Behavior Change is Not a Light Touch Activity

Intensive “below-the-line” customer engagement is needed for effective promotions

Promotional efforts that lead to direct, significant impact on latrine sales need to have concentrated engagement with potential customers, such as group sales events or door-to-door sales.  Light-touch promotion initiatives such as engagement through health centers and religious leader can add points of exposure, but unless they are coupled with intensive training and coaching, such channels do not directly target non-owners and address their individual needs and desires.

This is in line with what other Base of the Pyramid (BoP) actors are observing. “Below the line” marketing is necessary for impact in rural village contexts, whereas “above the line” marketing is difficult to measure, often expensive, and is further removed from the end user. More discussion on this topic can be found in the report produced by Hystra, in which Hydrologic, a subsidiary of iDE, was one of 15 social enterprises featured. Please see the full report here.

A one-year behavior change campaign

As part of the Going Deep project, a yearlong Behavior Change Communications (BCC) campaign was conducted in 20 communes in Kandal and Svay Rieng provinces. It leveraged existing national Stop the Diarrhea Campaign materials, an open-source social marketing campaign that was developed under the guidance of the Cambodian Ministry of Rural Development by the WaterSHED and Lien Aid WASH Marketing Program with 17 Triggers. The purpose of the BCC campaign was two-fold – first, to learn whether the additional intervention of a BCC campaign will increase latrine uptake; second, to learn whether the Commune Committees for Women and Children (CCWCs) would be the recommended government partner body for implementing such an intervention.

The first question was answered by using project sales data as a proxy for latrine uptake. Additionally, CCWC implementers were encouraged to track any changes in dry pit uptake. The second question was answered through literature review and qualitative interviews on institutional, capacity, and field conditions of the CCWC compared with other likely actors.

The campaign comprised of two phases to ensure multiple touch points with villagers, which has been shown to be helpful in achieving behavior change. Both phases consist of hour-long interpersonal communications sessions featuring an engaging experience to trigger people to move along the behavior change path. The messages touch upon both dry pit and pour-flush latrine options. The content of each phase was informed by user insights research.


Twenty CCWC members served as the direct facilitators of the BCC session after receiving training and coaching through iDE. Additionally, the campaign engaged the Provincial Department of Rural Development and the existing lines of management above CCWC to support monitoring and coaching of the CCWC, with the objective of exposing local government to the practice of managing a BCC campaign.

Field experience showed that the BCC sessions did stimulate demand. After the sessions, households were interested in purchasing latrines. This led to an effort to integrate a sales component—an evolution from the original model, which tried to keep the BCC sessions explicitly separate from sales. To respond to the demand, the project trained CCWCs on how to speak about the latrine product and connect with Latrine Business Owners and sales agents.


The Going Deep BCC experience was a positive testament to the potential of government taking an engaged, influential role in increasing rural sanitation uptake when proper evidence-based tools, training, monitoring, coaching, and incentives are provided. Please see the Behavior Change Tactic Report here for more specifics about the BCC campaign.