Marketing to the Bottom of the Pyramid

A new product or service may improve lives but only if people use it. How do you market to some of the most risk adverse customers on the planet who live on less than $3 a day? This is a question we see many social enterprises struggle with, including our own investees. This course will give you a simple framework to understand customers and increase adoption of a new innovation for bottom of the pyramid customers. You’ll gain valuable insights, derived from Acumen’s work in low-income communities across South Asia and East and West Africa, to better understand customer mindsets, avoid common pitfalls, and get your ideas to spread.

When it comes to social enterprise marketing, we’ve made every mistake in the book and learned many valuable lessons along the way. This course is the first step toward distilling those lessons into a framework that we will share through this course. We won’t provide all the answers, but rather a framework to get thinking critically about what we call the Four Ts – Truth, Trust, Tribes & Trials. We’ve found the 4Ts transform your chances for making change and must be incorporated into your operations long before you execute the traditional 4Ps of marketing.

A Note From Our Course Curator

At Acumen, we have many learnings and stories from our entrepreneur colleagues, investment partners, and peers with whom we work.  They inspire us daily.  Recently, in our work toward distilling these learnings into powerful lessons, we reached out to one of our active advisors, Mary Pat Ryan, to gain her perspective on marketing lessons in the field.  Mary Pat has a long history of marketing and operations of significant product launches in the US and Europe.  All these businesses were game changers within their category.

More recently Mary Pat has devoted much of her time to giving advice and counsel to some of Acumen’s global CEOs and investees.  We asked her for guidance in putting together our first marketing course.


Our Course Partners

Course Curator

Mary Pat RyanMary Pat Ryan – Acumen is excited to introduce you to Mary Pat. There are many ways in which she has supported Acumen, and noteworthy here is that she has also advised the CEOs of Acumen investees (like d.light design) on marketing. She is no stranger to figuring out how to bring new innovations to market, having had a hand in several new media businesses that transformed their industries. From cable to satellite, from movies to music, with brands known today as the original gamechangers in their respective categories : HBO; DirecTV; IMAX ; SiriusSatellite Radio. Mary Pat has faced the challenging scenario of launching new services, and new technologies in the midst of ingrained competition, uninformed and entrenched consumers, and complex distribution systems

Course Contributors

Seth GodinSeth Godin – Author, entrepreneur, and all round ruckus maker. Seth has spent time on the ground with many of Acumen’s companies and has a real knack for getting to the heart of the marketing issues they are facing. Seth has challenged and changed the field of marketing; he also challenges Acumen’s thinking on many fronts and we are better for it. We are thrilled to share the key lessons Seth has learned from the field. Keep an eye out for his videos throughout this course!

Lindsay StradleyLindsay Stradley – Lindsay is the co-founder of Sanergy, a company that provides high quality sanitation in urban slums. She is based in Nairobi where she oversees Sanergy’s Operations and Consumer Marketing. Our thanks to Lindsay and the Sanergy team for their time on this course and for all of the hard work they are doing to make hygienic sanitation affordable and accessible to low income communities.

Course Outline

Module 1: Truth

  • Become familiar with your group and the structure of this course
  • Explore your personal ‘Truths’ as a consumer and how they shape your buying decisions
  • Define a marketing challenge that you will use during the course

Module 2: Truth Part II

  • Dive deeper into the concept of ‘Truth’ through a case study a company serving bottom of the pyramid customers
  • Begin to apply your learning toward your marketing challenge

Module 3: Trust & Tribes

  • Understand the standards for ‘Trust’ in the markets you serve
  • Understand how the concept of ‘Tribes’ and its influence on purchasing decisions
  • Apply your learning toward your marketing challenge

Module 4: Trials

  • Understand the concept of ‘WWITMF’ and how it can help you improve awareness for the product/service you are marketing
  • Understand the value of ‘Trials’ and prepare a ‘Trial’ to address your marketing challenge

How the Course Works

There are no in-person teachers or facilitators for this course.  We strongly encourage you to go through the course with a group of 2-4 other individuals. This course can be taken individually, but we believe your learning will be further enriched in a group. You can either (1) invite your friends/colleagues to take this course with you or (2) Join and participate in the course Googe+ community to find other learners to be in your group (we will provide instructions in Module 1).

Course content will consist of videos, readings and activities.

Frequently Asked Questions

Will a certificate be awarded upon completion of the course?

We will provide a Statement of Accomplishment for individuals that complete all requirements.

If I take this course in a group, do my group members need to be in the same location?

We recommend signing up with a group that is all physically located in the same place. Much of the value of this course derives from the in-person, peer-to-peer learning that happens between group members. With that said, we have had groups cover many of the group discussions over Skype or Google+ hangouts so it is possible to have a remote group.

Remember, all members of your group need to individually register for this course.

What is the ideal size for my group?

We generally recommend a group of 2 to 4 individuals. If your group is too big, it can be more difficult to coordinate schedules and conduct group sessions together for all of the modules.

How much does it cost to take this course?

All +Acumen courses are free.

Are there any prerequisites for taking this course?

This is an introductory course and there are no prerequisites.

What are the technical requirements?

You need a computer that allows you to watch videos, download our course materials (PDF reading) and the ability to upload your assignments, which will include text reports and images.

More Questions?

Please contact

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