Enhancing community volunteer acceptance through strong branding

October 10, 2017 | mHealth | Sub-Saharan Africa | Uganda | Willie Ngumi

In an earlier blog post, we described Living Goods’ model – their ability to harness the power of micro-entrepreneurs to redefine rural trade and promote healthy behaviours during pregnancy and infant child growth. By adopting an ‘Avon style model’ the service rigorously trains women to become ‘Community Health Promoters’ (CHPs) who then operate as independent agents travelling door to door to offer affordable and effective solutions designed to improve quality of life. This blog highlights Living Goods’ promotional and marketing efforts for enhancing the reputation of the CHPs.

When it comes to community health services, volunteers will often be selected from within the community that they will be serving. This practice has been largely embraced because the selected person is usually known by the community and has a good understanding of its environment, knows their way around, and most importantly, with the support of the community leaders, can be trusted.  However, the downside is that often the brand’s image is by default linked to the personality of the volunteer. In other words, a brand can be perceived in a certain way depending on the volunteer’s personality (whether bright and cheery or more reserved). This does not just affect community health, but any organisation with a client-facing work force. So, while volunteers can have an impact on brand, can a strong brand improve engagement of community health volunteers?

Living Goods Uganda, with support of the DFID-funded GSMA mNutrition Initiative, has set out on an ambitious brand building campaign in selected districts, aimed at building affinity for its brand, its community health promoters and Living Goods essential health and nutrition products. Living Goods aims to make it easier for CHPs to engage with the community, by building a strong recognisable brand, and delivering high quality products, to ultimately enhance the reputation and acceptability of its CHPs.

On Tuesday, 15 August 2017, this marketing campaign began in the Masaka district, at the Nsangi branch. Living Goods brought together its CHPs from the branch to re-energise, and paint the town red, or in this case blue and orange, which are the official Living Goods brand colours. The day began with the presence of key District Health Team personnel starting us off, reminding Living Goods CHPs of the value of the work they do in the community. After a brief tour of Living Goods essential products, the entire gathering stood behind the marching band, singing and dancing, going around town creating awareness with much appreciated fanfare. It was exciting to see community members enquiring about available Living Goods products even as the parade passed by their homes and shops. Kids were not left out, with several trailing the parade, or dancing on the sidelines. I think I lost a few pounds or at least burned calories worth talking about as I joined in the fanfare.

Enhancing community volunteer acceptance through strong branding 2

After an exciting lap around town, on market day (perhaps just the perfect day to raise awareness), the team of CHPs then set off to the communities to register more households and provide high quality services, only this time with a buzz in town about Living Goods. The three-day activations, supported by a radio campaign are aimed at ensuring that the community recognises the brand, and as such give CHPs some leverage whenever they visit households for the first time. As the marketing continues we are keenly monitoring the outcomes and the effect this has on CHPs acceptance, performance and ability to achieve their key goals.

Before leaving the branch to head back to Kampala, I spotted an anecdotal statement from a CHP. She felt that this is what they have needed all along. An opportunity to be identified not just as an individual, but as part of a larger credible organisation. A user experience study conducted by GSMA and Frog Design, together with Living Goods had already established this as a need among CHPs. This comment, and appreciation of the visibility created on that day, re-affirmed the fact that a strong brand recognition within a community can positively affect a volunteer’s work.

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