The challenge of rural marketing is different from that of marketing to urban consumers. Here Blade Creative outlines 7 simple considerations that an owner or marketer of a rural business should consider:
- Intra community influences are relatively more important than inter-community ones.
Being geographically scattered, rural communities are relatively detached from the mainstream population. But they are significantly more close-knit, with relationships largely within the community rather than without. This makes intra community communications rather critical.
Generating positive Word of Mouth, particularly from local sources of authority, is as critical as mass media advertising. It is therefore important for marketers to understand rural hierarchies and tap into local opinion leaders to help brand adoption and diffusion within a rural community. Winning over key opinion leaders is key to penetration in rural communities.
- Scarcity of media bandwidth. But abundance of attention.
The key challenge for marketers in rural markets is reach rather than attention. Unlike urban consumers who are exposed to a proliferation of media channels but suffer from an attention deficit, the key issue in communicating to rural audiences is media access.
Though penetration of TV is increasing (and urban targeted communication spills over to rural consumers) there are few exclusive rural channels of any significance in most markets.
However, on the plus side, once they are reached, rural consumers are more receptive to advertising than their urban counterparts.
- Slow to adopt brands. Slow to give them up.
Being relatively closed societies, rural consumers are slower to adopt new brands and categories than their urban counterparts. Generating trial becomes more difficult than gaining loyalty – whereas in the more mature urban markets retention is a bigger issue.
Marketers therefore have to front-load their investment, and probably plan for longer lead times before their investment yields returns. However, the higher level of loyalty that can be expected (as rural consumers are slower in giving up brands once they have adopted them) helps justify the initial brand investment. Newer brands will need a lot more on-the-ground effort to convince rural consumers to try them as mass media input alone is seldom enough to get consumers to try.
- Expenses are year long; income is seasonal.
A unique feature of the rural market is the seasonality of demand. Rural incomes tend to be skewed towards a couple of months in the year during tourism or agricultural seasons. Thus demand (particularly for high value items) is highly seasonal and concentrated on one or two points during the year. It is therefore important that marketers focus their marketing activities during times in which incomes peak rather than distribute them over the year, as they would do in urban markets.
- Information hungry; but entertainment starved.
Rural communities have limited entertainment options, which makes it easier for marketing communications to generate higher levels of involvement by making their communications more entertaining. Packaging brand information in a very entertaining manner not only makes the communication more involving, but can also — if well designed — can improve understanding and absorption of key brand information.
- Higher receptivity to advertising, with lower persuasion.
Rural consumers are more readily persuaded by marketing that touches them directly, such as personal experience, seeing others using it, or live demonstrations of the brand in action.
It is important for mass media to be complemented by Below The Line advertising activities aimed at real life demonstrations of the brand in action. Retailer education also plays an important role as the retailer in rural markets is not just a distribution node, but also a communication channel. With the right training and incentives retailers can help endorse the brand, educated or even demonstrate to consumers on its benefits.
- Commercially profitable; and socially acceptable.
Commercial enterprises should be cautious of being seen to be too aggressive when dealing with rural consumers, or they could potentially face a backlash. Rural consumers are seen by the non-commercial world as being more gullible and therefore in need of protection. So building the rural marketing thrust around a social platform helps make it more acceptable to stakeholders. The key is to ensure the brand’s commercial agenda is aligned with a broader social one.