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International Management Review

Vol. 6 No. 2 2010

Increasing Brand Communication through Brand Visibility in Retail Outlets in Small Cities and Rural Areas of Bangladesh
Moslehuddin Khaled
Independent University, Chittagong-4000, Bangladesh
[Abstract] Companies are always looking for tools and ways to increase the brand visibility and

communication. Brand communication to the consumers is always an important marketing goal of marketers. In doing so, they spend a lot through their marketing services firm, which provides the advertising and communication services to the client firms. Most of the marketing services firms bill their client heavily mainly due to using easily deployable medias, like TV, print papers, etc. But in South Asian countries like Bangladesh, there are many rural or semi-urban areas which are traditionally media poor and have little access to print. Companies can use point of purchases (POP), like retail outlets and surroundings, for brand communication. The author personally visited some rural and semi-urban areas as part of the distributors sales representative team and pointed out some simple, cost-effective ways to effectively reach the customers, such as brand communication.
[Keywords] brand communication; rural marketing; brand visibility; cost effective techniques; retail

outlets

Introduction
Brand communication to the consumers is always an important marketing goal of marketers. Brand visibility is one major way to communicate the brand. Companies are always looking for tools and ways to increase the brand visibility and communication. In doing so, they spend a lot through their marketing services firm, which provides the advertising and communication services to the client firms. Marketing services firms are very good at convincing the clients with their high-sounding media plans. They convince the client firms, mostly a bit less smart in judging the show of the marketing services firms, about the necessity of spending lots of money in the media TV, radio, bill- boards on the streets, the internet, and others. All companies, especially small manufacturers, cannot afford to compete on the basis of media expenditure. But the important point to raise is that there are many areas in rural and semi-urban landscapes of Bangladesh which are not media reach. Understandably, exposure to the multi-channel television, the internet, and print newspapers and magazines, is quite low (this is a pretty obvious fact locally known in Bangladesh; statistics from various sources would confirm this situation). So, using these media channels for brand communication cannot be that effective. So what can be done to utilize this scenario? How should companies increase the brand awareness, visibility, and communication in the media-poor, rural community? There might be many cost-effective ways to effectively reach the customers. For example, point-of-purchase (POP) or point-of-sales (POS), like retail outlets in the media-poor rural or semi-urban areas, may be a good center for brand communication. This paper explores this issue.

Objective
The objective of this paper is to consolidate the observations from practical experience in the field to find out ways of communicating the brands in the non-urban and rural areas. A good number of retail outletlevel actions have been suggested which can be implemented in an integrated manner.

Literature review
Although communication is a part of marketing-mix, the literature on rural communication is too diverse to be covered specifically. In Bangladesh, hardly any focused or sizeable study has been done about brand and marketing communication in rural areas. But in the Indian marketing literature, a stream

