Successes in Social Marketing Impact Contraceptive Use

David Olson

Olson Global Communications | Principal
Photo Credit: David J. Olson

Two salesmen from DKT India make a pitch for condoms and oral contraceptive pills to the owner of a pharmacy in the Mumbai slums. In 2013, DKT India delivered 2.9 million couple years of protection, making it the ninth biggest contraceptive social marketing program in the world. Photo Credit: David J. Olson

In 2013, social marketing organizations around the world delivered more impact than ever before: 70 million couple years of protection (CYPs). This is an increase of 6.8% from the 65.5 million CYPs produced in 2012, according to the 2013 Contraceptive Social Marketing Statistics just published by DKT International. (A couple year of protection is the amount of contraception needed to protect one couple for one year; see note at the end of this blog post for more details.)

The report provides details on 93 contraceptive social marketing programs in 66 countries, all of which are helping provide modern contraception and reduce unmet need for family planning among women and families in their countries.

The social marketing program that produced the most CYPs in 2013 was DKT Indonesia, which delivered 6.7 million CYPs in the form of contraceptives sold through social marketing channels such as pharmacies, convenience stores, and medical wholesalers. The second biggest program was the Government of India, with 5.8 million CYPs (although over 40% of these CYPs were for products given out for free, which was not the case with other programs in the Top 10). Here is the Top 10 list in contraceptive social marketing in 2013:

  1. DKT Indonesia, 6.7 million CYPs
  2. Government of India, 5.8 million CYPs
  3. Social Marketing Company (SMC), Bangladesh, 4.44 million CYPs
  4. Greenstar Social Marketing, Pakistan, 4.42
  5. PSI/India, 3.8 million CYPs
  6. Society for Family Health (SFH), Nigeria, 3.4 million CYPs
  7. Population Health Services (India), 3.3 million CYPs
  8. DKT Ethiopia, 3.1 million CYPs
  9. DKT India, 2.89 million CYPs
  10. Profamilia, Colombia, 2.87 million CYPs

The report also ranks programs by calculating the extent to which they reached their target market (this includes programs delivering at least 300,000 CYPs and reaching more than 9% of their target markets). The target market was calculated as 75% of women aged 15-49. By that standard, the 10 contraceptive social marketing programs with greatest reach were the following:

  1. PSI/Cambodia, 40%
  2. Society for Family Health, Zambia, 33%
  3. Profamilia, Colombia, 30%
  4. PSI/Madagascar, 26%
  5. PSI/Tanzania, 26%
  6. DKT Ethiopia, 25%
  7. PSI/Mali, 24%
  8. PSI/Zimbabwe, 17%
  9. DKT Egypt, 16%
  10. Social Marketing Company, Bangladesh, 14%

I reached out to the heads of these outstanding social marketing programs to ask them about the factors that led to this success. Here are excerpts from what they told me:

DKT Indonesia: This program started with donor funds in 1996 and is now 100% financially self-sufficient. “In my view, three key factors contributed to this success,” said Country Representative Todd Callahan. “First, grants were instrumental for the launch of the program and achievement of scale more rapidly than would have been possible otherwise. Donor funding added breadth by supporting programmatically important but break-even or unprofitable products. Second, it is clear that enormous, unfulfilled market need has been an important driver of our steady growth. Finally, these results would not be possible without the hard work and enthusiasm of the Indonesian staff and management team.”

PSI/India: “Because of our friendly price points, PSI condom brands enjoy better shelf space at retail and preferences by the consumer,” said Country Representative Pritpal Marjara. He also gives credit to a strong retail and trade partner network that allows PSI India to “capitalize on the commercial network smartly and distribute product widely,” as well as periodic support from donors to expand coverage in rural and urban areas.

SFH Nigeria: Managing Director Bright Ekweremadu cites a number of factors for SFH’s success, including a strong board, its partnership with PSI, collaboration with national and international NGOs, donor diversification, staff longevity, and, above all, said Ekweremadu, the fact that “SFH is a learning culture of integrity and accountability determined to provide quality services to its stakeholders.”

Population Health Services (India) (affiliated with Marie Stopes International): This program was started with donor funds, but is seeking to evolve into a financially sustainable program. “The program design and execution focuses on meeting unmet need by increasing physical and financial access to contraceptives, especially for hard-to-reach and underserved clients,” said Vivek Malhotra, director of PHSI. “Modern technology has also been a factor in success and has helped improve efficiency, effectiveness, and expand scale of operation.”

DKT Ethiopia: Andy Piller, who has just left Ethiopia after 10 years as the DKT country representative there, cites increased government commitment to family planning beginning in 2005, “generous donor funding from donors that don’t micromanage,” and his social marketing program’s close collaboration with private sector, NGO, and public sector partners.

DKT India: For most of DKT’s 22-year history in India, it worked with the Government of India. “During that long history, we were also able to establish two very strong brands, hand in hand with the government and the generous support of donors,” said Collin Dick, the country director. “But the real success story, over the last two years, was where we pulled out of our affiliation with GOI and started distributing our brands as low-cost commercial value brands, riding the brand equity we'd built up with government and donor help but now applying far more rigor from the sales and marketing end.  We are already seeing an increase in the size and scale of our impact in a country that really needs it, and are bullish about the future.”

Profamilia, Colombia: “Two of the biggest reasons for Profamilia’s success is that the entire country knows and trusts our brand, and Profamilia’s knowledge of the market and needs of the users,” said Marta Royo, executive director of Profamilia. “We have focused on developing a dedicated sales force that goes beyond the sale of a product, and adds personal attention. Finally, we have implemented a rigorous management of the social marketing process. This means recruiting professional and specialized talent, acquiring tools, and employing innovative technologies, including a system of online information that allows us to follow daily figures and make quick and timely decisions.”

DKT, PSI, and MSI all have big plans for future growth. DKT aims to deliver 28 million CYPs this year. PSI has a goal of achieving 105.6 million CYPs in the period 2012-2016. This is a 30% increase over the previous five years; PSI expects to exceed this target in 2016 based on performance to date. MSI is looking to triple its impact by 2020, with a particular focus on what it calls “high impact” CYPs, a measure which evaluates the organization’s reach to the most underserved populations.

NOTE: For this report, DKT International calculates a couple year of protection as equivalent to 100 sold condoms, 200 free condoms, 14 pill cycles, four three-month injectables, six two-month injectables, 12 one-month injectables, 20 female condoms, 14 emergency contraceptives, .33 implants, .25 intrauterine devices, .59 doses of medical abortion, .0208 manual vacuum aspiration kits, and 16 misoprostol.



Hi David,

The 2013 numbers were just released, so that data is the most recent available. Thanks for your question!

Yes, Shannon is correct. The 2013 contraceptive social marketing figures were released relatively late in 2014. Figures for 2014 probably won't be available until the middle part of 2015. However, in a blog posted today on entitled "7 family trends to watch for in 2015," DKT President Chris Purdy writes that he expects an increase in couple years of protection equal to or greater than the 6.8% increase seen from 2012 to 2013. Thus, social marketing should continue to make a significant contribution to the FP2020 goal.