Public Awareness Raising & Sanitation Marketing

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This article is based on a factsheetthat highlights the importance of public awareness raising and sanitation marketing to increase the efficiency and sustainability of sanitation improvements. It provides tools and best-practice examples for practitioners, researchers, policy-makers and those who understand the importance of sustainable sanitation and wish to disseminate up to date information.

1. Summary

Four key approaches to awareness raising include (1) raising overall public awareness, (2) professional marketing of sanitation to those lacking access, (3) stimulating private sector interest in the sanitation market and (3) to decision makers in the public, private and civil sectors.

Most people who have access to functioning sanitation systems are not aware of the poor sanitation in vast regions of the world and fail to understand its significance in socio-economic development. Taboos surrounding the toilet and human excreta hinder global progress in this field. Therefore a stronger appreciation of the manifold society-wide benefits of sanitation and the challenges of achieving them are required in all countries. The twin fields of awareness raising and sanitation marketing lay the groundwork for successful advocacy and highlight business opportunities in sanitation. These approaches, moreover, make it possible to scale up and increase the efficiency of current efforts towards improved sanitation for all.

Awareness raising aims to achieve the following:

  • Create public and political awareness
  • Initiate public and policy discussions
  • Generate an enabling environment and policy changes that lead to action
Sanitation marketing aims to achieve the following:
  • Tailor product design, availability and price to potential customers
  • Use communication techniques and media appropriate to the customers’ situation
  • Engage people in emotional communication to create genuine demand and behaviour change
  • Offer the target group a choice of products that are appealing, accessible and affordable
  • Open the market to sanitation business opportunities (Gröber et al. 2012)

2. Public awareness

Public awareness raising alerts the public to the issues and mobilises their support and action. It can be achieved in multiple ways: public events, workshops, exhibitions, demonstrations, radio and TV campaigns, print publications and the Internet. To maximise outreach, awareness raising activities may benefit from free publicity through media coverage. Focussing communication activities on relevant “world days” has been shown to be very effective. Sanitation awareness can use taboos surrounding toilet issues to its advantage. Word plays, cleverly packaged messages or unconventional images can provoke emotion and attention.

Since every person defecates, sanitation is never an abstract topic. The challenge is to draw attention to this “most usual thing” while taking care not to offend or disgust the target audience leading to a repulsive reaction. Messages with fascinating, unexpected facts can communicate this “dirty” topic in a pleasant manner. The message and the communication channel must be tailored to the target audience. It is important to be alert to the many cultural factors that affect the success of communication activities with different populations.

3. Examples of public awareness raising

a) WASH United: Showing diarrhoea the red card

Figure 1:Left: WASH United Champion Didier Drogba from Ivory Coast (FC Chelsea, London) on an awareness raising poster for Africa. Right: Indian cricket star Irfan Pathan on a poster for possible upcoming cricket-based activities (source: WASH United, 2011).

WASH United harnesses the power of sport and the role model status of sport stars to raise awareness of water, sanitation and hygiene and to catalyse social change (see figure 1). WASH United’s first campaign focused on the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and engaged football stars to (1) tackle taboos related to sanitation and create demand for sanitation services, (2) promote hand washing with soap, (3) advocate for safe drinking water and sanitation as a human right.

b) Sanitation is Dignity - Awareness raising campaign of the German Toilet Organization

Figure 2: “Sanitation is Dignity” Campaign in Berlin, Germany, in 2005: The travelling exhibit and campaign asks passers-by to reflect what life would be like without a toilet (source: GTO, 2005).
In 2005, the German Toilet Organization (GTO) created the “Sanitation is Dignity” campaign to raise awareness of people unaware of or unaffected by the sanitation crisis (see figure 2). As a part of the campaign, GTO developed a travelling exhibit entitled “Where would you hide?” for display in public places, at conferences or in government buildings. Life-size poster board cut-outs feature people crouching to defecate in public while trying to hide behind everyday objects such as flower pots or umbrellas in order to maintain their dignity.

c) World Toilet Organization Activities

When Jack Sim founded the World Toilet Organization (WTO) in 2001, the name in itself proved to be a successful marketing tactic as it has the same acronym as the World Trade Organization. This cause smiles and makes the name hard to forget. Sim has continued to break taboos about toilets, using humour and passion in his countless speeches and media features. Every year the WTO organises the World Toilet Summit which is widely covered by the global media. Unlike sanitation conferences that focus on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and lack of access to sanitation, the Summit addresses a wide range of toile issues that affect industrialised countries and the developing world alike.

