How mobile marketing is helping brands to reach and engage with rural audience

Low prices of mobile devices and broadband have created a massive potential for marketers to play out their hunger games with vast, hitherto untapped audiences

Neeraj Sharma May 29, 2022 05:00:33 IST
How mobile marketing is helping brands to reach and engage with rural audience

Representational image. AFP

India is a land full of marketing opportunities, a playground to learn, unlearn, experiment and build successful case studies. The land of diversity, a potpourri of cultures, a cauldron of hundreds of languages and many religions brewing together. India ties everything in a common thread of values and ideologies, tethering up the loose ends between the old and the new. In all this heterogeneity, the one thing that has created a homogenous blanket and brought the nation on a common platform is digitisation. No other country has absorbed and adopted the internet and mobile technology the way Indians have.

Low prices of mobile devices and broadband have created a massive potential for marketers to play out their hunger games with vast, hitherto untapped audiences. This affordability and accessibility to new-age technology have opened up a vista of potential waiting to be unlocked. Mobile technology and growth have made India the sone-ki-chidiya (golden bird) again. It is a marketer’s delight. Today, India is becoming the world’s fastest-growing market for mobile apps. Mobile apps help collect user data which gives insights into consumption patterns and gives brands the opportunities to micro-target audiences and create more personalised content.


With a sound mobile marketing strategy and increasing mobile penetration in India (a Deloitte study says that India had 1.2 billion mobile subscribers in 2021, of which 750 million are smartphone users and the smartphone market are expected to reach 1 billion smartphones by 2026), a mobile-first strategy is the need of the hour! The pandemic hastened the entire digitisation process. Rural and urban, along with sunrise sectors such as fin-tech, e-commerce, food delivery, pharma, ed-tech and many more took the plunge. Vernacular advertising, the use of AR/VR, mobile gaming, and hyperlocal marketing are all new ways of targeting potential customers. According to a report released by The Next 10 – Artificial Intelligence, voice technology combined with augmented reality, machine learning and AI are all set to bring about a sea change to the way brands can communicate with their audiences. Digital payments superseded any limitations of literacy.  Today UPI and e-wallets such as Phonepe, Paytm, Google Pay etc. have increased transactions across geographies. All you need is a bank account!

How marketers are reaching out to rural audiences

Missed call marketing campaign and mobile entertainment channel: This works amazingly well in India. In a country where more people opt for prepaid mobile plans, missed calls are an economical way, when you have limited calling minutes. Customers opt to choose ads by dialling a number on the screen and disconnecting before the call gets connected. The marketer then starts to send text messages and more calls with ads and information.

Hindustan Unilever’s Kan Khajura Tesan Campaign has made it to the Harvard Business Review as a case study for missed call and mobile entertainment strategy. They first tasted success with their ‘Missed Call’ Strategy for their popular washing detergent Wheel. To earn more share of voice and get more brand recall, they launched a mobile entertainment channel that was accessible through a toll-free number offering free music, movie, news and ads for select products. Ponds’ White Beauty, Close-Up and Wheel amassed spontaneous awareness and their brand recall skyrocketed with eight million new subscribers!

Vernacular messaging: For a country that is home to 1.3 billion people, only 125 million people have an English-speaking base. This realisation coupled with a ubiquitous blanket of mobile technology has spurred interest and potential of regional language internet users in the country. The rural and urban populations are voraciously consuming information and content in their native languages. This is a lucrative market.

PEAT GmbH is a German-based company with a mobile app that is the world's most downloadable app for farmers called Plantix. Farmers who are their customers were able to get accurate diagnoses related to their crops and identify diseases. Plantix Mobile Kheti – the app was customised for Indian farmers in Punjab and Telangana and created engagement games and engagement tools corresponding with on-ground initiatives to gain more access to all farmers in these regions. Automatic push alerts are helping them to connect with their communities and give them information about what’s latest in their sector. Vernacular messaging is a big factor that is enabling this revolution. Today apps like Takatak, Moj, and Josh are some of the players succeeding because of the regional messaging strategy that has given them far-reaching access to the country.

• Video ads consumption: Video ads are here to stay in the foreseeable future and with advancements in mobile technology, and increased mobile usage, video ads are only going to grow. In India, the majority of people of the rural population has access to smartphones. The majority of people in these areas have an increasing inclination toward OTT platforms, therefore video ads can help promote and drive customers. According to the Bain Report released in 2021, online video consumption is likely to explode in a big way by 2025. It is lower than its global counterparts, but it is growing at a very healthy rate of 24 per cent per annum.

• Geotargeting ads:

Micro-targeting is the way to go, and geo-targeting is just one of the ways to reach out to niche audiences. This helps with better messaging, relevant messaging, and improved ROI. It is all about the right messaging to the right people at the right time. It helps businesses become locally relevant and helps the marketers in reaching out to more people, increase brand penetration, and speak to the rural audience in a culturally relevant way.

In-app advertisements:

Leveraging mobile ads as a marketing strategy has become imperative today. It accelerates the reach and engagement of people, increasing brand popularity and loyalty. In-app advertisements intend to connect with the audience in their comfort spaces. It reaches out to people based on their likeability or search history, making it convenient for the brands to identify and connect with the target audience. Ad banner display while using an app can lead to better audience engagement and persuasion. It can be both time and effort saving for the audience and the brands. India has approximately 65 per cent of its population residing in rural areas.

Constituting the majority, it becomes essential for both the government and entrepreneurs to reach out to them and make them participate in the course of development and advancement. The easy availability of smartphones has contributed to digital empowerment and has bought a paradigm shift in the rural digital market. Until now, missed calls and SMS have been a significant part of mobile marketing. However, increasing penetration of mobile phones and improved online access in rural areas has amplified the market opportunities and business growth prospects. Social apps, entertainment apps, etc. have greatly adopted the strategy of in-app advertisements in rural areas by which they are catering to a huge number of eyeballs and getting targeted users.

Final word

Growth and participation are two sides of the same coin. Therefore, mobile marketers have emphasised making rural consumers an essential part of the digital market. Deployment of mobile marketing in rural areas can serve as a probable solution for bridging the development gap between the rural and urban strata. Mobile marketing has provided a solid platform for brands to reach out to rural audiences. With the increase in mobile usage, brands will have access to a great chunk of the rural population and then it all depends on how well they are able to capitalise on it. Brands that do it well, will ultimately enjoy the fruits of an engaging, loyal and growing userbase.

The author is Vice-President, Globale Media. Views are personal.

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