MARKETING PRODUCTS AND SERVICES
Better health is out of reach for the majority of the world’s most vulnerable people because health products and services are inaccessible – often due to unaffordable prices and limited distribution.
How can we make health products and services accessible?
PSI-Caribbean uses a human-centred approach to understand what motivates someone to adopt a health solution, and then we get the product or service to them in a way they understand, at a price they can afford and in a place that is convenient.
How does this business approach benefit people with the greatest need?
Marketing products and services to improve health isn’t your standard non-profit approach. PSI-Caribbean’s marketing approach includes both supporting the sale and the free distribution of products and services. Sometimes giving products or services away for free provides greater health impact, and at other times, selling is best and provides a more sustainable solution.
Take the condom market in the eastern Caribbean, for example. To increase access to condoms for everyone, we need to look at the total market of condoms in the region, which includes:
- Condoms that are given for free (such as the IPPF generic condom) for those with the greatest need.
- Commercial condoms (such as Rough Rider, Slam, or Long Love) that are sold at pharmacies at full price to people who can afford it.
- Donor-subsidized condoms (such as Cool) for people who can only afford to pay a little
We then market the right brand at the right price to the right people. When people who can afford to pay buy subsidized or commercial condom brands, the free condoms can be given exclusively to those with the greatest need ensuring limited resources are best spent.
Segmenting the total market for a health product or service in this way – based on price – maximizes development aid, so everyone accesses life-saving health solutions at a price they can afford.
How does marketing products and services strengthen health systems?
A health market has various players – wholesalers, distributors, retailers, providers, consumers, etc. — and marketing approach to distributing health products and services benefits them all. For example, marketing condoms at a subsidized price in the private sector provides economic benefits to the local manufacturer who produces the product, the local distributor who gets it where it needs to go and the local retailers who make a small profit off the product. It also frees up the availability of free condoms, through the public sector, for the people who need it but cannot afford to pay.
In many countries in developing world, most people access health products and services from the private sector, such as small kiosks or clinics. They rely on these private retailers and health providers to be capable, willing and motivated to provide these health solutions. We use our marketing acumen to gain insight on the biases, needs, obstacles and motivations of these market players to providing health products and services. We then:
Oftentimes, people who can afford to pay for a health solution do not have a product or service that best meets their needs in the market. They then over-burden the public sector for the free products that need to be dedicated exclusively to those with the greatest need. A marketing approach to distributing products and services creates an appealing and affordable product or service in the subsidized or commercial sector, thus alleviating the burden on the public sector.
When we use a marketing approach to distribute products and services based on peoples’ abilities to pay, each link along the distribution chain – such as wholesalers, distributors, and retailers – will receive a profit. This profit motivates the players to carry the product or service, making them more widely available for the people in need. A prime example is PSI-Caribbean’s partnership with major condom distributors in Jamaica, Belize and St Kitts which allows PSI-Caribbean to incentivize these large wholesalers to make small sales to small retailers, making condoms easily available to people in communities and also increasing profit margins for both wholesaler and retailer.
A marketing approach to distributing life-saving health products and services can create a market for a type of product that never existed. For example, we might be the first to introduce a condom to a market. By segmenting the condom market based on peoples’ abilities to pay, we create a space for a commercial entity, such as a Durex, to then enter the condom market and remain in the market long after donor subsidies deplete.
A stronger health system, bolstered by this marketing approach to distributing products and services, better serves the needs of its people, contributes to economic growth, and reduces dependency on development aid over time.