When making product decisions, the program manager needs to take into account certain concepts and principles. These basic concepts and principles come from decades of experience in the commercial and social marketing arena. Understanding and applying them, will allow program managers to start thinking like marketers!The principles and concepts to keep in mind when making product-relating decisions are thatProducts must respond to user needs and preferences as much as possible.Program managers needs to think in terms of benefits, not features so that the user is always at the heart of the matter.Somewhat related, program managers need to think in terms of products, not technology products that refer to specifications and features. Think shelter, not superstructure for example!Less is best. While some choice may be desirable, having too many options can complicate decision-making for households and communication for example.
Keeping these principles and concepts in mind, there are several options for the program manager when making product-related decisions in the marketing mix.One option is standardization.Standardization is used a lot in social and commercial marketing. A Big Mac™ for example, is the same whether you order it in New York City, San Francisco, Jakarta or Johannesburg. Standardization can offer potential economies of scale in several areas, notably promotion, training of suppliers.The approach of standardizing the product is being used in several countries in Tanzania where 80% of the households already had a simple pit latrine by 2008. Findings from the household survey suggested a more homogeneous market in which, at least initially, no market segmentation was needed. To move householdsup the sanitation and benefits ladders, WSP chose to use a SanPlat in their marketing mix and get households to add this product to their existing latrine. Training of masons focused on how to make and sell the SanPlat and how to retrofit a latrine. All communication materials reflected this single product.
Modularization involves standardizing the product but in a way that allows for households to upgrade over time as needs and budget evolve. As example, a sanitarian named Sumadi in East Java has developed a range of 4 products allowing households to upgrade over time and his model is now being replicated by others.One thing to keep in mind is that modularization, as any product decision, needs to be informed by research. Anecdotal information from East Java and Peru for example suggests that households may prefer to save up and then get their preferred model once and for all rather than upgrade over time. A modular approach building on a benefits ladder that is evidence-based could have some potential though.
A similar product strategy is to focus on a few options. Based on insights from research on both the supply and demand side, the program manager chooses a few options to focus promotion and training on. This strategy is particular appropriate if distinct segments have been identified, differing for example on their needs or purchasing power, or if there are significant hydro-geological considerations to consider.To illustrate, during the 2003-2006 sanitation marketing pilot study in two provinces of Vietnam, IDE focused the promotion and training of providers on 4 toilet models only, following the less-is-best principle.
A natural progression from standardization and modularization is to develop a brand name for a product. To understand the power of branding, imagine going into a popular burger restaurant and ordering a “double beef patty with 3 bread slices, 2 slices of cheese, lettuce, ketchup, mustard, pickle and special sauce” instead of a Big Mac TM. Now imagine a local mason informing a rural householder about, say, a “Royal Highness” instead of “a double offset pour-flush latrine with ceramic pan.” Branding allows the program manager to focus on the product’s benefits rather than its technical specifications. The brand can tap into insights from formative research and ignite drives and aspirations. Branding also leads to potential economies of scale in advertising, promotion and other communication efforts, in training suppliers and distribution. The brand need not be a formal trademark or commercial registration.in Tanzania where only theSanplat is being promoted due to the already high coverage of unimproved latrines, WSP and its partners are promoting it under the name of Sungura.Sungurameans rabbit in Kiswahili, referring to what the slab’s features look like. In addition to being used in promotional materials, the slab is referred to as a Sungura in the mason training program, thus ensuring consistency and synergy across the various components of the sanitation marketing efforts.
Fostering product innovation may be beneficial or even needed under certain circumstances. For example, say locally made slabs tend to be porous and research has told us households find them hard to clean. Or say there are no low cost pour-flush options but research has told us that this is the preferred model.Many sanitation marketing programs to date have expected innovation to spawn naturally or organically from their mason training. Some anecdotal evidence of this occurring comes from East Java wherefollowing a training in one of the districts in early 2009 a health official collaborated with a local manufacturer of motor parts to produce the first low-cost fiberglass latrine pans in the province. However, little data yet suggeststhat this masontraining model is cost-effective in generating innovations that truly meet the needs of households and that occcurat scale. Program managers may explore others strategies for fostering innovation at scale. These would include partnering with innovation foundations to create or ensure incentives exists for a particular need identified or providing technical assistance to organizations so that they can submit strong proposals to enter innovations competitions and obtain grants. These options are more likely to generate results in the medium to long term.Providing technical assistance in human-centered design to appropriate in-country partners in another possibility. This approach was piloted by Acumen Fund for rural water distribution under the Ripple Effects Project.An innovation need not be indigenous– ensuring a product is imported from another country for example could be sufficient. For example, in East Java polypropylene pans are not commonly found yet their properties would confer many of the benefits sought by rural householders. It is feasible to import them.In Cambodia, research findings suggested that most households aspire to a pour-flush latrine but cannot afford one, WSP, international NGO IDE and human-centered design firm IDEO teamed up to develop an affordable and simple latrine core which would confer the benefits of a pour-flush but cost less than half of one due to economies of scale in production and a streamlined design,. Branded as ‘the Easy Latrine’, the toilet is available through local producers who receive training in sanitation and hygiene education, production, and basic business and sales management.
Program managers need to consider the full-life cycle of a latrine, not just the installation of the toilet itself. In this respect, the program manager needs to ensure that products and services are available to support short and long term maintenance. A 2009 assessment of the sustainability of the Vietnam IDE sanitation marketing pilot project undertaken by WSP and IRC found that long term maintenance services such as septic tank emptying need to be developed at the same time as the toilets. Thus, a focus on this part of the supply chain is critical early in the program design and as part of the marketing strategy.Adjunct products may also need to figure in the marketing mix. Handwashing stations, products to help households better manage their children’s feces or mentrual waste should be considered. For example, in Tanzania, WSP has trained masons to also build tippy taps in addition to Sungura slabs, thereby potentially increasing their revenue stream while enabling households to wash their hands with soap more conveniently.
Module 4 Product Options
Product Strategies in Sanitation Marketing<br />Some Options<br />
Key Principles and Concepts<br />Need and user-responsive<br />Think benefits, not features<br />Products vs technology options<br />Less is best<br />
Standardization<br />Follows less-is-best principle<br />Potential economies of scale<br />Example: SanPlat in Tanzania<br />
Modularization<br />Involves standardization<br />Allows for households to upgrade over time<br />Ideally is informed by benefits ladder<br />Example: East Java<br />
Focus<br />Follows less-is-best principle<br />Appropriate if distinct market segments exist or heterogeneous hydro-geological conditions<br />Example: Vietnam<br />
Branding<br />Focus on benefits rather than features and specs<br />Potential economies of scale for promotion and training<br />Can be “soft”<br />Example: Sungura in Tanzania<br />
Fostering Innovation<br />Mason training model may not generate innovation at scale<br />Other strategies: <br />Innovations competitions<br />Innovations and social entrepreneurship foundation grants<br />Technical assistance in human-centered design<br />Importing the solution<br />Example: Easy Latrine in Cambodia<br />
Other considerations<br />Full life cycle: <br />Short-term maintenance (such as cleaning)<br />Long-term maintenance<br />Replacement<br />Adjunct:<br />Children’s feces<br />Menstrual management<br />HW stations<br />