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focuses on what goes under the title "rural marketing, though interpreted differently by different authors. It basically covers various aspects of rural markets and marketing to the rural consumers (Baig,1980; Balakrishna, 1978; Dass, 1982; Doshi, 1972). Brand awareness is the consumers ability to identify a brand under different conditions. Brand contact is any information bearing experiences that a customer has with the brand (Kotler, 2006). Increasing the brand awareness through brand contact, brand visibility, and brand communication are some of the related, major marketing goals of marketing department of any company (Miller, 1997). Does mass media advertising impact sales? There might be contradictory findings. Tellis and Weiss (1995) confirmed that aggregating data over time and households may create a false impression of advertising having a statistically significant effect on sales. Similar studies revealed that estimated effects of TV advertising on households brand choices are weak. A different approach to developing marketing communication might be needed for urban media-rich segments and for rural not-so-media-rich segments. Dhumal (2008) stated that the rural consumer is different from the urban consumer in terms of interests, priorities, attitudes. They had to be dealt in different way. Visibilityboth for manufacturers nationwide brand or retail store level brandis important as shown in Grunerts (2006) study. Two segments of consumers emerge, one price conscious and one more differentiated. Consumers prefer shops with lower price levels, with dominantly manufacturer brands, with quality of retailer brands at the same level as manufacturer brands, and with good visibility of retailer brands. Integrated marketing communication (IMC) to reach the consumer is gaining importance. Eagles (2000) study revealed a strong commitment to the integration of marketing communications by both marketers and advertising agencies. The study also revealed substantive differences in perception between these two groups as to how IMC processes should be managed and/or outcomes evaluated. One thing is sure: all over the developing country landscapesChina, India, Bangladesh the rural consumers buying behavior is changing or transforming due to advances in transportation, communication, and other technologies. Rurals are no more just an extended segment; rather it is an established broad segment which needs distinct strategic marketing planninga distinct IMC. In India, data on rural consumer buying behavior indicates that the rural retailer influences 35% of purchase occasions. Therefore, sheer product availability can determine brand choice, volumes, and market share. Considering this fact, FMCG, the giant Hindustan Liver Ltd., conceptualized different projects to significantly enhance rural supply chain. The Indian society is a complex social system with different castes, classes, creeds, and tribes. The high rate of illiteracy, added to the inadequacy of mass media, impedes reach to almost to 80% of India's population who reside in villages. Mass media is too glamorous, interpersonal, and unreliable in contrast with the familiar performance of traditional artist whom the villager could not only see and hear and even touch. Traditional media can be used to reach these people in the marketing a new concept. The traditional media with its effective reach, powerful input, and personalized communication system will help in realizing the goal. Besides this, when the advertisement is couched in entertainment, it goes down easily with the villager (Basamatkar). Another exploratory study on rural and urban consumers in an emerging market, like China, showed the impacts of economic development on consumer lifestyles. Chinese rural and urban consumers were found to be statistically different in terms of their attitudes toward the whole marketing mix: product price, brand names, promotions, and distribution. Possibly as a result of these disparate attitudes, rural and urban consumers were found to use different products to reflect the improvement of their living standards. All of these previous differences might be due to the fact that rural and urban Chinese consumers have different needs, as indicated by the words they chose to describe their ideal image. These lifestyle differences reveal huge marketing potential for MNCs and other foreign investors, who will ultimately move into China's relatively untapped rural regions for marketing opportunities (Sun, 2004). Drawing upon the literature and experiences from Indian rural marketing, some companies in Bangladesh-Unilever is a pioneer-are taking marketing activities focused on rural segments oblate.

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Grey Advertising Bangladesh Ltd, a concern of Grey Worldwide Group, is going to launch a unique rural marketing campaign to further expand its market share. The new campaign is expected to strengthen the company's position in the local advertising market and the main objective of the company's new advertising policy is to promote the products at the root level (The Daily Star, 2003).

Methodology
Distribution firms are channel partner firms of the main manufacturing company. They are selected by the producer company and a certain geographic area is allocated to them. Within this area, distributors employ several sales representatives (DSR) who go retailer to retailer. A DSR visits a number of markets (small section of the allocated geographic area) each day. They come into direct interaction with the retailers and also talk with the customers as they are common faces visiting at a few days interval. These retailers, the markets, the shop clutter (a number of shops in each clutter along the rural roads) and the shop environment itself, is the hub of sharing and communication among the local community. The author teamed up with the distributor of a large, well-established multinational FMCG company and visited more than two hundred (200) retailers of the kinds mentioned above in small city and rural areas of Bangladesh. The visited place was a small city (Mymensingh-a mid northern border district) and a number of thana centers and villages located both nearby the city (Mymensingh) and as far away as Indian border, such as the Swadeshi bazaar, Phulpur, Phulbaria main bazaar, Phulbaria rural, Haluaghat, Koraitoli, Netrokona, University Shesh More, and Nuton Bazar. The following physical flows and environment were observed: Sales representatives order taking process, Retailers-sales rep interaction details, Retailers-purchasers interaction process, Deliverymans delivery to the retail outlet process, Overall shop and surrounding environment. Scope and Audience of the Paper Though increasing brand visibility at the retail level will result in better brand communication for all the goods, the observations of this study can be particularly applied to fast-moving consumers goods (FMCG). Small manufacturing companies, in particular, which cannot spend as much as their large competitors do, might have some guidelines about cost-effective alternatives for brand visibility and communication. Observations and Ideas for Increasing Brand Visibility Distribution of fast-moving consumer goods in Bangladesh is done along the following flows: 1) Factory depots distribution houses wholesalers retailers 2) Factory distribution houses wholesalers retailers 3) Factory depots / distribution houses retailers The focus of this study is the third mentioned in the above flows. The author noted many ideas that came up as the result of direct observation of the retail environment. Many cost effective small actions can be taken, which will increase the brand communication and visibility, both to the retailers and consumers. Product Card (picturesque) with Corporate Identity for the Retailers Retailers were found slow in general, in mentioning the brands and SKUs (Stock Keeping Unit) while ordering, even if the DSR (Distributor Sales Representative) was pushing them for making it fast. They could not sort which company is supplying which brands. They were confused among the companies. For example, retailers were asking Unilever DSR, Is Dettol soap yours, or do you take order for Tibet? Whereas Dettol is a popular antiseptic brand of Reckit Bangladesh Limited, and Tibet is a popular personal care product brand of another company named Kohinoor Chemical Company. To solve this problem, retailers may be given company branded product card with the pictures of all brands and SKUs

