By Mohsen Shahin Pour and Somayyeh Avvali

When I travel and meet mothers in some remote places, I am really surprised by the commonality of our mutual wants and needs. They want the same things that we want for our children. They want their children grow up healthy and have a successful life. But I also see lots of poverty and lack of access to opportunities.

In one study there were people who lived in houses where the floor was not sealed and was just soil, they didn’t have drinking water and electricity. But they had one thing that really surprised me. They had “Coca cola”.


In developing countries one particularly notices that Coca cola is all over the place. This is amazing. Coca cola’s success stops you and makes you to think.

How do they reach Coca cola to these remote places? And if this is possible, why cannot governments and NGOs do the same for getting essential services there? I am not the first person to ask this question but I think we can learn many things from this. If Coca Cola sells 1.5 billion bottles/cans daily worldwide this means there is something we can learn from them.

There are creative people and innovative people in every field of economy. I think if we can showcase such ideas with experts delivering fantastic presentations and workshops to financial, property and business leaders and find out that what has made Coca cola universally available, and then perhaps we can use the same method for making accessible public goods and services. If we analyse this what we could learn would help in saving people’s lives. This is why I invested time studying about Coke.

We can learn 3 strategies from Coca cola:

They take real time data and immediately use that feedback and implement it for their products.

They tap local entrepreneurship.

They do incredible advertising and marketing.

Let’s start with data. Coca cola has a clear policy. They study the feedback and when they find out something they use in their products and markets. So from these sales figures they can estimate number of Sprite, Fanta or Coke sales in similar third world countries whether it is being sold from a local store, a supermarket or a pushcart. Therefore if sales start to drop, you can find out where the problem is. Using data is like ten pin-bowling in the dark and you don’t know which one of them goes down until the light comes back up and you see the result. Thus using the real-time data turns on the lights.

What is the second thing that makes Coke sales great?

They are successful at tapping the local entrepreneur talent. Coca cola has been in Namibia from the 1982, but sometimes the product did not have reach to local markets. But Coca cola noticed that local people were buying large quantities and then selling in faraway villages. In 1990 they decided to train the locals, give them small loans and establish them as distribution points then these local entrepreneurs employed sellers. These sellers use bicycle or pushcarts to sell their products. Now there are 3000 centers in Africa which have 15,000 employees. In Tanzania and Uganda they have 90 percent of Coca cola being sold without a shop front.

This information tells us that governments and NGOs need to tap the resident entrepreneurship talent because local know-how is essential on how to reach inaccessible places to make that connection and recognize exactly what motivates people in that place to bring about change.

The government of Ethiopia noticed that many people lived far away from clinics. They had more than one-day’s travel to the nearest clinic which would be difficult in dire situations such as in an emergency. The study compared this situation in Ethiopia to Kerala State of India which had a similar system. They trained 35000 local health workers who give direct care to people. Utilising local talent, this increased the efficiency so that instead of one employee for 300,000 people; this ratio was brought down to one employee for 2500 people.

Now we consider how we can put this into effect to bring about positive change in people’s lives. In Ethiopia from 2000 to 2008 this change helped to decrease the death rate of children by 25 percent. And now 100,000 children are healthier because of implementing better living conditions. The third factor of Coca cola success is marketing. Small entrepreneurs sell to gain profits and so it’s obvious that Coca cola relies on marketing for selling their products. So what is their marketing secret?

Well, they have a specific target and it achieves this by matching product with lifestyle. While it is true that Coca cola is a global company but they tune in to the local sensitivity. Their universal slogan alludes to general happiness but then Coke takes it further and has made the slogan local. It takes the guesswork out of what makes people happy. For instance they go the places like Latin America and notice that happiness is related to family life while in the South Africa happiness is related to social respect.

Therefore using this consumer psychology how would we improve on health and development marketing? We have all heard of some of these messages: “What should you do so that you don’t get HIV”.

A study has found that 1.5 million children die because of lack of sanitation caused by open-air toilets. Someone found a solution: just provide toilets for people to use. When this was done, it was discovered that instead the locals used the new toilets to keep their livestock or for stocking grain!

So how did marketing solve the problem? The trick was to introduce a toilet as a modern trendy convenience. In some parts of India toilets are now advertised as an attractive dowry for marriage. Prospective brides no longer accept proposals where the groom’s house has no indoor toilet. This is creative marketing. If we can learn from creative people in every sector we will make a future that happiness will be universally available as a Coca Cola.

Mohsen Shahin Pour (international advertising expert) and Somayyeh Avvali (international business management expert) are based in Iran and visited Australia to attend the Multicultural Eiduladha Festival & Fair on Sunday 12 October 2014.