Social Marketing: Leveraging the private sector to improve contraceptive access, choice, and use

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Social marketing in family planning programs makes contraceptive products accessible and affordable through private sector outlets, such as pharmacies and shops, while using commercial marketing techniques to achieve specific behavioral goals. Social marketers combine product, price, place (distribution), and promotion—often referred to as the “4Ps” or the “marketing mix”—to maximize use of specific health products among targeted population groups. There is a wide range of social marketing models to draw on; the choice of model depends on program goals, the country context, the level of investment, and time frame.

As Figure 1 illustrates, social marketing is designed to fill the “gap in the middle,” reaching those not served with free programs from the public sector or with high-priced commercial products targeted to the wealthiest segments. In reality, social marketing programs can be designed to also reach the poor, if product prices are subsidized sufficiently. Conversely, when subsidized social marketing programs are ineffectively targeted, they can crowd out commercial brands.