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so that retailers can see one by one and order what they need. The benefit of this product card with corporate identity for retailers eliminates the confusion among the brands/SKUs and companies, retailers will be able to order more products smoothly and efficiently. Brand List card with Corporate Identity for the Consumers Sometimes, consumers come up asking for one brand, such as Lux. Retailers ask them what they want next. Then consumers try to figure out what else they want to buy, if anything. Most customers come to the retailers without a grocery shopping list from the house. So, it takes time for both the retailers and consumers. Particularly, retailers find it disturbing and causing loss of sales when one customer takes more time deciding on a list and other customers are waiting to be served. Consumers can be given a Unilever Product/ Brand List card with pictures of all the brand and SKUs. It will help them decide and order faster. The benefit of this method makes it possible for direct communication between consumers and brand and corporation on the spot while purchasing. There will be increased sales and bundle sales of same company brands for different needs. Reducing redundancy and waiting time for one customer. When one customer will be deciding from the product list, another customer can be served. Classifying Educated and Professional Traders Generally what happens is that DSR goes to retailers and ask about the requirement of the SKUs one by one. Many of the retailers are not that literate or not calculative, even if literate. They look around and figure out the required quantity that might be needed until the next visit of the DSR of the company. It takes a lot of time of the DSR and also of the retailers. Now, there are some educated and calculative retailers. They can take care of their stocks. These retailers may be supplied with some kind of form which they will fill up themselves and hand to the DSR at each visit. The benefit is obvious, that is, the form itself will be a corporate or product brand communication. Also, there will be time saving for the retailers in terms of interaction time with the DSR and time saving for the DSR; now, he can spend more time on the less educated retailers and/ or reach more retailers per day (increasing direct brand communication), which is always a positive performance indicator for the DSR. Running Promotion Cards Some sort of trade promotion (TP) or consumer promotion (CP) is running all the time in one or more brands. A good number of retailers were found who seemed to face difficulties coping with continuous changes in promo offers. Many of them could not answer readily without aid when asked what promotions were running at that time. Promo cards can be designed on the running promos. These picturesque promo cards, containing promo details and duration, will be given to the retailers. Retailers can track the promos (for example, one Sunsilk shampoo mini is free with one Lux soap large size, 20% more quantity with close up toothpaste and so on). The running promotional offers can be easily tracked by the retailers. Retailers can pursue consumers to buy that specific brand at that time, saving time and reducing redundancy of repetitiveness for the DSR; now he doesnt have to tell again and again to the different retailers the same day or to the same retailer different days during the same promotion. General Shopping List (other than company specific mentioned above) to the Consumers This list is like brand list card that includes all the brand of one company, but it will include all the FMCG products regardless of the company. Many shops or retailers in the neighborhood and bazaars have longterm relationships with consumers who are regular and/ or bulk buyers and live nearby the store. A standard shopping list containing the name and blank spaces for quantity of groceries and packaged goods items can be a good thing to be offered to these customers. Value addition for the retailers, as they can provide the list to the customers which will create satisfaction for the consumers, saving time for the retailers, as customers can prepare their own purchase list. This also provides value addition for the consumers, as they are getting a standard product list of everyday products which they can plan on a daily or monthly basis.

