While international marketing executives scratch their heads over how to expand business in a world saturated with products (are Africa, India and Latin America the last frontiers for global business?), more companies may want to focus on socioeconomic, not geographic, markets to find new opportunities. After all, the “bottom of the pyramid,” as in the world’s lower-income wage earners, are as much as 70 percent of the world’s population. Some businesses understand this and sell products accordingly—for example consumer packaged goods companies that sell cleaning products in sachets instead of massive boxes. Now SC Johnson, the Wisconsin-based cleaning products company, is joining this small but growing crowd in Ghana, and contributing to local efforts to reduce the risks of contracting malaria.
The program, nicknamed WOW, launched in 2012, though SC Johnson has researched and tested this business concept for almost a decade. A pilot program in Bobikuma, Ghana, about 55 miles (90 kilometers) west of the capital of Accra, kicked off earlier this year. With support from Cornell University and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, this membership-based club allows families to pool their money together to buy cleaning and pest-control products and reduce the transmission of malaria. Besides allowing families to share resources, the communal nature of selling these products allows for sharing tips about keeping homes clean and safe from malaria-carrying mosquitos. Now the program has expanded.
In Yilo Kribo, a rural district due north of Accra, SC Johnson has fine-tuned the WOW program. Local sales agents will sell a variety of malaria-fighting products, wearing the additional hats of coach and advisor to families. Customers can subscribe to four different SC Johnson products, which have been scented and formulated to meet local preferences and needs. The subscription keeps prices down through the sales of refillable cleaning products, and customers can also earn “loyalty” points. SC Johnson was not specific, but claims that customers can earn points and earn free “durable goods.”
This is just one small battle in the global struggle against malaria. According to the World Health Organization, malaria caused an estimated 627,000 deaths in 2012. Progress is being made: worldwide mortality rates have fallen 42 percent since 2000, and in Africa by almost half. But resistance to antimalarial drugs is an ongoing problem, and the price of those drugs is out of reach to most of the world’s poor. Therefore, managing the risk within one’s home can make a difference: while many of us in the West cringe at the thought of spraying our home with a can of Raid, one indoor spray in an Africah home can stall the risk anywhere for another three to six months. If 80 percent of houses in a neighborhood complete that simple act, the overall risk for contracting malaria within the entire community decreases—hence the necessity of an SC Johnson sales agent to not only pitch the product, but advise on how to use them correctly.
Creating economic opportunity and addressing a public health problem at the same time? SC Johnson is doing it, and other firms looking to expand their business responsibly could look to this 128 year old company for ideas on how to grow their business and be an engaged local stakeholder as well.
Image credit: SC Johnson
Leon Kaye has written for TriplePundit since 2010, and became its Executive Editor in 2018. He's based in Fresno, CA, from where he happily explores California’s stellar Central Coast and the national parks in the Sierra Nevadas. He's lived in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay, and has traveled to over 70 countries. He's an alum of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California.