Marketers need to abandon outdated assumptions
With growing internet penetration and wide access to smartphones, brand marketers may have assumed that any urban-rural gap in mentality would begin to narrow; rural people would start to resemble their urban peers, and not the other way around. Those assumptions may be flawed.
Rural Indians do not aspire to be more like urban Indians; they want to be who they are. They want to create a “more confident, progressive, and economically sustainable rural India,” according to a recent WPP Kantar IMRB report called, Revenge of a Scarecrow: Seizing the winds of change in rural India.
The report asserts that marketers have based their assumptions about people in rural India on faulty stereotypes, and have missed the core cultural insight animating rural Indians: They can make collective progress without sacrificing their roots. Farmers are reinventing themselves as businessmen; women are expanding their roles; and young people are embracing their rural roots, rather than trying to escape them.
“Today’s farmer is aware, optimistic, and ambitious,” the report finds. It describes today’s rural farmer as a leader who is devoted both to his land and to the people he empowers to help develop it. Meanwhile, rural women are quietly pursuing education and seeking opportunities outside formerly restricted roles, but while keeping the aspects of their changing identity in harmony.
Rural youth have “gained colossal confidence in their abilities and are unwilling to embrace the city as an escape route,” according to the report. Young rural Indians are optimistic and entrepreneurial, but they express their ambitions in collectivistic rather than individualistic ways. And this balance is expressed in the rural family, where children are nurtured in a “culture of knowledge,” that places the collective welfare above “individualistic gains.”
To succeed in rural India, marketers need to reject outdated assumptions and embrace the new reality of rural India, according to the report, which recommends that marketers apply these five core rural values:
Power of Innocence Communicate the brand message simply and honestly—and with humility.
Plasticity Be spontaneous and courageous in the way the brand interacts.
Passion Empathize with people’s needs and wants, and encourage their odyssey.
Perseverance Express commitment to rural India and the aspirations of its people, and be diligent in fulfilling that commitment.
Partnership Create partnerships with local entrepreneurs, listen to their advice and adopt their suggestions.