Are malls catching on with small town marketers?

By Tarana Khan , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Advertising | February 10, 2009
Are malls in small towns the next destination for brand promotional activities? afaqs! spoke to industry leaders to find out their opinions

It's a common scene at shopping malls in metros - brands keep the malls buzzing with their on-ground activities and contests. The activities work because the customer is unhurried and in the right frame of mind to hear the sales pitch. Also, the target group (TG) in a mall is much more filtered than the common man on the street.

In the last few years, malls and shopping complexes have mushroomed not only in the metros but also in small towns in India. Small town India can be further divided into cities and towns. Cities include state capitals, while smaller towns comprise of the district headquarters. It is estimated that there will be about 600 malls in India by 2010 and 51 per cent of these malls will be in Tier II and Tier III cities.

One & #BANNER1 & # expects that such brand promotional activities would also gain momentum in smaller towns. Unfortunately, industry professionals did not seem very keen on the subject when afaqs! sought their opinion.

RV Rajan, president, Rural Marketing Association of India (RMAI), and chairperson and managing director, Anugrah Madison, believes that malls in small towns still have a long way to go.

"Footfalls are not very high in small town malls. Any kind of activity being executed in these will require customers to take the trouble of specially visiting the mall to participate in it. On the contrary, such activities in the local market would get more attention and visibility."

Vijay Singh, managing director, 141 Sercon, on a similar note, says, "In smaller towns, the traditional trade still holds strong, especially due to the relationship between the retailer and the consumer. So, for a brand which wants to use the last mile for experiential marketing, malls can be an option, but on the flip side, brands can't reach out to the entire population through this medium."

The general purview is that shopping complexes in smaller towns are restricted mainly to the high end consumers of that market. They are effective for brands which want to reach out to this TG. As a senior industry professional says, "For a mass brand, traditional markets are still a viable option."

Singh of 141 Sercon says, "The logic of any brand activation is to go where the right TG for the brand exists - it could be a mall or even a tea stall."

However, there are a few marketers who have used these malls in small towns to their advantage.

Priya Monga, business head, RC&M, an agency which specialises in small town activations, is one such professional who has leveraged the mushrooming shopping malls. Monga says, "Malls in small towns are the new upcoming attraction where people like to spend their time and enjoy the facilities - especially on holidays and weekends."

She claims that in a Class B town, on a given weekend, the maximum footfalls in a mall could reach up to 10,000.

RC&M has done campaigns for brands such as Hero Ultra, where its electric bike was promoted in 50 cities, mostly in malls and their vicinity. (Hero Ultra has now demerged into two brands - Hero and Ultra).

Deba Ghoshal, former director, marketing, Ultra Motor, corroborates on the success of the campaign. During its campaign last year, Hero Ultra sold 200 bikes on the spot during the promotion and generated 1000 leads. In fact, Ultra plans to spend about 75 per cent of its marketing budget on BTL below-the-line) activities this year.

He says that it is important to have the 'tamasha factor', irrespective of the location, to catch the consumers' interest.

Ghosal adds, "Mall activation makes sense in cities but in smaller towns, caravans and road shows are still preferable."

Amit Bajaj, manager, brand communication, Kidstuff Promotions, says, "Brand activation in small towns were only restricted to road shows and school contact programmes. But lately, brands have become open to experimenting with other formats such as malls, youth hangouts, multiplexes, gyms, bars and clubs, which offer a captive audience."

Kidstuff has done campaigns for brands such as Dish TV, Intel and Kurkure.

From what afaqs! could gather after speaking to the industry professionals, malls and shopping complexes in small towns are certainly becoming popular among brand owners. However, it will take a while before they gain strength and momentum as a separate medium.