Population Services International (PSI) is a non-profit organization with the declared goal and mission of controlling the population growth in poorer countries through the implementation of specific birth control and family planning programs. One of the countries they have approached ever since 1976 was Bangladesh.
The setting was propitious: Bangladesh was having one of the fastest growing populations in the world and was at the same time, one of the poorest countries, with limited resources and economic possibilities.
PSI introduced two birth control products into the country: condoms and contraceptive pills. The former were called Raja and had properly adapted to the specific economic environment of Bangladesh. The Raja condoms had benefited from a good choice of name, as Raja meant king and this had a double significance: it was associated with strength and potency and was easy to understand by relating it to the card figure (in a country with an extremely high illiteracy rate, this was quite an adequate approach). The sales of Raja condoms had followed a steady rise form the 9.7 million in the year they were introduced, in 1978, to over 50 million in 1983. Increases had reached as much as 100% in the second year after their launch.
This was not the case with the Maya pills however. Surprisingly enough, after three years of subsequent increases in the number of cycles sold, the sales volume began to drop in 1981, only to reach a level almost as low as the one of 1978 in 1983. The main problem that PSI has to deal with is the serious decrease in sales volume for the Maya pills. In the lines below, I will be examining some of the causes that have lead to this decrease and will be trying to identify some of the possible solutions to these causes.
It seems that one of the main causes for the decline was generated by the bad image that the Maya pills had in the consumer segment. I honestly doubt a complot against Maya, but I am inclined to believe that PSI had not led a proper communication and marketing campaign within the doctor segment. In my opinion, PSI had failed to work on a very important aspect of the business. Unlike condoms, pills are a more specific birth control item. Anybody can walk into a store and buy a set of condoms, you do not need any knowledge of your body, no previous medical tests- you just walk in and buy (and this was certainly the case with the men in Bangladesh). Here, a marketing campaign including the appropriate choice of name was necessary, because a condom is a product like any other: what makes you buy Raja and not Durex, not to mention the freely distributed governmental condoms? Of course, a smart box, a smart presentation, an attractive marketing campaign.
In the case of contraceptive pills, however, there is a very important intermediary between the producer (in this case, PSI) and the consumer: the doctor. It may not have been the case in Bangladesh, where the medical staff was probably rather scarce, but in Western countries, the choice of the pill is generated by factors outside the will of the woman, like what type of pills her body will accept best, etc. Pills are a concentration of different hormones and their misuse may even be dangerous for the woman's health.
That is why, in my opinion, whether or not the pills' name was Maya and they were associated with beauty or whether the box had a nice presentation was of a rather secondary issue here. The main question that PSI had to ask itself was: who recommends these pills? Doctors, obviously. If they recommend Ovastat, it is most likely that Ovastat will be used, even if it was ten times more expensive.
Thus, in my opinion, marketing the product within the consumer ranks would have had (and would have) no real impact. The company should have been concerned with marketing the product within the doctor ranks and should have been concerned with the image their product had for the doctors. And this image was bad: they considered Maya to be an inferior drug, a poor drug and would not hesitate to point towards the Maya pills whenever there was a health issue.
Of course, besides this, there were several causes (smaller problems to be dealt with) for the decrease in sales volume that PSI had identified. The first related to retailers.…