Successful Marketing to the 'not-so-elite’

Published by MBA Skool Team, Published on November 06, 2013

Ann Landers once said, “Opportunities are usually disguised as hard work, so most people don’t recognize them.”

This holds true in every endeavour- including Marketing. Reaching out to the bottom-of-the-pyramid or the BOP is seen as an uphill task. After all, how do you sell anything to someone who doesn’t have enough to pay for it? But there are a few people, institutions and organizations that have found opportunity in adversity and proved that BOP is just as lucrative as the so-called middle and premium segments. This article seeks to throw light upon marketing efforts targeted by four different companies in four different countries at the BOP segment that have not only created profits but also lit smiles upon the faces of the less-fortunate people.

1. Cultural Adaptation by Pampers in China: When P&G introduced Pampers in China in 1998, main challenge in front of them was “How to sell disposable diapers to consumers in China who don’t see any need for it”. Traditionally in China babies used to wear ‘kaidangku’- butt-less open-crotch pants.

P&G used two marketing strategies. First one was “Golden Sleep” campaign that encouraged parents to submit photos of their babies asleep. This campaign generated 2, 00,000 unique entries.

Second, they took the help of science to spread their marketing message. Chinese parents were told that, with the uses of Pampers for their babies ‘Baby Sleeps with 50% Less Disruption' and 'Baby Falls Asleep 30% Faster’.

Today Pampers is the number one bestselling brand in disposable diaper category and kaidangku pants hardly exist.

Key to Pampers success was Cultural Adaptation, they changed the material they used in the product. They used cloth and a cheaper but softer material in making diapers similar to kaidangku.

2. Financial Inclusiveness by M-PESA (Vodafone) in Kenya: M-PESA is a mobile to mobile online money transfer service. This technology enables money deposit and withdrawal on the mobile account through the conversion of cash into e-value and vice versa.

With M-PESA, Vodafone provided a service to Kenya’s financially poor that transformed their socio-economic situation for the better.

Key factor for the success of M-PESA was a Financially Inclusive Business Model which integrated the poor people of Kenya into its value chain as producers, partners, employees and consumers.

M-PESA integrated its business model into the local culture, “UBUNTU” (the kindness of giving others). M-PESA helped urban young Kenyans to transfer money back to their parents living in rural areas. M-PESA helped poor people to conduct financial transactions at lower risk and cost, and at higher speed and convenience than other money transaction systems like ATMs and the Western union.

Thus since its launch in 2007 M-PESA has come a long way and has 15million active users in Kenya as of today.

3. Getting Right 2P’s by Chik Shampoo in India:

“Whatever I make must be affordable to the common man” was the dream of C.K. Ranganathan, owner of an Rs.500 crore cosmetic company.

In 1982, Chik India Company was incorporated. It targeted a market that was not targeted by any other shampoo producing company. It launched shampoos in rural India instead of urban.

He got two things right: Packaging and Price of the shampoo. Instead of selling in big bottles he sold his shampoo in small sachets. He kept the price of the sachets very low so that people like coolies and rickshawpullers were able to buy it. In 1988 he introduced chik sachet at 90paise.

His main target was people in rural areas who were using soap for washing their hair. In the very first month he sold 22000 sachets and by 2002-03 Chik shampoo had 23% market share- just two percentage points behind Clinic Plus.

Similarly Coca Cola followed the same strategy and by selling coke at Rs.5, became the most successful brand in India.

4. Empower the poor by Grameen Bank in Bangladesh:

In 1974, Muhammad Yunus (a professor of Economics) tried to understand why poor people in Bangladesh were unable to achieve economic success. He studied poor farmers and labours of the Jobra village. He found that the main reason for poverty was lack of access to loans owing to lack of collateral, high credit risk and high interest rates. He found that the banking system of Bangladesh was anti-poor, anti-illiterate and anti-women. He planned to reverse all these three problems.

Yunus started giving small loans of about Rs.750 to the poor villagers of Jobra. After his initial success he extended this to people from other villages. From 1976 to 1979 these small loans changed the life of about 500 families in Bangladesh. In 1983 he incorporated Grameen Bank which meant ‘Countryside Bank’.

He changed the normal practice of “Lending to rich and financially stable people” to “Lending to poor people who have less money with high priority”. He started lending only to poor people and nearly 50% of them where women.

These small loans created opportunities for self-employment among Bangladesh’s vast and under-utilised manpower resources. These borrowers were able to generate sufficient income with which they not only paid off their debts but also improved the economic status of their families.

Today Grameen Bank has over 1300 branch offices serving nearly 4 million members in 48000 villages across Bangladesh. This bank has helped nearly 48 % of the borrowers to cross the poverty line and another 27% have come close to doing so. Grameen bank has achieved 95% recovery rate, which is higher than any other bank in the world.

That Marketing is for the monetarily strong is a myth. The myriad examples given above are a testimony to that. When a man’s creative mind merges with his wanting to serve the socially neglected, the result is a more powerful, more beautiful society where more humans begin to live a life that befits the human race. Marketing, like everything else, is a tool- one can use it to connect with the Aam admi as much as with Warren Buffet.

The article has been authored by Juhi Saini & Mohit Kokil, Great Lakes Institute Of Management


  1. M-PESA Mobile Financial Services for Financially Excluded in Society.

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