Never underestimate the small

Stimulant's Carrie Gillis is attending seminars so you don't have to. Today, she reports back on the Independent Agency Showcase.

Even the big guys have to go small sometimes . . .

by Carrie Gillis

One agency that has a bustling retail business on the side and another that’s created the largest partnership for one of the world’s largest marketers talked about what works in the BRIC countries this week at the Cannes Lions. The Independent Agency Showcase left no doubt that ‘independent in emerging markets’ doesn’t mean ‘small.’ Co-founder and president of thenetworkone Julian Boulding presided over four case studies coming out of Brazil, Russia, India and China.

Proving the success of the rural emerging market is Pradeep Kashyap, founder of MART Rural Solutions. Leaving the competitive markets of urban India for the multi-nats to fight over, MART focuses instead on the 50% of India’s population living in rural areas. Never mind obstacles such as lack of electricity or roads, they’ve customized their marketing efforts to the rural Indian way of life. They’ve brought Unilever together with rural women who want a more sustainable business than scrabbling together produce and livestock, and who now sell Unilever products at markets instead. With 47,000 markets, 300 stalls and 5,000 people at each market, it’s an ideal vehicle to get product to the masses. Dubbed Project Shakti (strength), the initiative has created jobs for 35,000 Indian women.

Also stepping it up is IQ Marketing out of Moscow. Director Dmitry Levteev explained how an idea for client gifts turned into a booming side business for the agency. They created the Samobranka – their take on the traditional Russian folklore tablecloth – for clients, leading to calls from people in other countries clamouring for one of their own, and eventually selling in bulk to Russia’s leading bookstore chain. Thinking big, they’ve branched out into other traditional gifts and with their clients’ help are now using the funds to help underprivileged children in rural Russia.

Embracing local culture and traditions and entrenching them in marketing efforts is the key to success in these emerging markets, and as both Kashyap and Levteev will tell you, they’ve built a business on it.

They may not have covered this in MBA programs.

Carrie Gillis is in Cannes this week enjoying $40 screwdrivers (and attending seminars).


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