done by advertising for social causesprevalent in the rural areas like increasing awareness of the need for primary education while advertising for stationary products for education Communication through community development activitieslike promoting low cost water purifiers after setting up a tube well in a locality. It is essential to make the rural customers believe that the marketers consider them as valuable customers as they do for their urban counterparts. Project Shakti bu HUL connects with rural population by promoting women empowerment along with satisfaction of their distribution and penetration objectives. ITC e-choupal connects with the farmers by considering them as business partners.

The Marketing Media

Companies are developing innovative strategies that break through the clutter and grab viewers attention Some of the unconventional advertising category are: taxi advertising, bathroom stall advertising, mirror advertising, aerial advertising, ambient advertising, body advertising, graffiti advertising. This area is changing constantly in the pursuit to find new ways to break through the advertising clutter. Consequently, more and more forms of unconventional advertising are identified by the economic literature. However, many of them are not applicable to the rural India context. With respect to communication channels, it has been found that when given a choice, individuals tend to perceive the oral channel as more efficient than the written channel when attempting to satisfy interpersonal needs. In addition, perceptions of friends’ knowledge influenced an individuals’ assessments of their own knowledge which, influenced information search. Despite India’s strides in many areas of technology, poor communications, especially in the rural areas, continues to hold back development. The telecommunications network has for long remained concentrated in the urban and industrial centres, The rural area is a market where large portions of the population are illiterate. So, when packaging consumer products for rural markets, companies must use prominent logo symbols and logo colors to assure that illiterate consumers will be able to recognize the products. Therefore, communicating brand values through the package rather than with words becomes essential. Emotional Surplus Identity (ESI) is a concept that that uses the shape, color, and content of a package to differentiate a brand in the eye of a consumer. By creating a bond with the consumer through the package, companies are able to establish a relationship that encourages repeat purchases. Loud, bright colors are typically used on packages to differentiate a product from the others on the shelf and to create a lasting impression in a consumer’s mind. Another technique used by multinational corporations has been tailoring products, including changing brand names, to give them a rural image. In the eyes of the consumer, branded products are associated with quality and value. Nirma, the largest selling detergent in the world, found success in the rural Indian market by using unelaborated packaging to position their product as one that cleaned well yet was affordable.

Media Penetration in rural India

The growth in conventional media has been quite significant; however, it has not been substantial. Rural India consists of about 127 million households of which only 54% comes in contact with any of the conventional media, like press, TV, satellite, radio or cinema. That means roughly 238 million are waiting to be tapped by the conventional media. It should be acknowledged that different media mix is needed to convey messages to rural consumers. There is a need to understand what appeals to urban customers may not be appropriate for their rural counterparts owing to their different lifestyle. The entire communication and also the vehicles for the communicated message thus have to be different. It has been noticed that below-the-line communication like alternative and innovative ways of communication played a key role in building reassurance and trust, and so it is vital.

Evolution of rural media

Rural media has a long history of evolution. Within this the tradition of wall painting may be traced to the Indian rock-art paintings that go back (according to various estimates) to 4000 BC. The most vibrant and colourful wall paintings can still be witnessed in rural households of Rajasthan. Painted on wet lime plaster in mineral colours, these paintings depict the day-to-day scenes of life. Some researchers claim that this form was employed for commercial purposes during the emergence and establishment of the Indus Valley Civilisation. Written forms went hand in hand with oral advertising. So powerful was this tradition that it gave birth to the field of phonetics in ancient India. Ancient Indians developed the scientific view of the physiological basis of human speech sounds. That included the conceptual foundation of the arrangement of letters in Indian scripts; for example, the Devanagari script bears witness to this concept. The vowels and consonants are arranged separately and consonants are arranged according to the point and the manner of articulation. Professionals ranging from snake charmers, magicians, and herbal medicine men to jugglers, ropewalkers, and vendors developed their distinct calls or advertising patter, which can be witnessed in rural haats and radio ads to this day. Announcements made by video vans still remind one of the old oral traditions. Vocal calls were supplemented by a wide variety of art, and music forms and instruments—e.g., musical instruments such as drums, dafli (a tambourine), dabba (a tin box), and damru (a small drum) played by Lord Shiva—still maintain a centuries-old presence in rural India. Although these forms of advertising are deeply rooted in Indian culture and its fold and literary traditions, they are neglected by the modern Indian advertising industry. Only small rural companies or self-employed rural advertisers make use of them, and some are  in danger of becoming extinct. The use of animals such as elephants and camels is not restricted just to rural advertising. Dabur, one of the largest advertisers in India with more than 457 products ranging from hair oil to digestive tablets, employs two elephants—Laxmi and Gulabkali—for advertising purposes. The use of animals for carrying advertising messages is also categorized as a non-conventional advertising form.


    New Rural Media New Promotional Methods

In addition to the conventional media vehicles, a lot of innovative mediums are used in rural advertising and marketing. Some of the most striking ones are:


Puppetry is the indigenous theatre of India. From time immortal it has been the most popular form and well-appreciated form of entertainment available to the village people. It is an inexpensive activity. The manipulator uses the puppets as a medium to express and communicate ideas, values and social messages.

Life Insurance Corporation of India used puppets to educate rural masses about Life Insurance; enlisting the help of the literacy house in Luck now. These plays were shown to the audience in villages in UP, Bihar, & MP. The number of inquires at local Life Insurance Companies during the period immediately following the performance was compared with normal frequency and found to be considerable higher. The field staff of the corporation also reported a definite impact on the business.

Folk Theater

Folk theaters are mainly short and rhythmic in form. The simple tunes help in informing and educating the people in informal and interesting manner. It has been used as an effective medium for social protest against injustice, Folk theaters are mainly short and rhythmic in form. The simple tunes help in informing and educating the people in informal and interesting manner. It has been used as an effective medium for social protest against injustice, exploitation and oppression.

Government has used this media for popularizing improved variety of seeds, agricultural implements, fertilizer etc. Punjab Agricultural University produced Two Audio Cassettes.

Balliye Kanak Biye – Wheat Cultivation.

Khiran Kepah Narme – Cotton Cultivation.

Both were well received by farmers.

BBLIL used Magician quite effectively for launch of Kadak Chhap Tea in Etawah.


“Direct Contact” is a face-to-face relationship with people individually and with groups such as the Panchayats and other village groups. Such contact helps in arousing the villager’s interest in their own problem and motivating them towards self-development.  

Demonstration may be

  • Method demonstration
  • Result demonstration
  • Simple Demonstration
  • Composite Demonstration

In result demonstration, help of audio -visual media can add value. Asian Paints launched Utsav range by painting Mukhiya’s house or Post office to demonstrate that paint does not peel off.

Wall Paintings

Wall Paintings are an effective and economical medium for advertising in rural areas. They are silent unlike traditional theatre .A speech or film comes to an end, but wall painting stays as long as the weather allows it to.

Retailer normally welcomes paintings of their shops, walls, and name boards. Since it makes the shop look cleaner and better. Their shops look alluring and stand out among other outlets. Besides rural households shopkeepers and panchayats do not except any payment, for their wall to be painted with product messages. To get one’s wall painted with the product messages is seemed as a status symbol. The greatest advantage of the medium is the power of the picture completed with its local touch. The images used have a strong emotional association with the surrounding, a feat impossible for even a moving visual medium like television, which must use general image to cater to greatest number of viewers.

(Writer is a Asst Professor at SIBM, Mumbai & PhD Scholar at Symbiosis, Pune)

Disclaimer :- This post is independently published by the author. Infeed neither backs nor assumes liability for the opinions put forth by the author.

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