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Associating other Value Added Item or hot FMCG in the Strategic CP Sampaign All the year round, company offers consumer promotion for some of its products. It may associate its product with hot FMCG running in the market at that time. For example, offering a popular biscuits or cake brand with Pepsodent toothpaste, Radhuni spice mix with Sunsilk shampoo (she who cooks; style her hair too; so the proverb goes). Rather than giving gifts which are of no use to rural consumers, they should be given useful products. These types of co-branding promo offer add value for the customers, keeps the sales steady, and delight customers with surprise. It also creates strategic partnership with those brands/companies in those product categories/markets which are not in this companys portfolio. Informing the Retailers of Upcoming Promos Earlier Some retailers were found complaining of changes in promos too often that they feel misguided and confused. For example, they stocked certain brands due to a running promo, but later they found that the promo changed and they could not sell the previous stocks. DSRs push them for ordering more stocks as it increases their own performance, but, in the long run, the company image to the retailers suffers. Retailers should be informed earlier about the nature of upcoming promos. The advantages of this method help: Develop trust based relationship with channel partners is more important than avoiding short-term sale losses. Increase credibility of the DSR, based on whose suggestion, retailers order the stocks. Build long-term partnership between the company and the retailers based on trust. DSR Brand Manager Communication flow A DSR with years of experience in a certain market section (a geographical area) is a tremendous source of information about the market dynamics and customer behavior at the retail level. But it was seen that DSRs do not even know there are some dedicated head office executives who are managing the brands. All they know is there is a territory sales manager who is the big officer of the company. Even these territory managers are not routinely connected to the brand (product line) manager. The benefits of such method lie in: A clear mechanism of DSR-territory sales manager-brand manager communication should be developed. A territory sales manager is coordinating the sales of a certain geographic market area. He is concerned about the basket of products, not the specific brand behavior. So, it will be helpful for the brand managers to have a direct flow of information with the DSR. Knowledge can be shared to and from the sales areas and integrated into the business process Better area-focused marketing efforts can be developed The communication with the head office brand managers will greatly enhance the meaning of DSRs routine job, and they will be motivated. Company Named Shopping Bag for High Volume Purchases Many customers come to the shop, order a list of products either pre-decided or right then, and then look for a carrying bag. Sometimes, carrying bags are found in the same shop, or they buy them from another shop. These high-volume or regular customers can be offered a shopping bag for free or at a normal price. This shopping bag can be a company or brand promotion. Also, this will be a value addition for the traders/ retailers in terms of trader-consumer relationship and value addition for the consumers. Sun Shed for the Shop Many retailers have to hang a long, sometimes very long cloth, in front of the shop, to protect it from the direct sun rays. Sometimes, they have to do the same thing for rains. Many passer-bys/customers take a short break under this temporary shed. They can be provided corporate or brand labeled cloth for shedding, which helps the communication between product or corporate brand and customers.

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Some Other Ways to Increase Brand Visibility and Communication


