Heather Esper

Creating Demand With Social Marketing: ColaLife’s Approach

Getting back to the basics: Need does not equate to demand. And in creating demand there are challenges associated with awareness, access, willingness to pay and utilization. Erik Simanis explored this idea within the BoP context in both the Wall Street Journal and MIT Sloan Management Review, which is summarized well with the following key quote:

Put most simply: The Base of the Pyramid is not actually a market. True, those billions of low-income people have a lot in common. But they don’t have two of the vital characteristics you need to have a consumer market. They haven’t been conditioned to think that the products being offered are something one would even buy. And they haven’t adapted their behaviors and budgets to fit the products into their lives. A consumer market is nothing less than a lifestyle built around a product.”

Too often ventures forget that they need to put forth an additional effort to create demand for the products they offer in BoP markets. ColaLife is a rare example, as its founders thought this through early on in the design phase by creating a social marketing plan. Fitting into the unused spaced between crated bottles, ColaLife’s “AidPods” contain Anti-Diarrhea Kits (ADKs) for home use by mothers and caregivers in underserved rural communities (see the video below for a visual of how the AidPod works). They will be sold at an affordable, subsidized price by trained, local retailers in communities. To learn more about how ColaLife came to be and its overall concept, read our earlier post.

ColaLife is currently conducting a pilot in Zambia to assess these demand creation activities along with its delivery model. (To read more on how medicine supply chains differ from soft drink supply chains see the working paper published by INSEAD’s Social Innovation Centre Always Cola, Rarely Essential Medicines: Comparing Medicine and Consumer Product Supply Chains in the Developing World, particularly Table1). In the pilot each AidPod will include four sachets of UNICEF low osmolality oral rehydration salts (ORS); two packets each containing a blister pack of ten 20mg Zinc tablets, two 25g bars of soap; and information, education and communication (IEC) materials. The pilot will be assessed through a pre-post test with a comparison area as a control and will include a full evaluation.

In Zambia ORS knowledge is well established due to previous Social Marketing campaigns[1], whereas zinc usage is less well established. Therefore in order to create “need” into “demand” for ADKs and compete with products consumer’s “want,” the introduction of the products, particularly zinc, will include both social marketing and community engagement components. ColaLife plans to do this by manipulating the 4 Ps of marketing: Product, Price, Place and Promotion.

  • Product: Soap is a desirable product in Zambia, and will be paired with other useful products to treat diarrhea at home.
  • Price: During the pilot ADKs will be subsidized in order to establish local knowledge of expected price. Vouchers will be provided to mothers and care-givers (e.g. at health centers and community meetings) so that their first ADK is free. A mother or care-giver presents this to the retailer, who then will reveal a code on the voucher by scratching off a concealing strip and will send the voucher code to the mobile system by SMS. The retailer’s mobile money account will be credited with the value of the recommended retail price of the ADK. In addition to the voucher code, there will be an authentication code for the consumer to use. Authentication would be free. The system will receive the ADK code on the ADK label by SMS and reply automatically to indicate if the ADK is genuine. ColaLife will reward mothers and care-givers who authenticate their ADK by giving them an eVoucher for 50% off the cost of their next ADK via the customer’s mobile phone.
  • Place: ADKs will be available in village retail shops/kiosks and will be more accessible than ORS at more distant health posts.
  • Promotion: ColaLife will conduct awareness raising activities by local community-based promoters and IEC campaigns using community drama, household visits, posters and leaflets in churches, schools, shops, markets, bars, and other community gathering places. They will also share features about the project on the community radio as Boggs et al found that inter-personal communication combined with mass media, was critical changing behavior associated with properly taking Zinc in Cambodia. ColaLife’s community-based promoters will carry out follow-up visits to households and target communities to reinforce the other elements of the social marketing effort. ColaLife will also provide training to the wholesalers and retailers in the benefits of the ADKs so they can sell them effectively.

ColaLife also plans to build credibility with the community with their community-based promoters participating in community events being undertaken by others. What do you think of ColaLife’s demand creation plans? Do you know of other successful strategies BoP ventures have utilized to translate need into demand? If so, please continue the conversation by mentioning them in the comments section below.

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[1] Peter Berman, Kasirim Nwuke, Ravindra Rannan-Eliya and Allast Mwanza. 1995. Zambia, Non Governmental Healthcare Provision.

Health Care, Social Enterprise
Base of the Pyramid, social enterprise