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 customers who are risk-averse, resource-constrained, and extremely price-sensitive? This is a question we see many social enterprises struggle with, including our own investees. In this course, you’ll learn a different kind of marketing framework that will help you understand your customers and increase adoption of new innovations. You’ll gain valuable insights, derived from Acumen’s 15 years of experience working in low-income communities across the world, to better understand customer mindsets, avoid common pitfalls, and get your ideas to spread.

When it comes to social enterprise marketing, Acumen and Acumen companies have made every mistake in the book. This course is the first step toward distilling those lessons. We won’t provide all the answers, but rather a framework to think critically about what we call the Four Ts – Truth, Trust, Tribes & Trials. We’ve found that the 4Ts must be incorporated into your business long before you can tackle the rest of your marketing strategy. The framework can help you form a solid foundation to increase your chances of getting your products or services into the hands of those who need them the most.


  • You are a social entrepreneur looking to revisit your current approach to marketing.
  • You are a social sector organization employee looking to reflect on your approach to customer engagement.
  • You are interested in a framework to complement your existing marketing strategy.


By the end of this four-module course, you will:

  • Understand your customer’s worldview and the emotions that influence their purchasing decisions.
  • Identify the most trusting sources of information for your customers.
  • Refine your marketing message by gaining deeper insights about your customers through a trial of your product or service.

Our Learning 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: Introduction to the course

  • Understand the 4Ts marketing framework  and how it can be applied by entrepreneurs seeking to deliver new solutions to customers in need
  • Reflect on ways to treat customers with dignity and respect through case studies and start applying these ideas to your own Marketing Challenge
  • Familiarize yourself with how the course works on the NovoEd platform

Module 2: Truth

  • Explore the first tent pole of the framework – Truth – by starting with examining your own behavior as a consumer and the influence of your worldview and life experiences on the choices you make
  • Understand the role of emotions in customer decision making

Module 3: Trust & Tribes

  • Explore the second and third tent pole of the framework – Trust and Tribes –and why they matter when engaging with the customers in Bottom of the Pyramid markets
  • Understand the key components of developing Trust effectively
  • Review how other social enterprises have applied the concept of Tribe when scaling their reach and influencing customers’ decisions

Module 4: Trials

  • Explore the last tent pole of the framework – Trials – and why experimentation is valuable
  • Understand the concept of ‘WWITMF’ and how it can help you improve awareness of your product/service
  • Implement a Trial to begin testing our your marketing messages of real life

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does it cost to take this course?

It’s Free!

Will a certificate be awarded upon completion of the course?

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


No, there will be no in-person teachers or facilitators for this course, but you can ask questions in the course discussion forum.

What are the technical requirements?

This course will be provided by a platform called NovoEd. Please review ‘NovoEd Technical Requirements and Browser Compatibility’. They have additional information on Mobile Compatibility and Low-Bandwidth Support.

You need a computer that allows you to watch videos through this platform, download our course materials (PDF reading) and the ability to upload your assignments.


You can take this course either in a team or on your own. +Acumen course is designed to facilitate peer based learning experience and you can review more in this ‘Guide to Getting Started with Your +Acumen Course Team’.

If you are interested in taking this course in a team, you can either (1) invite your friends/colleagues to take this course with you or (2) Join and participate in the course platform to find other learners to be in your team (we will provide instructions on the day course starts)

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

We recommend signing up with a team 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 team members. With that said, we have had teams cover many of the team discussions over Skype or Google+ hangouts so it is possible to have a remote team.

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

What is the ideal size for my team?

We generally recommend a team of 2 to 5 individuals. If your team is too big, it can be more difficult to coordinate schedules and conduct team sessions together (to work on the assignment together) for all of the modules.

More Questions?

Please contact

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