SUCCESSFUL AND SUSTAINED MARKETING AND PROMOTIONAL STRATEGIES TO REACH VULNERABLE POPULATIONS IN BANGLADESH
Over nearly a decade on three separate projects, HDI has used a variety of traditional broadcast and print media and innovative, non-traditional media and branding strategies to assist the Bangladeshi government in promoting vital health products and services and broadening their access to the country’s most poor and marginalized citizens.
CONDOM MARKETING USING NON-TRADITIONAL OUTLETS
First, to support the Ministry of Health, HDI began working in Bangladesh in 2001 for Family Health International (FHI) on a USAID-funded strategic marketing, advertising, public relations and advocacy campaign for the country-wide promotion of condoms for HIV/AIDS prevention. The focus was to create interventions to address the needs of high-risk groups, including sex workers and their clients, men who have sex with men, and intravenous drug users. Based upon HDI research among retailers (potential suppliers of condoms) and mobile and migrant workers vulnerable to HIV, the firm designed strategies and implementation plans to build the sales and distribution capacities of the Social Marketing Company (SMC), the large, local NGO formed to challenge the country’s rapid population growth by marketing affordable contraceptive products widely and promoting behaviour change.
HDI hired and trained a special team of young SMC condom promoters to create a “brotherhood network” of small grocers, tobacco (or paan) shops and tea stalls that resulted in 7,500 new non-traditional distribution outlets to ensure that condoms are available and accessible where and when they are needed, especially in “hot spot” areas of affinity to commercial sex activity. The firm also worked with SMC to train these retailers to address questions and concerns and function as additional “ambassadors” of condoms. The retail efforts were bolstered by a mass media campaign, as well as community-based interventions through NGOs, all linked through a common visual theme and “brand mascot” named Bajee Kuddus (portrayed as a confident, tough, virile male). Several TV/ cinema spots and radio commercials featuring him were produced to address major myths and misperception about HIV to create a sense of personal risk and to motivate condom use in each sexual encounter for lasting peace of mind. The character boasts about his supposed knowledge of HIV/AIDS by making bets with his companions, but is always beaten by an authority who corrects his misunderstanding. Overall, HDI’s work was lauded by USAID and SMC as one of the most innovative and successful HIV/AIDS advocacy campaigns in Asia.
STI AND HIV SERVICES THROUGH BRANDED MODHUMITA CLINICS
Based on its past success, HDI partnered again by FHI in 2004 to develop strategies to ensure that government-sponsored health clinics operated by various NGOs would consistently provide high-quality prevention, care, treatment and support services for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV/AIDS to its most-at-risk clientele. The marketing challenge of transforming the product (the clinic) into a desirable place that target groups would enthusiastically use on a regular basis involves the two-pronged approach of improving the facilities as well as creating a demand for the improved services. In order to accomplish this, HDI helped SMC to create a new integrated health center (IHC) social franchise by branding and unifying 65 disparate facilities under the new name of Modhumita (which stands for how the target audience perceives “quality of care,” a kind or sweet friend who you can confide in.)
The Modhumita centers have to adhere to clinical and operational quality assurance (QA/QI) standard operating protocols and regular inspections to maintain brand quality. And true to the brand “essence,” HDI helped transform the centers from sterile clinics to places where sex workers, men who have sex with men, and intravenous drug users could go to receive a bundle of services—including confidential testing and screening, education and counseling, condom and lubricant distribution and basic health services—and feel welcomed, comfortable, safe, respected and cared for. To reach out to target groups without bringing unwanted attention or stigmatization in a religiously conservative society, traditional mass media was forgone in favor of community outreach campaigns and non-traditional “social” networks—that is, select peer educators, hotel managers, brothel owners and rickshaw drivers were trained to refer clients to the clinics in a stealth (“under the radar”) manner. HDI developed a segmented and targeted communication and media strategy addressing the needs of each group, for example “mood posters” placed in specific health centers to provide a sense of community and friendship. Visits to Modhumita branded clinics increased fivefold compared to non-branded clinics during the first year of evaluation. And clients rated higher overall satisfaction with their services, environment and informational materials compared to non-branded clinics.
ESSENTIAL HEALTH SERVICES THROUGH BRANDED SMILING SUN CLINICS
Following its success with branding STI and HIV/AIDS services, the firm has been working as the communications partner to Chemonics International since 2007 on another similar campaign. This time, HDI is supporting an innovative franchising approach to convert the existing USAID-funded NGO network of Smiling Sun clinics that provide essential services—such as family planning, antenatal care, immunization, limited curative care, as well as emergency obstetric care and diagnostic services—into a viable, financially sustainable social health system that can continue to serve the poorest Bangladeshis who cannot afford to pay for their healthcare. For the Smiling Sun network to be able to care for this vulnerable population without USAID support, it must substantially increase paying customers to all clinics from all socio-economic levels and has to encourage current clients to consume more services.
To aid in this goal, HDI has been building the capacity of the Bangladesh Center for Communications Programs (BCCP), the project’s local ad agency, to generate demand and “create a buzz” for Smiling Sun services by focusing on brand promotion and positioning and further capitalizing on the well-recognized visual identity (of a smiling sun with the tagline “For All”) with radio and TV spots, brand video, theme song and event sponsorships. And it has been providing guidance to the local Franchise Development Team in developing a basic Marketing and Communication Plan for individual clinics to primarily target women of reproductive age (especially newlyweds, pregnant women and mothers of children under 5). The plan includes tactics and models for promoting new services and products to different market segments: loyal customers, lapsed clients who need to be invited back, and those community members who have never having visited before. HDI’s demand-generating strategies for Smiling Sun include guidelines for establishing brand loyalty awards and leaders of influence programs, targeting special audiences (e.g., men and youth), creating community- and clinic-based health clubs and children’s corners, and hosting open houses and special days promotions (i.e., Safe Motherhood Day).