Social marketing is the application of commercial marketing techniques for popularizing and selling products and services that offer clear benefits to the people at prices they can buy. Thus, easy accessibility through wide availability and high affordability forms the key element of social marketing.

The concept of social marketing came to Bangladesh in 1974 when the Family Planning Social Marketing Project (FPSMP) was initiated to challenge rapid population growth by making contraceptive products widely accessible at a price affordable to the general population. It was initiated by a US-based non-profit organization, Population Services International (PSI) in agreement with the Ministry of Health and Population (GOB), and with funding from USAID.

In 1990, the FPSMP transformed into Social Marketing Company (SMC) as a not for profit private limited company. The company started operating under a voluntary Board of Directors consisting of eminent personalities with private and public sector expertise in different fields.

In 1997, SMC became direct recipient of USAID financial support under the National Integrated Population and Health Program (NIPHP) with the departure of PSI. Similarly in 2007, USAID signed another Co-operative Agreement with SMC under the USAID Bangladesh Health and Population Program (UBHPP) to provide support to SMC's program entitled "Social Marketing Sustainability Program."

In 2006, with a diversified product portfolio and increasing sales volume, SMC became a fully sustainable organization with sales proceeds from full priced products being large enough to meet all of non program related operational costs and commodity costs.

In 2012, SMC was awarded the Marketing Innovation for Health (MIH) program by USAID through a competitive bid for the first time. Under this 4 year cooperative agreement, SMC along with several national and international partners started implementing a program to increase access and demand for family planning, health and nutrition through extensive community mobilization, expanded product distribution and marketing, and training of health providers.

In FY 2012, SMC marketed contraceptives protected over 3,850,000 couples from an unwanted pregnancy. Today, SMC accounts for 35 per cent of Bangladesh's modern contraceptive prevalence from all methods contributing to 58 percent of condoms, 45 per cent of OCPs, and 21 percent of injectables used nation-wide. SMC significantly contributes to the effective management of diarrheal disease as well. In 2012, it sold 335 million sachets of its branded ORSaline representing over 58 per cent share of the national ORS retail market.

Over the years SMC has also received much recognition for its innovation in the field of social marketing. Some of its pioneering programs in the recent years have been:

1. Health Providers' Training Program (HPTP) to improve knowledge and over the counter counseling skills of non graduate health providers particularly drug sellers.

2. Shurockkha - national STI/HIV/AIDS prevention program through increased and effective condom use among high risk population

3. Blue Star – a large branded network of non graduate health providers in the private sector especially trained on contraceptive injectables, referral and counseling

4. Mobile Audio Visual Program (MAVP) to reach rural population who have poor access to electronic media, with messages on family planning, diarrheal disease management, HIV/AIDS prevention, TB dots and other relevant issues.

What began as an experiment to determine whether mass promotion, sale of contraceptives at low prices affordable to the poor could improve acceptance of family planning and contraception, became instrumental in the remarkable success of the national family planning and health programs in Bangladesh.

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