Create robust learning loops
Many valuable insights on how to make products and business models more robust will surface as initiatives progress. Companies will benefit from establishing robust processes that ensure lessons are captured and transferred back to the company so that products and services can be improved.
In 2013, RB, formerly known as Reckitt Benckiser, launched the Save a Child a Minute programme to eliminate diarrhoea, a leading cause of malnutrition and child mortality in emerging markets. The programme was based around two innovative and low-priced hygiene products that support the prevention of diarrhoea: a multipurpose soap bar that can be used by families for cleaning and washing hands, and a toilet powder to make the use of pit latrines more hygienic.
“We gained a number of insights that we can apply to other parts of our business. Working with emerging market consumers made us investigate ingredient combinations that are far more cost effective and far more beneficial to the environment.”
Patricia O’Hayer, Director, Global External Relations, RB
RB launched a number of pilots in communities in Pakistan, Nigeria and India, three of the top six countries with the highest incident rate of diarrhoea-driven child mortality. A “learning mindset” and collaboration with a wide range of stakeholders were critical to ensure effective product design and meaningful social outcomes. The Government Affairs and Policy team at RB worked closely with business units and organized brainstorming workshops with NGOs, local communities, suppliers and other social innovators to develop new products. Hygienists – often women recruited from local communities – played critical roles both during and after the pilots, including signing up women from rural households, educating them on hygienic practices, selling the RB products and tracking incidents of diarrhoea on a weekly basis. A third party evaluator carried out surveys before and after to independently measure impacts.
RB gathered a number of insights on product preferences, behaviour change and viable business models through this process. Some lessons learned challenged its existing assumptions, and the team therefore had to go back to the drawing board a number of times. For instance, an initial assumption was that affordability would be the most important consideration for low-income consumers – but fragrance turned out to be just as important to promote penetration and use because it connected to consumers’ emotions and aspirations in their purchasing decision.
A second lesson revolved around how to incentivize behaviour change – while soap was prevalent in most households, many families were not using it regularly enough. Building on this insight, RB revised the behaviour change programme to include incentives such as recognition and awards for healthy and clean households that promoted healthy competition and hence an increase in soap usage.
Home page image: REUTERS/Navesh Chitrakar