April 22, 2014

Campaign to Increase Safe Water Usage Wins Three Awards

Safe Water Network's groundbreaking 'Jal Chetna Abhiyan' program (Safe Drinking Water Awareness), developed by Dialogue Factory, an experiential marketing company based in India, resulted in significant increases in safe water trial and adoption rates and recently won three Rural Marketing Awards by the Rural Marketing Association of India.

The campaign was designed to overcome the cultural and educational issues that cloud the benefits of safe-water usage and is important in helping to reach the 25% of the world that still lacks affordable, safe water access. These issues also contribute to the challenges of local sustainability because more than half of existing rural systems fail within the first year of installation.

In recognition of the campaign's effectiveness and innovative use of technology, the team won three Rural Marketing Flame Awards from the Rural Marketing Association of India last month, including Gold for showcasing innovative technology, and two Bronze awards for long-term campaign of the year, and on-ground sales promotion of the year.

Safe Water Network's marketing campaign is part of a broader effort to standardize and package Safe Water Network's approach in ways that can be replicated at scale by partners and others around the world.

The campaign included important contributions from Merck, who provided marketing, health assessment and educational expertise; PepsiCo, who also provided marketing and technical expertise; and IMRB, a world leader in market research (both IMRB and Dialogue Factory are owned by WPP). Key insights to date from the research include:

  • Most communities do not connect their health problems with drinking contaminated water
  • A common perception: water that's visibly clean is good enough—my forefathers have been surviving on this and so will I.
  • Communities understood 'health' messaging better than 'drinking safe water will make me more productive because I'll feel better.'

Equipped with these insights, the team focused first on refreshing Safe Water Network's iJal brand, creating a new logo and rebranding existing sites as iJal Stations. iJal in Hindi means 'my water.'

Next, the team developed a campaign for computer tablets, a first in community water supply. The tablets delivered targeted messages to key opinion leaders, mothers and community educators about the importance of safe water.

To ensure that iJal Stations supply safe water for generations to come, customers are charged a nominal fee to cover the station's operating costs and to also build a reserve for maintenance and capital recovery. That's another reason why this marketing campaign was so important—a case must be made for why families should pay for safe water.

After running the campaign for 10 months, Safe Water Network witnessed dramatic sales increases, in some cases, over 50%. "More people were drinking safe water," says Ravi Sewak, India Director for Safe Water Network, "and that means more people were getting healthy and beginning to live more productive lives. It also means that the iJal Stations are earning enough money to keep them operating properly and that's the key to sustainability." "The challenge was to create a self-sustainable model for the rural audience that would not just ensure trials, but also adoption," says Dalveer Singh, head experiential marketing Asia Pacific, Dialogue Factory.

As more field research comes in from IMRB, the team will continue to refine and reshape the messaging to improve its effectiveness.

"Anyone can install a water system," says Kurt Soderlund, CEO of Safe Water Network, "keeping it going is the real challenge". This campaign was an important step in our commitment to reaching more communities in need. The tablet messaging program has now been added to our iJal Station package that is rolling out over the next three years in Andhra Pradesh. We are also looking at introducing a version for our sites in Ghana, where we also operate."

For more information about the RMAI Awards and the Safe Water Network groundbreaking campaign to increase safe-water usage, contact: 
NYC: Amada Gimble, agimble@safewaternetwork.org
India: Poonam Sewak, psewak@safewaternetwork.org

Dr. Aidan Cronin, a water, sanitation and hygiene specialist at UNICEF
"In the midst of technology's growing reach, Safe Water Network's Tablet campaign is an innovative program that will make people aware about water safety."