Contraceptive Social Marketing: Lessons from experience

Contraceptive social marketing (CSM) programs use commercial marketing techniques, mass media, and existing commercial networks to distribute, promote, and sell products. These programs now sell condoms, pills, and other contraceptives at subsidized prices, through retail stores, in 13 countries. A well-managed, publicized, and adapted program can usually reach 5-15% of all reproductive age couples; but programs in Bangladesh, Colombia, and Egypt reach 30% of current family planning users. The other major CSM programs, having sold products for 6-16 years, are in India, Sri Lanka, Jamaica, Thailand, El Salvador, Nepal, and Mexico. Programs were begun in the 1970s in Ghana, Indonesia, Kenya, and Tunisia, but did not continue. The Caribbean (Barbados, St. Vincent, and St. Lucia), Hondurus, and Guatemala began sales in 1984-1985; new programs are about to begin in Costa Rica, Nigeria, and Peru, and are planned for the Dominican Republic, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Mexico, Pakistan, and Panama. This article examines CSM program achievements by looking at such program elements as: 1) potential customers, 2) products, 3) prices, 4) market research, 5) distribution, and 6) promotion, and by discussing program management in terms of its 2 goals, 1) making contraceptives more widely available, and 2) recovering some program costs. The author emphasizes the lessons that have been learned about each program element and provides many examples of program successes and failures. A discussion of the marketing of oral rehydration therapy (ORT) demonstrates how social marketing techniques may be used to sell other products. The article provides cost analysis for programs in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Egypt, as well as ranking the 10 programs in terms of 1) sales, 2) couple years of protection (CYP), 3) coverage estimates, and 4) cost per CYP. A discussion follows of the most successful programs.

Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health,Center for Communication Programs,Population Information Program