This essay aims to analyse applied practices of social marketing critically which serves commercial purpose as well, in order to address social, environmental and economic sustainability in the case of rural poor population of Cambodia. It has been observed that despite several efforts given by non-profit organisations and donors, access to pure water for drinking still remains an issue for rural population of the nation. Consequently, the nation is suffering from critical health hazards (Schär et al. 2014). In such a condition, NGO Inc. is a non-for-profit organisation is looking for a significant and sustainable change in the society, economy and environment by promoting ceramic water purifier (CWP) to the community (Gutierrez-Jimenez et al. 2014).
Ceramic water purifier is extremely effective yet affordable product, which has capability to purify water. The NGO Inc. has decided to begin a financially sustainable social marketing programme to promote CWP to ensure better future (Dibb and Carrigan 2013). Although, several health programmes were initiated in the early part of 1990, yet they have realised donating heath kits does not create sustainability. Therefore, realising the need of a long-term solution NGO Inc. has addressed the necessity of those poor people. However, people experienced health improvements who had invested personally on preventive health care. Acknowledging that, NGO Inc. has framed their agenda of promoting CWP in underprivileged areas of Cambodia. The challenge is to maintain an affordable price continuously, serving both the rural community and stakeholders of CWP.
Social marketing is not practiced by the business organisations rather organisations who offer social and human services in order to make a significant change in social behaviour. Governments take this interest seriously following the legislation yet there are numerous social issues, which cannot be solved by them alone. Hence, non-for-profit organisations like NGO Inc. opt for social marketing practices realising the long-term goals (Van der Laan et al. 2014).
In order to do that marketing process needs to follow series of activities. At first, a detail market research is necessary to identify the social issues or needs, which is related to the human behaviour. According to that, marketers will set their objectives considering the effectiveness of the campaign. Now the final part is crucial. Because in most of the cases, NGOs serve a community, which is socially disadvantaged. Hence, considering the financial capability of the target market pricing and promotion are executed. Implementing marketing strategies and consistent monitoring would help to make the plan successful. The entire process of marketing is similar in both the cases of social and commercial marketing although, agendas are different.
Social marketing is more complicated as the objective is not merely to gain the profit and maintain the long-term success. Social marketers intend to change societal behaviour by promoting whereas commercial organisation promotes products or services only. Objectives are different as well. Business organisations seek profit by fulfilling customers’ requirements and on the contrary, NGOs try to make a significant social change for future benefit. Focusing on the sale using marketing tools is comparatively easier than focusing on to convince target audience in order to influence their behaviour (Sallis, Owen and Fisher 2015). Hence, NGO Inc. is looking forward to satisfy community needs unlike the business organisations who concentrate on individual preferences.
The idea of promoting CWP revolves around two key activities (Rayner, Skinner and Lantagne 2013). NGO Inc. needs to control and monitor the retail price consistently to ensure poor people’s access and convince the stakeholders such as manufacturers and retailers to consider social, economic and environmental issue. Social and economic issues are understandable yet the commercial marketers occasionally consider the environmental issues. However, as per Pasgaard (2013), in case of Cambodian crisis there is an environmental crisis as people cut trees extensively to cook foods and mostly to heat water in order to purify.
Ethical dilemmas might occur while promoting CWP is different from issues of commercial marketing. Commercial marketers are often penalised for being unethical while promoting products (Leonidou, Leonidou and Kvasova 2013). Companies have a tendency of manipulating customers based on their necessities to seek profitability through marketing communication. In addition, some companies focus on social issues just to make it as a form of marketing strategy just as Coca-Cola did by spending its marketing budget on development of poor children. On the contrary, according to Scheidel, Giampietro and Ramos-Martin (2013), NGO Inc. focuses on mass development of Cambodian rural community by promoting CWP among them as they observed personal investment promote social sustainability rather than donation.
The challenge is to maintain the retail price of the product, which differs from one region to another depending on the distance from the factories. This difference occurs due to the cost of transportation is not same for all the regions. People living in remote areas are facing pricing issues more than the communities who live closer to the factories. On the contrary, transportation costs are higher to the remote areas and as a result, they are unable to invest in CWP. If the case is considered in terms of the stakeholders’ perspective like considering manufactures’ and retailers’ interest then their perspective is not being served here. Therefore, NGO Inc. has confronted with ethical dilemmas whether to serve the social purpose or to look after stakeholders’ perspective according to requirements in order to sustain the production of CWP.
Besides, social marketers confront with issues of human resources. Until and unless government sponsors, there is always an issue of funding. Marketers have to fund their agendas in order to fulfil the mission. In the case of ceramic water purifier NGO Inc. have established a contract with the manufactures. As described in Ren and Smith (2013), manufactures assign several people to deliver products to the retail stores. However, the issue is if the price has to be around $8.00 after adding factory price, transportation cost to warehouse and warehouse to the retailers; from the stakeholders’ perspectives the entire production and transportation cost is not coming in return. Consequently, maintaining the workforce is becoming a difficulty to them due to shortage of monetary resource, as there is less chance of profitability (Humphreys et al. 2017). Therefore, if bounded by such limitations the price is increased by stakeholder groups (manufacturers, warehouse managers and retailers); rural community is unable to afford it. In this course of managing both the monetary and HR issues, the purpose of the agenda faces difficulty and even fails to influence behaviour of some of the remote regions. Therefore, the previously structured marketing mix is needed to be revised in the social marketing process of CWP.
