Tapping “the fortune at the bottom of the pyramid” means doing business in an entirely new way. The vast market represented by the 2.7 billion people who live on $2 a day or less demands a carefully custom-tailored approach that’s unlike the way existing companies approach the task of designing products and services. In fact, business experience in rich-country markets may prove to be a handicap rather than an advantage.
In mature markets, branding and marketing tend to be dominated by packaging, advertising, and promotion. Customers are literate and respond to messaging delivered through newspapers, magazines, television, radio, and online. At the base of the pyramid, branding and marketing are essentially tools to change attitudes: persuading people living near the edge of destitution to spend money on products and services that they may never before have heard of, let alone considered for purchase. And messaging rarely can depend on literacy. Instead, the marketer must exploit traditional channels of communication that may be unfamiliar to rich-country residents, such as bands of roving troubadours. What’s required is what might be called contextual marketing.
Similarly, mature markets offer well-established channels for the delivery of products and services, including sophisticated retail networks and multiple transportation options. In the Global South, seventy percent of the poor live in rural areas, often far, even days of walking, from the nearest road. Delivering products and services may require building an entirely new delivery network.
Designing a branding and marketing strategy and a last-mile supply chain that will put your product or service in the hands of millions of customers is three-quarters of the design challenge.
Paul Polak and Mal Warwick’s award-winning book, The Business Solution to Poverty, highlights 20 “takeaways” that encapsulate much of the book’s essence. Today we have featured the eleventh of those takeaways. Future posts will include others.