For CARISMA partners, social marketing is the combination of 'education to motivate healthy behaviour with the provision of needed health products and services to lower-income persons'. CARISMA SMOs work in line with these well-established SM best practices:
- Use market research to make decisions on branding, pricing and production “positioning”
- Work within existing commercial infrastructure to distribute products
- Influence healthy decision-making and “grow” product demand using mass media campaigns and BCC strategies
- Subsidize health products so that low-income persons able to purchase them
- Minimize waste of product (in contrast to free giveaways of health products)
- Ensure quality of product.
In practice, CARISMA SMOs have used everything from mobile cinemas, soap operas, peer education, one-on-one counselling, street theatre, mass media campaigns and community-level outreach to bring their message of condom use and safe sex practices to low-income and vulnerable communities throughout the Caribbean. In parallel with the expansion of condom outlets into non-traditional areas, these communication strategies have resulted in increased consistent condom use and increased condom access in HIV-transmission 'hot spots' (such as nightclubs and commercial sex work areas).
In addition to the use of innovative social marketing techniques, CARISMA partners have incorporated pioneering research methodologies to hone country and community-specific social marketing strategies. CARISMA’s use of Participatory Ethnographic Evaluation and Research, or PEER, has resulted in a deeper understanding of target populations. PEER studies ranging from female sex workers in Haiti, to young urban women in Jamaica, to young men living in the Dominican Republic’s bateyes, have provided important data on risky sexual behaviours, gender norms and decision-making. The combination of quantitative monitoring and evaluation with in-depth qualitative research has allowed CARISMA SMO’s to make evidence-based decisions as they create, evaluate, and expand on social marketing activities in the region.