In order to prepare the marketing mix the product quality must be maintained; because due to monetary issues if they compromise quality, the purpose will not be served. It should be effective enough to serve purified water. The pricing is being crucial day by day as the operational cost is increasing. Still maintaining every criteria according to the report of NGO Inc. if the price remains around $8.50 the sale proportion remains higher as well. Comparatively when the price increases from the recommended price, which is $10.00, the sales has decreased drastically in some of the poor remote regions. However, managing the people in operations and target market is an issue of highest concern, as behavioural change is not a matter of a night. It takes time to make the target market and stakeholders understand the social and environmental necessities for the society over profitability (Weinhold and Gurtner 2014). Promotional activities must attract the attention of the government first to mitigate the finding issues. Social media marketing and advertisements to gather funds from the urban societies and other like-minded NGOs will be helpful. As far as the positioning of the product is concerned that is merely applicable here as effectiveness of CWP is the highest concern of both the society and NGO Inc.
Derived from the experiences and applications of social marketers Heath Belief Model (HBM) is one of the most applied theories in social marketing projects among the public health workers (Pallas et al. 2013). As described in Jones, Smith and Llewellyn (2014), it was structured acknowledging the reluctant nature of the targeted audiences in such initiatives of prevent diseases or environmental issues. Cambodian population as per the studies of Marks (2017); is victim of prolonged war. Therefore, this framework deals with risk of future health issues, shares specific consequences of the existing practices and make the audiences understand the benefit of adopting healthy practices. Although, this framework has identified urban lifestyle as one of the main reasons of health issues this factor is not applicable in the case of Cambodian community. Rather lack of educational attainment and socio-economic status is responsible for the health hazards, faced by those poor people. Its ‘perceived barriers’ component is highly effective in order to recognise the negative aspects troubling the execution process. This component of potential barriers and benefits has successfully addressed most common issues, especially related to pricing and positioning.
In contrast to previous theory, as described in Bandura (2014), Social cognitive theory deals with interpersonal factors and environmental events as according to this theory all the components are depending and interacting with each other in order to create a mass response. Every individual is responsible in terms of influencing the behaviour. One of the key concepts of SCT is an environmental factor, which is contrasting with other existing theories, is ‘observational learning’. It says that in a society if someone is adopting a positive initiative to mitigate health issues other can learn the practice and realises the consequences of those behaviours. Therefore, every individual of Cambodian community should participate in ‘gaining and maintaining’ attention. Retention of the current practices is essential to achieve sustainability. Motivating the society to the level where behaviour improves by observation (Reimer and Walter 2013). However, even if they understand the environmental and social responsibility, economic condition do not allow them to capture the value provided by CWP. Therefore, NGO Inc. should consider alternative pricing strategy to support the rural people as well as consider all the stakeholders’ perspective at the same time. Penetrating pricing strategy can be adopted in the case of CWP. It may cause initial loss, yet serve the purpose extensively. However, as the time progresses it can be expected that people would be able to increase health awareness within community by understanding the needs of development. Hence, people would start investing on the product. In the long run, such awareness in every social and environmental aspects will lead them to improved lifestyle. Only then, a moderate pricing, which includes commercial interest, will be relevant for Cambodian people.
Acknowledging the case of Cambodian rural community some alternative strategies can be suggested to assure financial and social sustainability. As government do not participate in such campaigns directly, necessary funding can be asked from several political parties or NGO Inc. can submit petition to draw attention of the government towards the underdeveloped areas of Cambodia. Otherwise, the non-for-profit organisation can seek for collaboration with existing likeminded NGOs to propose new ideas or support them to solve financial issues and pricing strategies. The most important thing is to influence them by vocalizing potential health risks of not adopting an effective water purifier. Literacy campaigns can drive the audience towards better understanding of the crisis and consequences.
Cambodian population is victim of extreme destruction due to conflict of thirty years followed by civil war and bombing by US army. It is not at all easy to recover from such trauma and economic and social crisis. NGO Inc.’s effort of promoting CWP is huge initiate towards environmental and social sustainability. To conclude, their effort of keeping the price consistently low is appropriate for the targeted audiences. Considering the fluctuation of transportation cost depending on the distance, decision of bulk transportation to remote retail owners is proper too in terms of maintaining a low price in distant rural regions of Cambodia. However, considering the current competitive market scenario participating in a profit based business environment is not suitable for NGO Inc. where people living in such a degradable condition have to pay to sustain and to think about environmental sustainability at the same time.
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