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Rural Audiences Say Size (Of Packaging) Matters

IMB_LenovoChinaPC There was an interesting story recently in the Wall Street Journal talking about how computer manufacturers are heavily pushing into rural parts of China to convince more customers outside of major metropolitan areas to buy and start using computers. One particular campaign from Lenovo* uses a slogan featured in the WSJ piece of "Buy A Lenovo PC, Be A Happy Bride." As one of the regional marketing managers from Lenovo notes:

"They [people in rural China] like to give desktop PCs because the boxes are large. They deliver the computers to brides' families on trucks, which everyone can see. In these cases, the bigger the box, the better."

If you were marketing PCs to an audience like this, you might be tempted to talk about product features, such as power management built in so that the computer won't get fried by variable currents and electricity spikes (a common occurrence in most rural areas around the world). You could focus on special software for trade industry groups such as farmers that could increase efficiency of what they are already doing. You might even focus on the packaging in terms of how it brings the brand to life and potentially creates an emotional response for a buyer.

What would it take, however, for you to focus on size? When it comes to the rural market – size is important for two big reasons:

  1. Size can be equated with importance. As the PC and wedding gift example shows, the size of the packaging and overal gift is what will be viewed by the recipient (and those watching) as important. With this, it becomes critical to make sure your packaging carries through on the experience you are trying to create.
  2. Micropackaging makes consumable goods affordable. When it comes to those rural and low-income customers, one of the challenges for them is to continually afford some of the more basic consumable goods necessities such as toothpaste and shampoo. More and more large retailers such as Unilever and P&G are offering their products in "single serving" style packaging where customers can just buy a week's (or even a day's) worth of products at a more affordable price.

Flickr Photo Credit: MckaySavage

The most interesting thing about these points, however, is that they don't just apply to rural audiences. Soft drinks are now sold in half cans to avoid wastage. Bulk shopping stores like Costco and Sam's Club take the opposite approach to micropackaging by packaging huge quantities of everything from food to toilet paper together. The lesson this all points towards is that sometimes the most important thing you can do is to focus not just on what you are selling, but also the packaging that you are selling it in.

*Full Disclosure: Lenovo is a past and current client of Ogilvy PR and I have worked on projects for them in the past – but have had no involvement in the campaign mentioned in this post or in their marketing activities to rural China.

5 thoughts on “Rural Audiences Say Size (Of Packaging) Matters”

  1. “Micropackaging makes consumable goods affordable.”

    Not to be a nudge Rohit, but aren’t most advocates for the poor mostly saying the opposite in that the per unit serving of X CPG product when done in single serve is so much more expensive than the same product in larger package size that the “poor” end up with a much worse diet, health care or dental hygene? Affordable on Friday when you have your pay check is not the same as “affordable” on Thursday. Just sayin’.

  2. Ted – good point. From what I’ve seen and read, the micropackaging makes it affordable in the sense that these same rural audiences will choose to purchase the product instead of going without simply because they can’t afford the bigger package (though it may certainly be more economical). The amount of money that you are talking about for a small pack of shampoo or toothpaste, though it may work out high in the very long term seems relatively minimal. And for the weekly convenience of being able to afford both shampoo AND toothpaste instead of just having to pick one, I think the appeal outweighs the cost.


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A keynote speaker on trends, innovation, marketing, storytelling and diversity.

Rohit Bhargava is on a mission to inspire more non-obvious thinking in the world. He is the #1 Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling author of eight books and is widely considered one of the most entertaining and original speakers on disruption, trends and marketing in the world.

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