As the sixth most populous country with one of the lowest contraceptive usage rates in the world (29% according to the Contraceptive Performance Report 2011-12), social marketing campaigns to increase awareness and promote family planning measures play a crucial role in Pakistan. Recognising this, the two major players in the contraceptives category, DKT International and Greenstar Social Marketing, launched nationwide advertising campaigns for their lower end condom brands – Josh and Sathi – within the last 12 months.
It is important to contextualise the marketing efforts of both companies in terms of the broader contraceptive market. According to the Pakistan Demographic and Health Survey (2012-13), 159 million units of contraceptives were sold in Pakistan last year. This included what the industry calls male contraceptives; i.e. condoms (approximately 147 million units or 93% of sales) and female contraceptives, i.e. oral pills, internal uterine devices and injectables (10 million units or seven percent).
Although female contraceptive usage has declined by eight percent in the last four years, condom usage has increased by 25% in the semi-urban and rural areas in the same period.
Juan Garcia, Country Director, DKT International, attributes this trend to the fact that “condoms are the most feasible of all contraceptive measures for Pakistan’s uneducated people, who have limited income and lack access to quality healthcare facilities. Condoms are significantly cheaper than other contraceptive tools available (by 20 to 25%), easy to use and require no medical supervision.”
The lion’s share of the condom market (70%) is controlled by Greenstar through its flagship, mass market brand, Sathi (Greenstar also offers Touch, a premium brand). However, DKT International has quickly emerged as a strong competitor within two years of its entry into Pakistan, with Josh capturing an eight percent market share by the end of 2013 (DKT also markets Prudence, its premium priced brand).
Despite the increase in condom usage, market studies conducted by Greenstar and DKT in June 2013 revealed that there is potential to increase sales by 200 million units per year by tapping into the rural and semi-urban markets. This prompted both companies to launch marketing campaigns for their respective mass market brands.
The brand war
Although pursuing a common objective of increasing condom usage, Greenstar and DKT International have adopted completely opposite approaches to the challenge.
Aamir Shabbir, Senior Brand Manager, Greenstar Social Marketing, explains that as the market leader, Sathi had no real competition and therefore did not advertise for the last four years. However, with sales having reached a plateau of an average of 115 million units per year and the new challenge posed by Josh, a new campaign, with a strategic shift in Sathi’s positioning, was launched in February 2013.
According to Adeeba Khan, Chief Creative Officer, Manhattan Leo Burnett (Greenstar’s creative agency), “Sathi campaigns have traditionally focused on women assuming the responsibility of family planning to ensure the well-being of their families.
We wanted to shift the onus of contraception to the ‘man of the house’ and hence the new ad shows the husband declaring, ‘Mera faisla Sathi’.”
Sathi’s brand and agency team believe that while it was important to communicate the functional benefits of condom usage (birth spacing and control), the message had to be conveyed in a culturally sensitive way.
“Let alone watching a condom ad, family planning is not a subject that is discussed among couples, especially those living in a joint family,” says Shabbir.
Therefore the ad depicts a traditional, middle-income, semi-urban family, with the underlying message that Sathi is used even by conservative Pakistani households.
According to Khan, another important campaign objective was to “break through the ingrained shyness of customers in purchasing condoms. Thus, an important element of the ad was showing an ‘aam admi’ asking for Sathi in front of his friends and neighbours without hesitation.”
When DKT launched the first campaign for Josh in January 2013, it too adopted a conservative approach as the brand wanted to play it safe. The ad centred on animated figures clad in shalwar kameez dancing to traditional music. However, as Garcia explained, this conservative positioning didn’t work for Josh because the campaign failed to generate a buzz and there was negligible impact on brand sales.
Six months later, Josh’s second campaign featuring Mathira was launched, and it proved to be unprecedented in more ways than one [Interflow Communications did both the 2013 campaigns, however the DKT account has now moved to Orient Advertising]. For the first time, a condom was promoted, not for its cost effectiveness and efficiency in controlling the family size, but as ‘an instrument of pleasure, which allows you to enjoy life to the fullest’, with the tagline ‘Zindagi mein Josh lao’.
Targeting the ‘pleasure’ instead of the ‘functional’ use of condoms, DKT also launched flavoured variants, mainly to attract the more aware and adventurous and thereby going beyond its primary target audience of the middle-class consumers.
“The crux of the campaign,” Garcia elaborates, “was to emphasise that it is ‘Josh’ (which translates to passion) – pun intended – that is the cornerstone of a happy marriage, even when couples are physically incompatible.”
The ripple effect
Sathi’s campaign garnered a positive audience reaction; an average couple leading a normal life using Sathi for their health and welfare resonated with the brand’s target audience.
According to Shabbir, “Our objectives to educate people and overcome cultural barriers that limit condom use have been achieved and there has been a steady increase in sales across northern Sindh and Punjab since the campaign went on-air.”
The Josh campaign however, resulted in public outrage against the overtly suggestive theme, with many people believing that the ad promoted promiscuity and was contrary to Islamic teachings. The ending, which showed scented variants of Josh in different flavours was also heavily criticised, and the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) banned the ad in Pakistan. Garcia acknowledges that using a controversial celebrity like Mathira and using a sexual theme contributed to the negative response to Josh’s campaign. Nevertheless, the adage that ‘all publicity is good publicity’ still holds true for Josh as the PEMRA ban and the frenzied social media debates on the ad’s morality worked in the brand’s favour. According to Garcia, “On YouTube alone, the ad had 1.4 million views (as of March 20, 2014) and publicity aside, Josh’s sales have increased by almost eight percent since the ban.”
The way forward
Both DKT and Greenstar realise that in Pakistan, condoms are a taboo subject and creating awareness through advertising is not enough to influence purchase behaviour at retail level. Thus mass media campaigns need to be supplemented with community-based outreach efforts, peer education and promotional events.
Shabbir highlights a significant strategy change that has been employed with this campaign.
“Our focus has shifted to trade activation. Shelf and counter-top Sathi dispensers have been set up at retail outlets so that customers don’t have to ask for Sathi; instead they can pick up the packet themselves. Higher profit margins are also offered to shop owners if they agree to have prominent shelf displays for the brand.”
A new campaign is planned for Josh, and Garcia confirms that although the brand’s positioning of inducing “fun and passion: will remain consistent, any celebrity chosen from now on will be the girl next door type to engender acceptability for Josh.”
In addition to changes in its advertising strategy, DKT has established Dhanak Welfare Centres to provide quality contraceptive options at low rates in remote areas and has launched Pakistan’s first contraceptive awareness programme, targeting university students.
Although condom campaigns on TV are gaining a level of limited acceptability, Sathi and Josh need to move beyond advertising to increase the contraceptive usage in Pakistan. Awareness workshops for retailers, improved contraceptive availability in remote areas and educating people about the efficacy and importance of contraception are initiatives that need consistent, long term implementation.