What’s in a Name?

Apparently a lot here! Coming from the land of mega-brands, excessive advertisement and title obsession I was fascinated when I learned that in rural Kenya, where product choices are considerably limited and luxury superstores are nonexistent, Kurians are extremely brand conscious.  This fact was brought to my attention by Janine’s research on Living Goods’ CHW Model, which was corroborated when I found that our community members refused to buy soap from our health reps and CHWs that was not a specific brand, not to mention, a particular color. There are strong opinions on what goods should be bought generically and which should have specific tags on it. Thank goodness for market research! This will dictate what our CHWs commodity sales inventory right down to bed shapes and drug packaging.

Seeing as televisions are more rare than paved roads here and billboards (in this area at least) are not kept up, various, clever approaches to marketing are needed.  Cell phone carriers tend to overhaul small town buildings in Lime Green (SafariCom), Pink (Zain) and Kenyan flag signature red and green (Yu) making for vibrant swaths and immediate recognition when passing by at lightning speed. But even more penetrating and cost-effective is the seemingly bland age-old word-of-mouth tactic. The combination of the two is essential.

Like brands, clan names are well known through the area and certainly come with historical reputations- tough business people, exceptional farmers, well educated, cheeky, etc. Yesterday when I told Alice our Lab Tech at the Nyametoburo Health Center my given Kurian name, Nyakorema, she then asked me where I lived. I answered, “karibu (near) Isibania.” She laughed and said, “No! You live right down there,” pointing across the dirt road. Confused, I reconfirmed the location of the Nuru house. Then serious, she was appalled that I was unaware of my namesake’s property—this was obviously widespread information.

In a place where everyone knows everyone and their business, and are informed about brands, there is no surprise that as the number of non-farming jobs increase, people are eager to make clear their new titles ensuring they too becomes common knowledge.

Hopefully you recall the Anti-Brainstorm Exercise for Training CHW’s blog (or “How To Lose Trust and Anger People”), where we discussed what would serve as barriers to the CHW program. As mentioned, we also conducted a “How to Win Trust and Serve the Community” brainstorms with both the Foundation Team and the Field Team. Both concluded the definite need for CHW identification as a way to establish their well-earned role as community resources and promoters of health.

Separate to our brainstorms, the CHW’s also directly requested the same. So, after all signs pointed to badges, yesterday we took head shots for official documentation. Despite rain during our outdoor meeting and an offer to reschedule picture day, they were so eager to have proof of CHW-dom they unanimously voted to remain in the elements while close to 40 snaps were taken.

I am proud to present the template for step one of Nuru’s CHW branding strategy: