As for many in the fast moving consumer goods category, the drive into moving towards rural consumer has become a key marketing. There was need to understand the standing of the current brands in the rural kids’ mind, and the efforts that should be made to move it up in the consumption hierarchy.

The Research Objective
A threefold task:
  • Understand perception and imagery of our brands in the mind of rural confectionery consumer.
  • Map various confectionery brands with respect to  image and preference vis a vis our set of brands.
  • Communication diagnostics – understand how kids process communication and the kind of communication that works best.
The Challenge
Deep diving into  ‘difficult-to-open-up’ audience, kids, that too in a rural setting was the biggest challenge towards this task, and hence all the projective techniques into setting the mind free (against a caged respondent) were  useful aids.
The Research Methodology

Mini group discussions with kids and youngsters spanning an age band of 8 yrs to 22 yrs; regular confectionery consumers (specific brand and frequency maintained).

Villages selected with population of 5,000 across the 3 large states of India: Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra & Andhra Pradesh.


Local brands are rampant in villages across the 3 states. All of them saw kids avidly purchasing local brands and in some cases preferring it too.

    • Local brands have a lot to offer:

Low price – with 25 p SKU…more numbers for less money. Localized flavors….tanginess, coffee etc.Variety in taste keeps the excitement on whereas variety in shape makes consumption exciting. Added bonus is the easy availability from nearby kirana shop. Besides their names are easy and self-explanatory (orange candy is called orange goli) and hence no special recall of brands is needed.

    • Branded players fall short on all of the above counts:

All market level activities need to synergistically suggest a change, not just a facade change which is what advertising typically does: Availability of brands …hence distribution channels. Maybe product samples — smaller in size/volume and hence lower priced – designed for this audience. Maybe even un-packaged jars of candies which sell! Greater retailer margin to push brands is suggested.Promotions and schemes work well amongst kids.

    • Communication Learning in rural markets:

Simple humor and storylines works best. Showing modern situations or celebrities which have a certain glam appeal, is aspirational and gets lapped up. Animation is seen as kiddy, and can alienate teenagers. Any degree of insensitivity which urban consumers might take jokingly as ‘pulling the leg’ is taken literally here as ‘doing wrong to others’. Direct, on the face messages are best heard in this audience.

    • Unconventional media works well as any small news is a talking point and creates publicity throughout village:

Loudspeaker ads and mobile vans that roam through the village a sure option. Sampling exercises of our product can generate trial and awareness. Shop displays – PoS and banners. Display bottles and jars for greater brand visibility – since volume off-take is low, smaller quantity jars for mono-packs are an option. Some of the communication which work wonderfully well in urban scenario received negative sentiments with the rural consumer, and took the researchers as well as the marketers alike, by surprise. The semiotics and associations are unambiguously different for this target audience and need to be viewed microscopically by advertisers.

Sum up

Rural marketing, an oft talked about topic in forums, may not necessarily be an area that marketers have imbibed in their strategies. While there is an increasing awareness of this topic, yet every time we go rural, we discover something insightful and new which opens up our mind to their life and the way they think!

Considering the increasing health concerns and growing fitness consciousness, relevance of health and wellness products in the market is mounting. How can an established ‘beauty’ brand initiate and foray into the Sugar Substitute category, launching a 100% Natural FDA approved based on Stevia Plant Extract? What will be the acceptance level in the mind of the consumers of this new product?

The Research Objective

Deep dive into consumer’s perceptions, association & understanding of healthcare products w.r.t. sugar substitutes and where are various brands slotted in the mindspace?

Assess and compare response to Stevia products on organoleptic and emotive parameters.

The Challenge

The major challenge was to go past the defensive walls brought up by consumers to guard ‘their artificial sweetener’ with accusations of being unsafe vis a vis a Stevia ‘natural and safe’ based sugar substitute.

The Research Methodology
  • A qualitative approach using Focus Group Discussions as the technique, that allowed for different points of views and reaction to the concept was used to throw up category insights.
  • Quantitative level product testing in a CLT format. Tea/Coffee was served in which the product options were added sequentially with order rotation done.

The entire exercise was conducted across metro cities in India.

