United Home Products (UHP), a low cost healthcare line specialising in vitamins, supplements and ointments, was challenged to sell its products to the poorest provinces in the Philippines.
Past advertising on TV and radio drove brand awareness but did not translate to sales as the brand failed to build relevance with consumers in these poor markets. The challenge was to increase trial which stood at a dismal 3% while awareness was at a healthy 70%.
The poorest provinces were dominated by herbals and generics, which were more available and preferred not only because they were cheaper, but also because they were advocated within the communities.
Starcom were aiming UHP at households in the lower CDE strata. 75% of the Moms who managed the household budgets were housewives without any steady income stream. With 90% of these families earning US$ 1,500 to US$ 4,700 per year to support an average family size of four, they lived on a hand-to-mouth basis. They are not even assured that they will have something to eat by the next meal time.
Starcom realised, therefore, that UHP was not just competing with generics and herbals, but with the market’s purchasing power.
The biggest dream of these lower income Moms was basic: To keep their family in good health. But this dream was always compromised when the realities of life are prioritised.
Each of their peso carried with it their pride and dignity to be able to provide for their families.
Starcom’s strategy was to engage meaningfully with these Moms. Instead of pushing UHP as a low-priced “branded” alternative to generics and herbals, Starcom would instead add value to the role of the homemakers by providing them with a livelihood.
Doing this would increase the Moms’ purchasing power, give them more pride and dignity, enable them to dream bigger, and more importantly make UHP an indelible part of their community.
Starcom created a grassroots community outreach programme, called “Unang Hakbang Pangkabuhayan”, which made use of the UHP acronym and meant “First Step to Livelihood.”
The programme armed Moms with skills (like massage therapy and soap making) and resources (raw materials indigenous to the region in which they lived) to create a start-up business. From the income that they now generated, they would be able to take better care of their families and concern themselves beyond the basic necessities. With one peso a time, they helped the community build their dignity and dream of a better life.
Instead of traditional media, their approach was to make use of the homes and the moms as touch points. The livelihood project did not take them out of their natural state, it enabled moms to stay at home and take care of their families while earning money.
Incentives were given to Moms who promoted the programme within their community. They willingly endorsed and sold the products to the people that trusted them. The strength of the campaign lied in the relatable and authentic endorsements of the new brand advocates who became our link to the grassroots.
With this newly formed network of moms, Starcom created a new distribution channel for UHP. Powered by Moms as resellers and partnerships with community drugstores, Starcom encouraged demand for UHP’s products.
Teary-eyed moms went up the stage for their certificates as they felt a sense of accomplishment and empowerment to start their own businesses. 96% applied the skills learnt; more than 53% of them are now entrepreneurs, providing extra income and better healthcare for their families.
Better healthcare meant they were better homemakers and more loving mothers.
Trial grew from 2% to 4% and usage from 3% to 5%. This led to sales growth from 18% to 85% in Mindanao and 18% to 154% in Visayas.
Starcom’s engagement gave birth to brand advocates, with 56% saying they love UHP. Their community grew from 400 to 700 in 3 months. These new UHP advocates used the community to share knowledge and sell UHP. UHP as “brand recommended by family” improved from 34% to 52% and as “brand recommended by friends” improved from 36% to 54%.
Instead of spending on advertising, UHP invested on people. The value generated from the effect to the consumers plus the free media pick-ups was well over the PhP 1 million (US$ 22,480) investment.
Starcom’s effort was for the long haul, etching UHP into the lives and livelihoods of Moms, creating real impact in the community.