PSI Case Studies Complement Learnings at the World Social Marketing Conference

By Dana Sievers, Research Coordinator, PSI

Over the next two days, social marketers and behavior change professionals from around the globe will convene at the 2017 World Social Marketing Conference (WSMC) to share lessons learned and best practices for solving the world’s most pressing social issues. A key highlight at this year’s gathering is the release of Professor Jeff French’s latest book, Social Marketing and Public Health, which provides a comprehensive overview of the new conceptual models and approaches to influence behaviors that promote health and prevent disease. Taking an international focus, this new edition features four case studies and one chapter highlighting PSI’s own social marketing and social franchising work.

Social marketing programs help grow health markets by influencing demand and supply for products and services and promoting their use. The approach has grown in its sophistication and importance within the public health space. While often used in high-income countries to promote behaviors like smoking cessation and healthy eating, PSI’s case studies highlight how social marketing can be effectively used in low- and middle-income countries to address common health issues such as HIV, family planning (FP), and malaria treatment.

A useful resource for program implementers, the book provides both an introduction to core concepts and techniques as well as case examples to illustrate the practical applications of social marketing in public health. Below are five takeaways, as illustrated by PSI’s own programs.

  1. Appropriate pricing drives sales and sustainability: The Social Marketing Company Bangladesh (SMC) started as an FP project in 1974 under an agreement between PSI, the Government of Bangladesh and USAID. Since launching in 1990, the private limited company has used a cross-subsidization strategy for its portfolio of FP products. SMC markets FP products at three different price points. Higher-priced products are marketed to wealthier population segments, and the profits generated are used to back the subsidized products provided to lower-income populations. Cross-subsidy allows SMC to reduce its reliance on donor funding as well as to diversify and expand program activities using the revenue generated through product sales.
  1. Partnerships are powerful: The UNITAID Private Sector RDT Project, which ended in 2016, aimed to increase demand for quality-assured malaria rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs), improve private providers’ fever case management skills, and increase public-private engagement. PSI implemented the project alongside several partners. The Foundation for Innovative Diagnostics (FIND) and the World Health Organization (WHO) created quality assurance standards and guidance for RDTs. FIND and the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health developed training materials and job aids and tools for providers. National stakeholders in both the public sector (Ministry of Health, national malaria control program) and private sector (medical associations, pharmaceutical wholesalers) worked together to shift policy to permit the use of RDTs by trained health providers. By leveraging partners’ unique resources, skills and expertise, the project achieved its goal of offering quality-assured RDTs in more private-sector outlets, thereby expanding access for consumers.
  1. Consumer insight and segmentation is essential: Following WHO recommendations, the Government of Zimbabwe adopted voluntary medical male circumcision (VMMC) as an HIV prevention intervention in 2009. Despite the method’s proven effectiveness for reducing the risk of HIV transmission, uptake of VMMC was low. PSI conducted quantitative and qualitative research to understand men’s barriers and motivators to seeking VMMC. The evidence showed that men were mainly motivated by factors other than HIV prevention. To increase acceptability, PSI positioned VMMC as a lifestyle choice, rather than only a health decision. Study findings also suggested that different age groups were motivated by different factors. Older men liked the promise of improved hygiene, enhanced sexual performance, and the opportunity to set an example for the community. Younger men were influenced by the attitudes of peers and role models, such as popular musicians. Demand-creation messages and channels for reaching these audiences were tailored appropriately. The Zimbabwe experience shows that social marketing programs must understand the values and needs of various consumer segments and develop targeted messaging to address them.
  1. A mix of supply- and demand-side interventions is needed to grow the market: Market development approaches are emerging as a next-generation social marketing strategy. They aim to increase use among consumers in need of a product or service by identifying market failures and opportunities and defining the role of different market players. In Cambodia, PSI used a market development approach to increase use of modern FP methods among women of reproductive age (15-49 years old). On the consumer side, PSI introduced mass media behavior change communication directed at non-users to correct misconceptions of modern methods and address barriers to use. On the supply side, PSI set prices that would enable cost-recovery and created a fund for future purchases. The latter helped ensure commodity security and sustainability. Training and support were also given to providers to improve the quality of services. The combined investment in consumer behavior change, provider capacity building and a more efficient pricing strategy was essential to growing use of modern contraception in Cambodia.
  1. Social franchising expands access to quality services: Social franchising for health arose from the need to create a distribution channel for socially marketed drugs and devices that must be administered by a skilled provider. Quality is a key measure of performance in the social franchising community. Enforcing clinical standards across the network ensures that clients receive quality care, and it protects the franchise’s brand image. Franchisors like PSI maintain standards by providing clear guidelines for service delivery, continuously training and supporting franchisees, and supplying franchise members with quality equipment and drugs. Fortunately, this approach aligns the aims of franchisors with interests of franchisees. Franchise members can lose their membership if they fail to meet network standards; compliance is incentivized because franchisees want to remain affiliated with a reputable brand. The shared commitment to quality helps maintain standards across large networks.

For more information on Prof. Jeff French’s book Social Marketing and Public Health: Theory and Practice, published by Oxford University Press, click here.