Using Consumer Marketing Strategies to Transform the Private Market for Malaria Treatment

Lessons Learned from the DRC

By Katie MacDonald, Deputy Chief of Party for DEFEAT Malaria, PSI/ASF

More than 11 million malaria cases are reported annually in the Democratic Republic of Congo, making it the second most malaria-affected country in the world. Yet, appropriate malaria diagnosis and treatment is often unavailable, especially in private clinics and pharmacies where over 70% percent of the population in DRC seek care for fever related illnesses.

Through the DFID funded “Support to Malaria Control in the DRC” program, also known as DEFEAT Malaria, PSI and network member Association de Santé Familiale (ASF) are working to improve the availability of and access to quality malaria medicines in DRC’s private sector. Under leadership from DRC’s National Malaria Control Program (NMCP) at the Ministry of Health (MOH) and in partnership with six WHO pre-qualified drug manufacturers, the DEFEAT malaria program is facilitating market level changes that will increase both the supply and demand of quality-assured artemisinin-based combination therapies (QAACTs) – the frontline medication for malaria – in DRC’s private sector.

An important part of transforming the market is creating demand at the consumer level for the products and services you are promoting. Check out key lessons the project has learned during their first year of implementation that have gotten them one step closer towards building a market for quality-assured ACTs in DRC’s private sector.

1. Make a splash with your product launch.

A strategic public launch for a new product brand is an important opportunity to give an initial boost in sales and allow the product to reach a larger audience. Acknowledging this, the DEFEAT MALARIA project planned a large launch event in coordination with a local marketing agency that included a strategic media plan, grassroots marketing, and important keynote speakers from the government and donor (?) to create excitement around quality-assured ACTs. Implemented in coordination with the government, the launch proved successful and worth the investment. Following the event, the project saw an increase in monthly sales from 10,000 treatments to 40,000 and it remained a reference point following the activity.

2. Develop a brand identity that resonates with your audience.

The market for malaria medications in the DRC is flooded with non-quality assured medications. The DEFEAT MALARIA project had to develop the identity of a “Green Leaf” logo to be synonymous with quality in order to differentiate it from the rest of the products on the market. This concept was communicated by telling the stories of Congolese people making decisions about their health and the health of their families when they were sick but who lacked guidance in terms of what treatments worked. The Green Leaf is promoted as a simple way to guide consumers through the decision making process of identifying a quality malaria treatment.

The project team worked with a local affiliate of Ogilvy & Mather, Océan, to create the campaign for the Green Leaf brand. Messaging focused on testing all fevers prior to treatment and using a QAACT recommended by NMCP and identifying quality malaria treatment by the Green Leaf. These messages were consistent across the consumer marketing strategy and visible in posters, billboards and radio and TV spots.

3. Find creative ways to engage providers.

The medical detailers working on the DEFEAT MALARIA project provided posters and other gadgets to all pharmacies and clinics stocking the goods. These providers saw the marketing tools as a benefit given that many don’t have the budget for promotional materials and used the posters as an opportunity to improve the appearance of their stores or pharmacies. The messaging on the posters focused on promoting the affordability and quality of the products bearing the Green Leaf and noted product approval from the World Health Organization (WHO), the Global Fund, and DRC’s NMCP. The posters and stocking the products provided a certain level of prestige to the pharmacies and clinics, which further motivated the retailers to participate in the program.

Banner photo: © Population Services International / Banner Photo by: Benjamin Schilling