Table of Contents
Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) also popularly known as Doctors without Borders is an international autonomous medical humanitarian organization that works across the globe in offering emergency services to people affected by natural disasters, armed conflicts and epidemic diseases, as well as areas that are underserved with healthcare. This report has analyzed the external marketing environment in which the organization operates with the help of PESTEL model. The analysis found that the operations of the organization are affected by political, social, economic, legal, technology and environmental factors. However, political factor, especially political instability in MENA region has the greatest impact on MSF by creating market opportunity for the organization. Using marketing mix theory, the report has analyzed MSF’s current marketing activities in which it emerged that the organization delivers medical aid free of charge with the help of nurses and doctors that respond to emergencies whenever they occur in the fastest way possible. The analysis also discovered that Doctors without Borders promote its products through direct marketing and mass media, such as social media. Nonetheless, to ensure competitiveness and growth in market share, it is recommended that MSF adopt market penetration within MENA region, diversify products and invest more in promotional campaigns to enhance brand visibility.
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Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) also popularly known as Doctors without Borders is an international autonomous medical humanitarian organization that works across the globe in offering emergency services to people affected by natural disasters, armed conflicts and epidemic diseases, as well as areas that are underserved with healthcare (MSF 2014). The NGO was founded in 1971 by a small group of French journalists and doctors following the Biafra secession as a way of providing medical assistance to the people affected by secession (MSF 2014). The charity organization operates globally and has offered humanitarian services in many parts of the world. In 2015 alone, MSF deployed over 30,000 personnel comprising of doctors, sanitation engineers, logistical experts, and administrators to over 70 countries to assist in the provision of humanitarian assistance to people affected by armed conflicts, disease epidemics, and natural disasters among others (MSF 2017). This report begins by analyzing and evaluating the external environmental factors affecting the operations of MSF in the humanitarian market with the help of PESTEL tool. The second part of the report analyzes the marketing management of MSF in light of how the charity’s current marketing activities create value to its key stakeholders, such as donors and beneficiaries. Finally, based on the findings, the report will provide recommendations for the charity organization that will help increase its competitiveness and market share.
External Environmental Analysis
PESTEL is an analytical tool used to evaluate the external environmental factors that can affect the operations of a company. The PESTEL denotes political, economic, social, technological, environment and legal issues that affect company’s operations (Elearn 2008, p. 8). These factors are external to a company, meaning that the management has little or no control over these factors. Therefore, PESTEL analysis is conducted to identify these factors so that opportunities and threats presented by these external factors can be identified and effectively responded to ensure organizational success.
Figure 1: PESTEL Model
Source: Elearn (2008)
Doctors without Borders operate mainly in MENA regions that cover vast areas of Middle East and North Africa. The MENA region is rocked by a lot of humanitarian disasters caused by political instability. Over the past six years, many countries that make MENA have experienced serious political instability that has called for humanitarian assistance from humanitarian organizations, such as MSF as is the case in Syria, Palestine, Yemen, Iraq, Nigeria, Tunisia and Lebanon among others (Botelho, 2015).
The political instability experienced in MENA regions has had adverse impact on the economies of the countries in the region. The countries affected by the political instability are experiencing economic deterioration and financial crisis. The economic deterioration in the crisis affected MENA countries have resulted in increased poverty incidences, high rates of corruption, difficulties in accessing medical care and rise in drug prices, as well as increased poor sanitation and lack of government spending on medical infrastructure (World Bank 2015). For instance, Syria recorded a negative GDP growth rate of -4.8% in 2016 due to the ongoing conflicts and this means a lot of suffering for the people in this country.
