What’s the secret potion?

A group of giggling, chatting women sneak into a neighbour’s house. They are a search party on a mission, determined to find out what magic potion this mother feeds her child, to make her grow so admirably. It must be very special. They peek in drawers, open cupboards, pull out all the foods in the kitchen, and scratch their heads. Finally the occupant of the house, who has been watching them secretly and smiling, confesses.

The secret of her bouncing baby’s growth and health, she says, is exactly what the women have found in this ordinary kitchen, filled with ordinary ingredients for ordinary adult meals. It’s a variety of regular adult food—just mixed up into a thick paste, and fed to the baby after six months, in addition to milk.

This ad for complementary feeding is part of a television campaign called ‘Petpuja’, one of several campaigns created by Shaping Demand and Practices project to help promote maternal and child health in Bihar. These ads reach millions of people and are effective modifiers of health behaviour. But what about those who don’t have access to a radio or a television? Rural marketing is a way of extending mass media products to people who have no access to mass media and who live in relative geographical and social isolation.

Reaching media-dark areas
Rural marketing campaigns are designed for reach and recall. The messages have to reach people who live beyond roads, broadcast, and on the outskirts of society. Once they get there, they have to make an impact quickly, and be readily understood and remembered. They need to solve logistical problems creatively, and carry as much information as possible, as simply as possible.

Rural marketing campaigns therefore use strongly branded campaigns that evoke health messages in simple terms that can fit on a stencil or a penant, like ‘Petpuja’ or previous campaigns like ‘Chaar Gaanth’ in Bihar or ‘Ek Teen Do’ in Madhya Pradesh. They break complex messages down into key aspects, and disseminate them interactively.

Going the extra mile

A van, bright with posters and music, will draw up in a dusty village, attracting curious people. The team opens the doors, unveiling a small theatrical hub. For Petpuja, the insides of the vehicle are redone to look like a kitchen. The team walk around the village handing out information leaflets and inviting people to the show. When enough people have gathered, the van plays the TV commercial. The team members act out a little skit, full of banter, to explain the contents of the ad. The skit can be written for non-actors. At the end they conduct a friendly quiz, offering prizes for correct answers. It helps to check how much the audience has understood, as well as to address any misconceptions.

Then the team fan out on foot, to reach the least reachable people who do not even come to the village square. The campaign adds a design layer here: the team carry tablets to the outskirts of the village. The tablets are loaded with the ad, and an interactive game. By choosing simple yes and no answers to onscreen graphics, family members can go through and fully understand the message of the campaign.

Rural marketing campaigns integrate a central theme and brand across all media, so that ‘Petpuja’ becomes synonymous with complementary feeding, or ‘Ek Teen Do’ becomes synonymous with family planning. Their design blends skits and audiovisual components. A layered delivery—television, skits, interaction—helps to cement the message in different ways, and for all, making the message ‘stickier’ and helping it spread faster through the community. They collaborate with Anganwadi Workers to mobilise target audiences, and with the state government for a surround-sound effect and to create social consensus.

The reach of rural marketing

Rural marketing generates excitement and curiosity, and helps to scale up a campaign greatly—in six months, the Petpuja campaign reached seven million people across 3,000 villages. It collaborated with the state government’s Kuposhan Mukt Bihar programme to reduce malnutrition, aligning at all levels from the Secretary to the anganwadi worker who mobilises the right target audience.

Besides the ‘Petpuja‘ ad campaign, rural marketing is also being used to promote mobile services such as Kilkari. To read more about how it is done, click here: Kilkari marketing.



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