The Results

  • Sugar substitute category is associated with modern, forward, trendy and youthful imagery … The tonality, imagery and celebrity for communication needs to endorse that representation.
  • The category consumption can be well mapped with the beverage consumption as the product is largely consumed with beverages.
  • It was clearly seen that in term of both motivators and taste preference, sugar substitutes are individual based. Because of the personal nature of consumption, targeting consumers through family consumption items (dishes like desserts, pies) may not work in mass media as compared to beverages.
  • The market is keen on trying innovative forms — Liquid syrup, Cubes and Tea Bag are a few such suggestions which came up. Moving away from the tablet form will change the ‘tablet= medicine’ mindset of consumers.
  • While there is low knowledge of ingredients in a sugar substitute, there is acute sense of the missing ‘natural-ness’ in sugar substitutes. This clearly paves the way for a strong natural story, as none currently exists in consumer mind
  • Stevia – an unknown name, however its origin and safe composition is a key hook and its 100% natural attribute was considered as a strong route to consider for communication.

Sum Up

Natural story has many a takers though till now, many a consumers are using sugar substitutes for their forward looking imagery rather than as health care products. Whether they only do lip service to ‘natural’ as a concept or convert to it, is yet to be seen.

The company who will make a difference in the Health and Wellness area will be the one who can answer the basic question. “How can I continue to enjoy my favorite foods and drinks and yet still improve the nutritional value of my diet?”

The Research Objective
  • Dimensionalize health – Consumer window to health and associations with it. Understand the expected benefits sought in healthy eating and credibility of such claims.
  • Decoding symbols in a restaurant that cue in healthy eating while semiotically understand the associations with ‘health’ in the context of eating in a restaurant. Consumer motivations and need states when choosing a restaurant
  • Determine the product attributes that can help create these benefits in the minds of consumers; and how are these interpreted by them.
The Puzzling Situations

The Research Methodology
  • Secondary research to delve into some success stories in the category. To gain a broader contextual understanding of how companies have best tapped the growing health and wellness concerns.
  • ‘Friend’ triads and group discussions across audience groups defined by their life-stages to explore need states and motivations.
  • To gain behavioural insights to qualify segmented needs and to identify potential market opportunities for the client, face to face quantitative study was conducted.
The Results
  • Despite growing number of health clubs, tendency to eat indiscriminately persists Even though health clubs, gymnasiums and fitness centers have mushroomed all over the country, with more and more seeking out these memberships; more joggers and walkers are pounding the pathways of parks than ever before; and more markets are launching products for consumers who keep an eye on the waistline … there is still a tendency to eat indiscriminately.
  • Even amongst the so called ‘health and fitness’ conscious elite, is it a diet trend or a health trend? Fitness seems to be many times only superficially entrenched into lifestyle … getting membership of the most happening gym in town can at times be very important! What is the motive behind the increased fitness consciousness – is it health they are looking for or a svelte figure? It seems very likely that dieting and not health could be driving teenagers and young professionals insisting on low cal food and drink.
  • Health is a true concern only amongst those fighting a health problem. Often it’s those who fear health problems who become truly conscious of a healthy diet (using olive oil in food, limited quantity of red meat etc).It’s often not a preventive kind of thing…it’s as a reaction to existing health problems.
  • However, certain healthy products have even entered the regular diet of mass consumers. The sale of health drinks, skimmed milk and fruit juices has been consistently growing…a prime example to this point. A tiny section of city people today are readily buying not just juices, but whole wheat breads and biscuits. Five years ago one had to go to special bakeries to buy whole wheat bread, but today everyone is selling it. Whole wheat bread at least seems to have become a mass selling item.
  • Indianisation and localization based on traditional eating habits has made easy adaptability for greater mass Items like sesame cookies, jaggery based sweets and even roasted namkeens are also available, in specialty shops. Some typically Indian good-for-health cereals like dalia (broken whole wheat) is available in easy to cook packets.
  • Growing trend in restaurants towards… slashing oil content in preparations by half replacement of ghee with ricebran and soya oils, special menu that is low on fat and spice, low cal desserts, soy treats and even South Indian food is turning non-greasy!
Sum Up

Health and Wellness Adoption – from occasional consumption to a more entrenched comprehensive habit