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Marketing Case

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Poverty continues to be a major issue in Rural Kenya; and a number of social factors influence the level of poverty experienced in surrounding communities. The supply of unclean water, the vulnerability of the villagers to water-borne diseases, the absence of communication channels, and the failure of the community heads to treat infected persons due to lack of sufficient funds to upkeep professional medical services - all give rise to further complications, such as high mortality rates and consequently higher unemployment, under these harsh living conditions.

Problem Statement:

In an effort to promote a water-filter system that would produce clean water necessary for many hygienic purposes e.g. drinking, cooking, cleaning, and so on, Sebastian Herrmann was seeking ways of implementing such a system at the lowest possible cost to the villagers. But at the same time, it was difficult for him to convince the people of rural Kenya - where the cost of living was already unbearable - that purchasing a "Water Harvester" would be the best decision they could make for a brighter future.

Problem Identification:

1. The target market for the Water Harvester was the "hardcore poor".

This led Hermann to wonder which would be the best approach to position his product since it required a large amount of money for the initial set-up.

a. The Water Harvester was expensive and the people barely had money to spend on food for their families. (pg.1, line 16 - 17)

b. The product design had to be simple and unsophisticated, manufactured with only things found in the natural environment. (pg. 5, line 29 - 31)

c. Marketing the product could not consist of any outright type of gifting or subsidizing. Hermann determined that this was not the correct approach to go about marketing the product. (pg. 2, line 23 - 25) (pg. 6, line 29 - 30)

2. Going to the river for water was seen as a root in the people's culture.

a. It was a means of communication and socialization among the women gathered by the river. (pg. 6, line 35 - 37) The women used this meeting time to discuss news, politics, and to engage in local gossip. (pg. 4, line 17 - 21)

3. There were drastic differences in the marketing strategies that applied to the developed world and the developing world.

a. Many of the communication channels (internet, paper, radio, magazines, and television) used in the developing world were almost non-existent. (pg. 6, line 1 - 6)

b. Generally, there were lower literacy rates lingering in developing countries than in developed countries, which made it difficult to conduct surveys or hand out questionnaires to get feedback from the target market. (pg. 6, lines 6 - 8)

4. There were value differences across cultures:

a. While a product like the Water Harvester can be endorsed in a developed country as something that would save time, as time is highly valued in the Western world, it would prove to be unsuccessful in a developing country like Kenya where time has little value when compared to other concerns such as food and money. (pg. 6, line 11 - 17)

b. The Water Harvester would afford the local women spare time and energy as they would no longer have to travel to the river on countless occasions; however, due to their cultural lifestyle, these women were known to be more interested in saving their money than saving time and energy. (pg. 6, line 12 - 17)

5. Market research was at a stand-still because of the lack of data and statistical information about the target market needed to predict the villagers' purchasing power and spending patterns.

Problem Causes:

1. The need to find the best approach to position the product:

a. The Water Harvester was expensive:

* The total cost of the inputs for the prototype was Ksh540 which consisted of the costs for purchasing the bags, ropes, as well as the seamstress wages (pg. 5, line 1 - 3). The additional cost of the drums was between Ksh200 and Ksh400 (pg. 5, line 1 - 3).

* The Water Harvester prototype for rural Kenya was not designed in a way to ease the financial burden of the user, i.e. the "hardcore poor" individual. (pg. 5, line 27 & 28).

b. Gifting could not be used as a form of marketing. The FTC perceived a need for change from traditional practices within the Kenyan society. They needed to "learn to fish" as opposed to "be given a fish" (pg. 2, line 23 - 26).

2. The need to go to the river:

a. Socialization was a big deal because the "mommas" hardly had any leisure time for themselves. They were always busy with domestic duties including: feeding the children breakfast, lunch and dinner, doing the dishes, along with other chores and duties e.g. producing charcoal to earn additional money. Traditional gender roles required the women to complete most of the chores while the men cultivated lands, tended to their cattle, and sat around discussing politics. (pg. 7, line 29 - 32).

3. The need for a simple and environmentally-friendly product design:

a. The villagers were uneducated and hence, it was useless to try to market a complex product if they could not understand its functions and its benefits. (pg. 6, line 6 - 7)

b. The non-existence of a proper transport system would make it very difficult to transfer the raw materials needed to make the Water Harvester to rural communities like Chebinie. (pg. 5, line 30 - 31) The lack of engineered materials meant that the Water Harvester could only be built with the materials available - keeping in mind that it had to be built at the lowest possible cost. (pg. 5, line 29 - 30)

4. The need for different marketing strategies:

a. As a result of Kenya being located in one of the most impoverished regions in the world, it could not develop any infrastructures to embrace modern communication technologies. For this reason, communication channels were practically non-existent. (pg. 2, line 1)

5. The need to understand culture:

a. The villagers were more concerned about saving money. The women needed to make as much money as they could in order to sustain their families. In their minds, spending money on the Water Harvester would take away money that they do not have.



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