The countries that form MENA, where MSF operates has people from different ethnicities, religious beliefs, traditions, customs and languages, which creates complexity for MSF in delivering humanitarian assistance to victims in need of humanitarian help. For instance, in some countries, religion women are not supposed to be touched by men other than their husbands and this makes the work of MSF difficult in providing medical assistance (Botelho 2015). In some cultures, female genital mutilation is an accepted cultural and social practice. Additionally, the increase in tribal and religious ideologies in MENA region, such as the ISIS ideologies is a cause of conflicts. Moreover, lack of reproductive health and sex education and awareness also makes the delivery of humanitarian assistance a challenge for MSF.
The last few years has seen rapid technological developments in the areas of communication, medicines, transportation, medical and humanitarian aids. Accessing these technologies creates both opportunities and challenges to humanitarian organizations. The Internet provides opportunity for humanitarian organizations to have quick access to security and medical information. The Drone technology allows for ease and secure transportation of humanitarian aid to risky areas. Other technologies that create opportunities and challenges include the Global Positioning System (GPS) applications, telemedicine, and social media (Belliveau 2016).
Climate change is a global environmental problem. Climate change has resulted in increased flooding, drought and territorial disappearance in some areas and this triggers widespread displacement of people worldwide. Increased climate change is expected to cause increased food and water crisis in many parts of the world (Botelho 2015).
Doctors without Borders work in countries with ambiguous legal system in the areas of status and work of charity organizations. The ambiguous laws results in difficulty in understanding the status of refugees and individuals in need of medical help, strict rules on NGOs and absence of rule of law in some of the nations, such as Somalia (Botelho 2015).
The PESTEL analysis indicates that all the external environmental factors affect the operations of MSF. However, political factors appear to have the greatest impact on the humanitarian organization. The political instability experienced in the MENA region makes the delivery of humanitarian assistance difficult and risk for MSF staff. In the last six years, a number of countries in MENA region such as Syria, Libya, Iraq, Somalia and Yemen, as well as Afghanistan and Pakistan have experienced a rise in Jihadist activities. Yemen has also experienced political instability following Saudi-led coalition war against the rebel groups in this country (Botelho 2015). Syria has also not only been experiencing civil war, but also attempts by the opposition and ISIS to topple President al-Assad regime from power. In the process, Russia-led intervention in this crisis has led to death and suffering of many Syrian civilians who are caught up in the war. The Mediterranean refugee crisis has also called for European Union response and this affects the operations of MSF. Additionally, some countries, where Doctors without Borders work have created incoherent policies and laws that make the work of international humanitarian organizations, like MFS difficult (MSF 2017). These political factors affect the activities of Doctors without Borders that has to respond to them to ensure successful operations.
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Current Marketing Management Analysis
Value Proposition of the Chosen Charity
Creating a strong and effective value proposition is critical in attracting customers and achieving a competitive advantage in a market. Value proposition is a statement that paints a picture of what a company has to offer for its stakeholders. Value proportion, therefore, tells the customers how the product or service offered help solve their problems, the benefits they can expect and why customers should identify with the brand instead of competitors. Doctor’s without Borders’ value proposition is to provide humanitarian assistance that include the provision of emergency medical aid to individuals affected by armed conflicts, disease epidemics, natural disasters and exclusion from health worldwide (MSF 2014).
Analysis of How MSF’s Current Marketing Activities Delivering Value
Marketing Mix Model
Marketing mix refers to a sect of marketing tools used by a company in pursuing its marketing goals in the target market. There are four elements that constitute a marketing mix, namely product, price, place and promotion (Maclaran et al. 2009, p. 17). All the four elements of the marketing mix are important for the success of an organization and therefore must be done correctly. Product denotes that goods/services that a company deliver to customers to meet their needs. Price is a marketing mix element that denotes the amount charged to customers for the delivery of goods or services (Raju 2009, p. 74). Place is an element that denotes the channels that a company uses to distribute the services or goods to the customers. Lastly, promotion is a marketing mix element that defines the various communication tools that a firm uses to inform and persuade customers to buy products or services offered (Bird 2004, p. 12).