Sorting the products/ brands properly (visibly) in the shelf Some shopkeepers keep Tibet, Lux, and Aromatic indiscriminately. If all the SKUs of a particular brand is kept in an orderly fashion, the brand name is clearly visible to the purchaser and this presentation creates a strong impression. A careful sorting of Bangla font and English font in equal proportion; Packages have different sizes of font of their product labels. Displaying the large images to the front would create better visibility. Corporate or specific brand labeled seat for the shop keepers Shopkeepers keep on sitting for very long time throughout the day on mostly wooden seats. They can be provided corporate or specific brand labeled seats/ chairs. Corporate or specific brand labeled seat for the customers Many customers come and sit for a long time and have a chat with shopkeepers and other local peers gathered in and around the shop. They should not be mistaken for time-wasters always. Sometimes, these customers act as salespersons when the shop keeper goes out to use the toilet or for some reason and at that time other customers walk in. Also, when the shopkeeper is trying to sell something to walk-in customers, these sit-in customers join the shopkeepers and even help in packaging. So, there could be sitting arrangements for want-to-sit-in customers. It will be a value addition to the retailers in terms or customer relationships. Dedicated company display shelf space Nestl, BATB, and Unilever do it very visibly. They provide a specific shelf for their product. Other local companies can do it. It will increase their brand visibility and will raise the cost of merchandising to the companies already doing that. Corporate or specific brand labeled T shirts Retail shop owners, shop employees, and even some regular customers can be provided these kinds of gifts. Brand is communicated to all customers visiting the shop. Corporate or a specific brand-labeled Tshirt can be given to DSRs who move from shop to shop; the brand is communicated to everyone who comes across them. Fill in the blank spaces in the shop In many shops, there are spaces which the shop owner could not polish or have a finishing or color it. These spaces can be effectively used for brand or corporate communication. Corporate or specific brand posters can be labeled in the spaces to be covered. These will make retailers happy, as they add to the interior beauty of the shop.

Conclusion
The author found that many of the above mentioned ideas are still underutilized or unutilized by many companies. Companies spend hundreds of thousands of taka each year for brand communication through the marketing services firms. But this study shows that there are many simple, efficient and also effective ways or doing that. Especially in rural and sub urban areas with low media reach, these brand communication techniques are more directly visible and related to customers, retailers, and distributors. As a consequence, in the brand communication activities, participation of all parties- resellers and consumers--is expected to be higher. In a word, brand communication efforts will be more effective and cost-effective. Especially, small companies that cannot afford big budget for traditional media can use these ideas as cost-effective alternatives for increasing brand communication.

Bibliography
Baig, M A, (1980). Guidelines for urban and rural marketing. Indian Journal of Marketing, 10(5), 3-8. Balakrishna, M (1978). Rural marketing myth and reality. Economic and Political weekly. August.

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Das, V Mukunda. (1982). Some aspects of rural markets in India. The Economic Times, May 26 and 27. Dhumal, M. N., Tayade, A., & Khandkar. (2008), A. rural marketing: Understanding the consumer behaviour and decision process. Conference on Marketing to Rural Consumers, Indian Institute of Management Kozhikode. Doshi, H. N. (1972). Promotion and advertising in rural marketing in new opportunities in changing agriculture. Ahmedabad: CMA (IIMA), pp 141-150. Klaus G. Grunert, Lars Esbjerg, Tino Bech-Larsen, Karen Bruns, Hans Jrn Juhl. (2006). Consumer preferences for retailer brand architectures: results from a conjoint study. International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management, 34(8), 597-608. Kotler, P., & Keller, K. (2006). Marketing management, 12 edition. Pearson Education, 266-268. Eagle, L., & Kitchen, P. J. (2000). IMC, brand communications, and corporate cultures: Client/advertising agency co-ordination and cohesion, European Journal of Marketing, 34(5/6), 667686. Miller, N. J., & Kean, Rita. C. (1997). Factors contributing to in shopping behavior in rural trade areas. Journal of Small Business Management, 35. Sun, T., & Wu, G. (2004). Consumption patterns of Chinese urban and rural consumers. Journal of Consumer Marketing 21(4), 245-253 Tellis, G. J., & Weiss, D. L. (1995). Does TV advertising really affect sales? The role of measures, models, and data aggregation, Journal of Advertising, 24(3), 1-12 Basamatkar, M. S. (2008). Marketing strategies for rural Indian markets. Emerging Face of Rural Indian Markets, Alliance Business Academy working papers, http://www.alliancebschool.ac.in/papers/marketing/10 Grey sees purple patch in rural marketing campaign, Star Business Report, The Daily Star, August 08, 2003.

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