On an early December morning in 2014, Mr Shabih Haider, Director of Biogenics, sipped his coffee as he stared absentmindedly out of his office window and looked at the traffic on the main Shahrah-e-Faisal road in Karachi. His forehead creased with concern as he thought about Hamdam, Biogenics’ contraceptive (condom) brand. He looked at the reports which reflected a falling sales trend over the past ten quarters as well as falling profitability figures. The reports made him uneasy. Ever since they had launched Hamdam, the sales were far from satisfactory. The entire Hamdam team had been concentrating their efforts on the branded contraceptive to drive up the sales, but the response had been less than desired.
The problems that Hamdam was facing were not easy to overcome. The general consumer perception towards the contraceptive market was not very accepting and the social rejections had made marketing for such brands a challenging task. Nonetheless, Pakistan still offered vast potential that was too significant to be ignored.
‘Now is the time to develop the market, create awareness and find some effective solutions to communicate with the consumers,’ the diligent director thought to himself. Shabih Haider was not a man to give up easily. He believed in taking everything head-on as the key to dealing with challenging and formidable tasks. What lay ahead of him was a society which perceived the issue of family planning and use of contraceptives as a taboo topic and considered discussions regarding them as indecent and scandalous. In fact, anything related to sex was seen as unvirtuous in the society. Mr Shabih Haider, thus, was faced with the formidable task of establishing his condom brand Hamdam in the conservative Pakistani society.
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The case focuses on the marketing and promotional activities of contraceptives in an emerging market that is also culturally conservative—such as that of Pakistan. The case will explore the cultural and the societal barriers faced by the brand team during the process of designing marketing activities for contraceptives in a country where anything related to the topic of sex is a taboo and is seen as disrespectful and religiously controversial. The case highlights the challenges of marketing a contraceptive brand in such a situation, and the strategies and steps that could be employed to overcome these barriers. Moreover, the case also explores how a controversial brand/product may be established strongly in such a society using strategic marketing. Overall, the case explores marketing and branding challenges and strategies through influencing and changing consumer perceptions and behaviours regarding contraceptives in conservative societies.
Click here to read Marketing a Taboo Product: Tackling the Consumer Mind-set in Pakistan for free from the journal Asian Journal of Management Cases.