How to Market to the Bottom of the Pyramid

Social franchises and social marketing are key phrases in PSI’s health work. At the core, they are about providing services and products for the bottom of the pyramid. Marketing products to the poor and in different parts of the world come with their own challenges. We were happy to see a recent blog post from Living Goods Director of Marketing Chris Murphy that lists five tips for marketing to the bottom of the pyramid.

Here are three from the list:

Brands matter. If risk rules purchase behavior, a strong brand is surely a BoP marketer’s best friend.  Indeed, brands were the first form of consumer protection to emerge from the industrial era.  Brands make firms accountable to their customers. And well-built brands are a storehouse for consumers’ trust, loyalty, and advocacy. Clearly, branding has grown far more sophisticated, as have consumers. But as we wrote in a previous post, well-built brands are a powerful asset for both organizations and the risk averse customers they serve.

Create the category.  For many products and services seeking to penetrate the BoP there is simply no demand for what they are selling. More often than not, marketing at the BoP needs to focus on creating the market – conditioning consumers to consider purchasing a given product or service.  It’s not about building brand differentiation within an established category.  It’s about establishing the category itself.  As is the case in any market, we’ve found it is far easier to get consumers to switch to superior products within an established category than it is to get consumers to consider shelling out their shillings on greenfield goods.  For example, our clean burning cook stoves are a superior alternative to the inefficient traditional, dirty burning stoves polluting the homes of our consumers. Our stove is an easy sell in an established category – we’ve achieved over 50% clean cook stove penetration across the communities we serve.  On the other hand, clean water is a much harder sell in our markets. Most consumers decontaminate their water by boiling.  Although they typically don’t bring their water to an effective, germ killing boil.  Regardless of the end result, our consumers don’t pay for a safe water product; they clean their water for free.  Clean water is not a part of our customer’s purchase behavior – at least not directly.  To build the market for new products and services, marketers need to encourage consumers to adopt the lifestyle – the new routines and behaviors – that surround their new product.  Creating the category is a much different challenge than differentiating a brand within an existing category.

Marketing as a service.   To win consumer trust, marketers need to do more than build awareness or differentiation.  They need to turn they marketing into a useful service itself.  The avalanche of branded mobile apps provide plenty of examples for developed world consumers.  Charmin’s Sit or Squat app is a great example  - a free mobile app to help you find a public restroom, complete with user reviews.  At Living Goods, we also use mobile technology to provide such services to our customers.  We send automated SMS adherence reminders whenever we treat a child for malaria or diarrhea. Simple SMS reminders are a much-appreciated service for mothers with countless competing demands on their time.  We also developed our version of a Text4Baby service to support pregnant women and newborns.  Of course technology isn’t a prerequisite for marketing as a service. Toyola’s ‘money box’ is a simple, powerful consumer-financing scheme that doubles as powerful product marketing – made possible with a simple tin can.

You can see his two other tips here. Let us know what you think in the comments section. Is Murphy missing anything in his list? Did he get anything wrong?