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Case Analysis

Population Services International: The Social Marketing Project in Bangladesh

The case deals with Social Marketing Project (SMP), a program involving the marketing of birth
control products by reaching out to the customers directly. It was done by Population Services
International (PSI) which is a not-for-profit agency founded in 1970 to help control the population
explosion in many less developed countries through the dissemination of family planning information
and products in collaboration with Bangladesh Government. The SMP marketed two products: Raja
brand condoms and Maya brand oral contraceptives.

Sharp decline in the sales of Maya contraceptives over past six years, whereas Raja, a similar product
category launched at the same time by the PSI experienced steady growth in sales volume in the same

Comparison of Products
Raja sales had increased steadily over the past six years to 50.4 million pieces in 1983, Maya sales
had declined from a high of 1.1 million cycles in 1980 to 0.62 million in 1983. Both products,
however, had been promoted with similar marketing strategies. The approach was to reach the
consumer directly through an intensive mass media campaign backed by extensive product
availability through Bangladeshs widely dispersed retail store network. People associate condoms
with sex, but a pill is associated with birth control; people think of a condom as an over-the counter
consumer product, while a pill is perceived as a powerful drug.

Even though Maya cost almost nothing, the sales figure was pretty low. The traders and distributors
didnt find much profit in sales of Maya. Every complaint of ill health was directed by RMPs towards
usage of Maya. Packaging played a major part in sales of raja as it could be sold loose from a pack of
100, which was not the case with Maya. According to surveys, 80% of products including products
for female were bought by men. The general conception of people is that if the price is too low the
product is of low quality which was the case with Maya.

PSI were mainly engaged in social work, their marketing strategy was blend of production and selling.
The highlight of their marketing was intensive communication support. The name was chosen
carefully to bring out a positive feeling among the masses. Raja means King in Bengali which
represents masculinity and aggressiveness, Maya means something magical, people commonly
understood Maya as beautiful. Raja was packed in three formats (3, 12,100) Maya packed in28 pills a
cycle. Products were then sent to 7 sub warehouses and about 5000 stockists.

Clearly there are a lot of differences between traditional marketing and the strategy used by PSI.
Firstly it was a non profit organisation, hence profit was not the main criteria. Their main concern was
population control in Bangladesh, for which the prices of their products were kept minimum. The
whole idea behind the initiative was the benefit of customers. Their welfare was the main objective as
opposed to traditional marketing where consumers are taken for granted.
PSI had done the appropriate research work required for their business. They knew the religious and
social sentiments, as well as the literacy level of their consumers. In traditional marketing no efforts
are put in to understand the consumer.

RMPs are the person whom the target group turns for medical help. The utmost priority should be to
educate the RMPs about the product. Increase in price of Maya to give some share of profit to
distributors. If they get some profit, they would give positive reviews about Maya. To remove the
myth associated with Maya regarding the side effects, awareness programs should be organised. The
field workers who used to spread awareness about Maya by conducting programs should also meet up
with the grass-root level leaders and educate them about Maya. Together with the local leaders, they
should influence, convince and educate the people about contraceptive pills which will be much more
effective in communicating and convincing people. Maya as a name brings out a wrong sense of
definition in minds of people, it has negative connotation. So it should be rebranded to something
more positive.