d) World Toilet Day - 19 November

Celebrated on 19th November, World Toilet Day has played an increasingly important role in sanitation awareness raising. Launched in 2001 by the World Toilet Organization (WTO), it has caught the imagination of sanitation activists and the global media alike and has grown through self-generated and crowd-sourced awareness activities by a wide range of organisations worldwide.

e) The Drive to 2015

Figure 3: Logo of the “Drive to 2015” campaign, launched in June 2011, which builds on the earlier logo of the International Year of Sanitation in 2008.
An example of awareness raising at the highest political level is the United Nations’ initiative "Sustainable Sanitation: The Five-Year-Drive to 2015". On 20 December 2010, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution calling upon the UN Member States to "redouble efforts to close the sanitation gap" (see figure 3).

4. Sanitation marketing

Sanitation marketing is a type of social marketing. Social marketing plans and implements programmes designed to bring about social change using concepts from commercial marketing. It applies tools and techniques developed for commercial marketing to persuade people to adopt certain practices and behaviours that improve quality of life (UN-Habitat & Sulabh, 2006). Sanitation marketing programmes often create favourable conditions for business opportunities. Devine (2010) sees the potential of sanitation marketing to create demand and to scale-up supply for improved sanitation, mainly by demonstrating to people that a clean toilet and better hygiene practices will improve their quality of life.

The objective of sanitation marketing is to empower potential customers to make conscious, informed choices. The approach assumes that poor people are not “beneficiaries” but rather potential customers of sanitation products and services. It fosters the development of private businesses that supply goods and services and helps the sanitation sector become financially and institutionally sustainable (Jenkins, Sugden, 2006). The 2.5 billion people currently living without access to sanitation represent potential customers. With encouragement and assistance, the private sector can develop new local, regional and national businesses and create local jobs.

5. Examples of sanitation marketing programmes:

a) Two examples from Cambodia: IDE’s “Easy Latrine” and WTO’s Sanishop

Only 18% of rural Cambodians have access to improved sanitation (WHO, UNICEF, 2010), and this lack of access contributes to the country’s poor public health. Many villagers view purchasing sanitation equipment as an unnecessary luxury due to a lack of knowledge, combined with the expense and difficulty of installing traditional latrines (Heierli, Frias, 2007)

The “Easy Latrine” model is a well-designed, affordable product with an appropriate marketing strategy that raises awareness and encourages families to invest in a household toilet. International Development Enterprises (IDE) started the project in Cambodia with one core assumption: people consider toilets a decidedly unpleasant topic that is more likely to induce uncomfortable giggles than provoke innovative thinking. The IDE Cambodia Country Team worked together with the design firm IDEO to design a low-cost, easy-to-install pour flush latrine system that villagers could build themselves using cheap, locally available materials. This has stimulated demand and strengthened the supply of latrines. Each toilet costs about EUR 24 and more than 3000 have already been purchased and installed by villagers (WSP, 2010).
Figure 4: Logo Sanishop

A second example from Cambodia is SaniShop which is a low-cost micro-franchise, implemented by the World Toilet Organization (WTO) to train local entrepreneurs to become producers of sanitation products and sales agents (see figure 4). In operation since October 2008, this strategy complements the work of governmental agencies, local NGOs and international donors. The Sanishop model also provides business and technical skills training to local suppliers and masons and introduced a new actor into the supply chain - the sales agent who strengthens marketing activities and mobilises communities. WTO facilitated the adoption of a low cost latrine option modified from an award-winning design and a pricing structure that enables all supply chain actors to make money while keeping the product affordable for the customers.

b) Global Scaling Up Handwashing Project by Water and Sanitation Programme (WSP

According to the World Bank’s Water and Sanitation Programme, “marketing has been more successful than anything else in changing the behaviour of people when they can see direct personal benefits” (WSP, 2010).

A market-based approach to sanitation has four principal advantages over the traditional donor-based model in which latrines are given on a heavily subsidised basis or even for free:

  • Sanitation marketing helps achieve behavioural change. People willing to pay for a latrine will most likely use and maintain it.
  • Unsubsidised programmes based on sound business principles are financially sustainable and can be taken to scale.
  • Marketing focuses on both the hardware (the toilet) and the software (sanitation and hygiene education). This combination is likely to bring about public awareness and behavioural change that causes consumers to value, use, and maintain their latrines.
  • Compared with donor-based approaches, marketing is much more cost-effective and can be easily monitored (UN & Sulabh, 2006).

