Rural Regeneration: Experiential Marketing in the boonies


Most of the below poverty line individuals live in a ‘media dark’ zone and brands cannot reach them effectively through traditional methods of radio and television. Since, these traditional marketing models fail to reach the target audience; experiential marketing can step in and broaden the horizons for brand promotions and consumer engagement.

According to Mr. Dalveer Singh, Head Experiential Marketing, Asia Pacific, Dialogue Factory, “Rural India, unlike the popular perception, is not low spender but a value seeker. Since most of rural India has limited media reach, experiential initiatives are the best ways to connect with them. Experiential marketing really helps connect with the target group at three important levels – Sensorial, Personal as well as, Emotional. The experiential route helps the consumer to touch, feel, smell and taste the product thereby resulting in a stronger impression, engagement and talkability.”

In the rural markets, usage of promotional tools like stalls, kiosks, free sampling etc. has increased tremendously in the past decade.

“With the right product – value equation the next generation of brands can completely be built through rural markets alone”, adds Dalveer.

Here are few brands that take rural marketing rather seriously

Mahindra and Mahindra

Mahindra and Mahindra is one of the brands which have gone to the roots of the nation. The brand launched a ‘Manual to Mechanization’ campaign to reach out to the reserved farming communities. As part of the campaign, the company apprised over 6 lakh farmers with more evolved and mechanized farming that would lead to ‘Farm Tech Prosperity’. Mahindra went to the rural areas and did live demos of farm implementations with tractors, allowing the farmers to experience firsthand, the benefits of technology.

Another campaign targeted at the rural sector was implemented by the company for the launch of its ‘Toofan’ tractor. To mark the arrival of Toofan’, a grand set up was designed and executed by RC&M Experiential Marketing Firm. The set up, which had Mahindra branding, saw a tractor breaking out of a brick wall. The message was clear, hard hitting and reached directly to the target audience of Indian farmers. The campaign ran for over 600 days and covered more than 1000 villages.

In order to create an emotional connect with their consumers, Mahindra & Mahindra, as part of their Rural Prosperity Campaign, carried out ‘Project Bhumi’. As part of the project, the soil condition and soil chemical compositions were evaluated in order to educate the farmers on maintenance of soil fertility. The reports of the soil tested were used to give the farmers information about maintaining the required levels of nutrients in the soil. Such initiatives not only help the brands connect directly with their audience, but also help the consumers to identify with the brand on an emotional level.

Hindustan Unilever

Hindustan Unilever is another brand which is big on rural activations. The brand launched its ‘Khushiyon ki Doli’ campaign in the media dark villages of Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra. The main aim of the campaign was to change the attitudes of the rural mass to inculcate good personal hygiene and through that create a greater preference for the company brands by association to daily hygiene habits. Various personal care and home care products of the brands of HUL including Wheel, Surf Excel, Sunsilk, Lifebuoy and Closeup were marketed through the campaign. The entire promotion activity was carried out in three stages, starting with awareness, moving on to consumer engagement and finally retail contact. The promoters of the product went door to door in order to spread awareness about hygiene along with visiting shops in the village to ensure availability and visibility of HUL products. The campaign spread to over 35,000 villages across the three states.

The brand’s Active Wheel Mobile Campaign turned quite a few heads and gathered large traction in the villages of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. As part of the campaign, HUL advertised a mobile number on All India Radio in the two states asking listeners to give a missed call. Following that the consumers got an auto generated call from a series of numbers and got to hear snippets of humorous conversations between a husband and wife. The brand was able to reach 18 million people with its missed call initiative.

Mr. Ateet Mehta, Media Services Head at HUL shared his views on the use of mobile to reach the media-dark geographies, “Our laundry brand Wheel caters to a segment of the society where a feature phone is the only device we are able to reach and television is not reached because of power shortage or because the overall presentation of television is less, feature phones are used extensively to reach these consumers.”

Another well known rural activation of the brand is the Lifebuoy’s ‘Help a child reach 5’ campaign. The brand launched an effort to improve the hygiene standards in Thesogora, a village in Madhya Pradesh, to help every child living there reach their fifth birthday. As part of the campaign the brand took to educating families about the importance of using hand was to beat diseases. This initiative of HUL has resulted in a 31% decrease in the diarrhea cases in the village within just one year. This campaign has gathered large scale media attention and the brand has even roped in actress Kajol Devgan to be the handwashing ambassador and advocate of the initiative.


Airtel is another brand which has managed to reach villages with experiential marketing campaigns. In order to generate awareness about Airtel Krishi Card’, the brand rolled out an initiative in the villages of North Gujarat, Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. The Krishi Card was aimed towards increasing customer convenience and empowering farmers by giving them access to vital agricultural information. The campaign, which was conceptualized by SOI Live Marketing and Events, informed farmers about the concept of Airtel Krishi Card and enabled them to experience its features at their doorstep.

Another rural activation initiative by the brand was done with a partnership with Nokia. The two companies introduced a bundle offer, a Nokia handset and Airtel simcard to reach the remote sectors of India. The prime objective of the campaign was to explain to the target audience how to use a mobile and the advantages of mobility. The two brands carried out activities like road shows, street shows and interactive games in order to engage the consumers. A unique Airtel-Nokia handset bundle promoted through free recharge coupons. The campaign reached 40,000 villages in the country and resulted in the distribution of 3 lakh handsets in a bundle offer.

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airtel hindustan unilever lifebuoy mahindra rural

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