Unilever is offering free Bollywood music to 350 million villagers in India, to promote its Lifebuoy soap and Fair & Lovely skin cream products.
Hindustan Unilever started the service in October last year in Bihar, one of India’s poorest states, and has since extended it to neighbouring Jharkhand. The service now has over 8 million listeners.
How it works
Unlike other music streaming services which stream over expensive Wi-Fi and 3G plans, the Unilever music service lets a user place a call to a toll-free number, which disconnects after two rings.
The system then calls the user and plays a 15-minute pre-recorded chunk of music interspersed with ads for the company’s soaps, skin creams, shampoos and detergents.
Last month about 2 million people listened to Unilever’s free music service available on mobile phones in two states.
“Mobile advertising has the reach, the power to measure, and the power of constant engagement,” Girish Nair, the chief executive of Netcore, the agency that is executing Unilever’s mobile service, said. “You now have the opportunity to get data on each subscriber” that could help optimise ad campaigns and improve distribution, he said.
There were 364 million rural cellphone users in India as of January 31, and the pace of additions in villages was faster than cities for the fourth consecutive month, according to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India.
Communicating via missed calls
This initiative has been built by Hindustan Unilever as a natural next step from their strategy of reaching consumers who because of local living standards have access to very little media such as TV or Radio. These communities all have pre-paid mobile phones, however they are very careful how they spend their airtime. So with this in mind consumers in these communities have developed ways of talking to each other by “dropping missed calls” or phoning someone and then ringing off before they answer. In this way they can let them know that they want to talk or meet or even answer a question (for example one missed call for yes two for no) without spending any of their precious airtime.
Hindustan Unilever have picked up on this trend and been using it to deliver fun sponsored content for free through mobile phones by consumers dropping a missed call and then using pre-recorded messages from Bollywood celebrities calling them back to land a brand message. This development of the free mobile radio station is the next step on reaching these rural Indian communities.