6. Sanitation marketing: The six P’s

Marketing experts traditionally work with four criteria: Product, Price, Place, and Promotion. Based on experience in the sanitation marketing sector additional P’s such as People (Heierli, Frias, 2007) and Politics or Partnerships (Outlaw, Jenkins, Scott, 2007) have been introduced into the sanitation marketing mix. These factors need to be clearly understood in order to reach new customers and influence their actions effectively.

Sanitation marketing mix: The six P's. People and Politics are specific for sanitation marketing, whereas the other four P‟s are standard in all marketing activities (source: L. Kappauf, 2011).

Product: The product refers to the tangible or intangible product an organisation wants to promote. It can be a physical item, such as a household toilet, or a service, like installation or repair of facilities or pit-emptying. The product may also be intangible, such as evoking human desires and emotions and promoting behaviour change. A household toilet is hardware that embodies the “software” of emotional values and beliefs: pride, comfort and cleanliness, safety and modernity. Taken together, the hardware-plus-software “product package” needs to be something the customer would like to purchase.

Price: The price to the consumer includes more than just the monetary costs - time, effort, amount of behavioural change that is needed, risk of social embarrassment or disapproval – are also costs for the customer to obtain the product. Price is crucial for the success of the product sale: If an individual perceives that costs outweigh the benefits and the perceived value of the offering is low, they will not buy it. In contrast, if the benefits are perceived as greater than their costs, chances of trial and adoption of the product is much greater.

Place: Marketers talk of place when referring to the ways and means through which the product reaches the customer. This is both through physical distribution channels (e.g. manufacturers, warehouses, trucks, and retail outlets) or channels through which the consumers’ perception can be changed (e.g. doctors’ offices, village meetings, shopping malls, mass media, in-home demonstrations).

Promotion: Promotion is an umbrella term for the integrated use of tools that help raise awareness for the product and create and sustain a demand for it. The main goal of promotion activities is to disseminate product information that gets customers’ attention and persuades people to buy the product.

People: The addition of “People” to the marketing mix refers to the social dimension of demand creation. It involves social norms, people’s aspirations and social mobilisation.

Politics: This sixth “P” highlights the importance which legislation and policies have on the context in which sanitation marketing is implemented (Outlaw, Jenkins, Scott, 2007)

7. Conclusions and future challenges

A variety of innovative strategies for raising awareness of the sanitation situation and for marketing products and services have evolved in many parts of the world. At the same time, there are numerous challenges that need to be addressed:

  • There is a strong tendency in sanitation marketing project reports to highlight only solutions that work. Implementers should not hold back on sharing their learning curves and limitations (for example, this could be done via the open SuSanA discussion forum).
  • Another challenge on the political and institutional level is to reach consensus on effective sanitation marketing strategies and then base policy on successful practices.
  • Sanitation marketers need to conduct extensive research on the preferences of target groups and work together with suppliers who will develop the right products for local requirements. Marketers need to transform low public enthusiasm due to negative perceptions and experiences into positive awareness and market demand. This is time consuming and requires persistent effort.
  • Managers of sanitation projects need to collaborate closely with governmental agencies while engaging private markets in planning and in production of goods and services.
  • The sanitation sector must get a sound understanding of customer needs and ways a toilet can be made a desirable household good. “The challenge is to offer both the poor and the non-poor a range of desirable and affordable options while persuading them to change their priorities so that improved sanitation becomes an attractive ‘must have’ for every household (UN Habitat & Sulabh, 2006).

Further areas of research and demonstration are required:

  • Therefore, it is necessary to reach the very poor part of the population – the bottom of the pyramid effectively.
  • Evidence has shown that micro credit can be a dangerous tool there is a need for further studies to ensure that its use in sanitation marketing avoids exploitation and further household indebtedness.
  • Many sanitation systems are still often not technically and environmentally sustainable, e.g. because proper faecal sludge management for septic tanks and pit latrines is lacking.
  • The phasing and junctures between CLTS (Community-Led Total Sanitation) programmes and introduction of the sanitation marketing approach also requires additional study.
  • Finding market-driven motivations for treatment and reuse of human excreta by private operators in developing countries.

8. Acknowledgements

SuSanA factsheet: Capacity development for sustainable sanitation. April 2012.

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