How social marketing can ensure the success of clean cooking programs in Indonesia

Indonesia’s Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources, together with the World Bank, announced a multi-phase program to introduce affordable, biomass-fueled cookstoves to the 24.5 million families – or 40 percent of households across Indonesia – who still use traditional biomass, mostly firewood, for cooking.

For a stove program to succeed in Indonesia, we must frame the intervention to focus on marketing behaviour change for clean cooking. If we focus only on manufacturing and selling units, the program will lose focus on consumers’ needs and wants. Evidence from the Tulodo-led 2014 review of behaviour change and clean cooking shows how this impacts demand, sustainability and scale. Stove sales are still core to success, however ensuring correct and sustained use is critical to Indonesia enjoying the full health, environmental and economic benefits of clean cooking.

The challenge in marketing cleaner stoves in Indonesia is the creation of value in the minds of the consumers and their communities. Value can be both intrinsic and extrinsic; it can include the direct health and economic benefits as well as social and other value. Central to marketing is the idea of exchange (cost vs. benefit) that provides the foundation for the relationship between the consumer and a brand. Effective social marketing, which is the application of marketing techniques and tools to change individual behaviours for the benefit of a community, has six key elements:

  1. The importance of customer orientation, rather than top down approaches, putting the individual at the centre of the intervention;
  2. Insight based on formative and behavioural research, using proven theoretical approaches;
  3. Clear and measurable behavioural goals for an intervention, not broad policy priorities or political statements;
  4. An understanding of the consumer’s barriers and benefits to the change, leading to creation of intrinsic and extrinsic value, often through the creation of brands, for which the intended recipient is willing to exchange their resources (money, time etc);
  5. A mix of methods for communications activities, e.g. media and traditional forms of communication, as well as adjustments to price and promotion of products, services and behaviours; and
  6. Take into account competition from opposed interests and behaviours as well as from other public issues.

Segmentation is an important component of marketing as it clearly defines an intervention’s target group(s) demographically, geographically or attitudinally (using psychographics). Consumers can be segmented by their propensity to adopt an innovation (‘innovators’, ‘early adopters’, ‘early majority’, ‘late majority’ and ‘laggards’). Another way is by their desire to convert to the new behaviour. Simple demographics are not sufficient for segmentation, these must be behavioural. Segmentation helps the marketer to develop archetypes or personalities that enable a program to be targeted to the needs of different groups of consumers.

Brands build relationships between consumers and products, services, or lifestyles by providing beneficial exchanges and adding value to their objects. Brands in public policy are the associations that individuals hold for behaviours, or lifestyles that embody multiple behaviours. Since many clean cooking interventions involve products, services and behaviours, e.g. purchase of an improved stove and its fuel and their consistent use, change can require more than just affecting consumer choice. This makes the use of effective branding strategies a key consideration for a clean cooking program in Indonesia.

Journey to scale: the Tulodo review included case study programs that achieved scale by reaching a “tipping point” where the new clean cooking technology became the norm. An example is Indonesia’s transition to LPG, where the government learned from early problems by building a national regulatory framework and reaching out to change agents in beneficiary communities. Interventions should take into account relationships and context at the individual, interpersonal, community and national levels. The recruitment of change agents (especially as early adopters) and the use of cooking demonstrations, are keys to success.

A successful clean cooking program needs to ensure the availability of accessible and appealing financing options. New stoves are often a large investment for the targeted households and therefore creative and realistic ways should be developed to enable and facilitate the purchase. Financing options include subsidies, micro loans, trials and rent-to-own programs. An example comes from the Shell Foundation Room to Breathe project in India, which initially fell short of the sales momentum needed to achieve scale and impact. The project subsequently negotiated partnerships with microfinance institutions and sales increased significantly.

The combination of these elements – segmentation, branding, change agents and financing – as part of a social marketing program will help produce a movement for cleaner cooking in Indonesia. This movement will result in increased sales of cook stoves, and more importantly their correct and sustained use. This will help ensure that Indonesia enjoys the health, environmental and economic benefits that cleaner cooking has to offer.

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