Are You in the Market for Condoms?

By Sandy Garçon, External Relations and Communications Manager, PSI

Valentine’s Day is not the only reason to celebrate February 14ththis year – it is also International Condom Day! Since its inception in 2009, International Condom Day is celebrated in conjunction with Valentine’s Day as an ideal opportunity to promote healthy relationships and to remind people to protect themselves and their partners.

PSI has been supporting access to condoms through public and private sectors from its earliest days. You can say that it’s part of our DNA.

We’re continually refining our approaches and using new methodologies that will allow us to tackle the last mile of the HIV epidemic and meet the global unmet need for family planning. A critical part of this comprehensive strategy is evolving our condom programming to increase use across all income levels in the developing world.

From donor subsidy to sustainable model

In many of the countries in which PSI operates, we’re creating new business models to make our condom programming more efficient and move towards greater financial self-reliance – long after donor support has ended.

PSI’s Lovers+ and Trust brands of condoms and lubricant have long been leaders in the condom market in Southern Africa. Capitalizing on its success, PSI South Africa transitioned in 2012 from a donor-funded condom social marketing program into the financially independent, profitable social enterprise Company 158.

PSI South Africa operates commercially in four countries including South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland and Botswana — with plans to expand. The venture commands 75 percent of the condom market in the region. Profits generated from sales of condom — to those who can afford to buy them — are used to subsidize the distribution of condoms to sections of society where people may not afford them. Company 158 also reinvests funds in HIV prevention and treatment services.

Another example of a transition model, the Pan American Social Marketing Organization (PASMO), PSI’s network member in Central America, has built on years of donor investment to develop a profitable condom brand, Vive. It boasts a 52 percent market share in the region. Similarly, PSI’s Panté brand in the Dominican Republic has transformed its management process over the past two years since graduating from USAID assistance to achieve 100 percent cost recovery.

And we’re not done yet. PSI’s newly established social enterprise, PSI-India Limited Liability Company will offer a basket of affordable family planning products — among them condoms and lubricants — designed to increase access, improving distribution and expanding choice by diversifying the method mix. Launched in early 2017, with funding support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the social enterprise is expected to achieve full cost recovery by year four.

A better understanding of beneficiaries

At the core of our approach is the belief that in putting our consumers — often considered beneficiaries — at the center of what we do, we’ll get lifesaving products and services to the right people in greater numbers. Condoms are no different.

This is a dynamic process that needs to continuously respond to the ever-changing needs and desires of the people that we serve. It extends from designing audience-specific, creatively packaged, affordable and high-quality condom brands to using innovative social behavior change communications and private sector marketing techniques to increase demand for and access to contraceptives.

But we’re taking it a step further.

To better understand both those who use PSI’s condom brands and those we want to start using them, we’re combining our traditional consumer and market research methods with user-centered design approaches. Employing empathy for insights gathering is at the top of the list. This helps us to identify the barriers to healthy behaviors, as well as the key motivators that encourage consumers to access and use condoms and other methods. We’ve also begun prototyping with our target audiences in order to design products that will be most relevant and appealing to each target audience.

Growing the total market 

At PSI, we believe in the power of markets to improve health. We’re taking this same market-based approach to condoms.

By taking an in-depth look into the capacities and incentives of all players in the value chain, along with the enabling environment in which they operate, we gain insights that allow us to not only improve our own interventions, but also ensure the growth of the total condom market.

For over 10 years, we’ve contributed to distribution efforts in South Africa – in coordination with National Department of Health and through our enterprise channel – of their public sector condom, including in rebranding to appeal to youth consumers. In 2016, PSI distributed about 100 million condoms. Similarly, PSI is working in countries like Zimbabwe, Swaziland and Mozambique to support governments and donors on how to better position public sector condoms and make them more desirable for their domestic markets.

Recently, PSI partnered with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) to investigate condom social marketing programs in six African countries: Botswana, Lesotho, Mali, South Africa, Swaziland and Uganda. We investigated the market for male condoms in each country and the roles of the public, social marketing and commercial sectors in those markets. This resulted in a set of country-specific recommendations for improving the effectiveness, efficiency and sustainability of condom markets.

By continuing to work in partnerships that leverage each actor’s strengths and allow them – public, NGO, donor and commercial sector – to maximize their impact, we will be in better position to fulfill our dual commitment to preventing the spread of HIV and protecting girls and women from unintended pregnancies.

Banner photo credit: Stephanie O’Connor

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