Doctors without Borders Marketing Mix
Médecins Sans Frontières’s product involves the delivery of medical services to people affected by affected by violence, natural disasters and catastrophes. The organization has a team of doctors and nurses that respond to medical emergencies in any part of the world where such medical aids are required and this help save lives that would otherwise be lost without the provision of such services (Appendix 1). The medical aid provided by Doctors without Borders covers the entire world, meaning the MSF serves people from any part of the world and every time without looking at the country or the background of the people they serve (MSF 2014). The responsibility of Doctors without Borders is to serve the needy without discrimination. Because MSF is a humanitarian organization, its team of volunteers are always ready to respond to any emergency that might arise in any part of the world where its team are always on alert and ready for respond when called upon to do so. Accordingly, Doctors without Borders’ services are loved because of quality that include quick response and the fact that they have a team of experts, including doctors, nurses and sanitation engineers that are always available to help people in need across the globe (MSF 2017).
Price is an important marketing mix element that influences customer purchase decision. Maclaran et al. (2009, p. 21) argue that most customers tend to look at the prices of a product and in most cases try to make price comparison with those charged by other firms offering similar product or service before deciding on which one to buy. Doctors without Borders being a not-for-profit organization offer its medical aid services free of charge (MSF 2017). Customers/patients in need of medical aid are assisted by the organization’s team of doctors and nurses and are not required to pay anything for the services offered. This is because MSF operates on the concept of social service, which is sponsored by a chain of NGOs, hospitals and well wishers. Additionally, most of the humanitarian aid are delivered by people who have volunteered at the charity.
Place is an important marketing mix element that an organization needs to do right to attract customers to a brand (Raju 2009, p. 19). Doctors without Borders deliver its humanitarian aid through a network of hospitals and ambulance services. Once MSF has received an emergency call through their helpline, a team of doctors and nurses who are always on standby are sent to the site of emergency or where medical care is not available in case of rural areas with ambulance and even helicopters in far flung areas, where it might take a lot of time to reach (MSF 2014). The doctors and nurses arrive fully equipped with medical resources for first aid while patients in critical conditions can be driven or flown to hospitals that MSF has partnered with for further specialized medical care.
As part of Doctors without Borders’ strategy to remain competitive, the organization engages in aggressive promotional campaign to create brand awareness and to solicit donor funding so as to keep the organization in operation. MSF adopts integrated marketing communication (IMC) comprising of both traditional and digital communication tools to promote its brand. First, MSF adopts direct marketing in which case individuals who have enlisted help from the organization are involved in marketing the brand (MSF 2017). This is done through direct selling that involves talking to the people by word-of-mouth. MSF also use social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and Instagram as a communication tool for promoting its brand. Figure 1 below shows Facebook page of Doctors without Borders, a platform it uses for brand promotion.
Figure 1: Doctors without Borders Facebook Page
Source: Facebook (2017).
Additionally, Doctors without Borders promote its brand through social service units and have also enlisted volunteers in various parts of the world, where the organization operates that do the work of promoting its brand to the people.
Market Opportunity Identification
Analysis of Potential Market Opportunity
From the external environmental analysis (PESTEL) it emerges that the political instability in MENA region creates an opportunity for Doctors without Borders. The political instability in the MENA region cause a lot of suffering to the people most of whom lack access to medical care because of lack of these facilities (Akala & El-Saharty 2006, p. 961). In Syria and Iraq, for example, the ongoing conflicts have created a deplorable situation, where hospitals have been damaged and people have nowhere to seek medical services, while poor sanitation has become the order of the day and these results in spread of diseases and deaths in addition to the injuries that people suffer as a result of bombing. Therefore, the ongoing conflicts and political instability in the MENA region creates a perfect opportunity for Doctors without Borders to capitalize on by moving to these countries to help those in need by offering humanitarian assistance that include medical aid to the victims affected by the conflicts.
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The success of an organization in today’s hypercompetitive environment begins with proper identification of the target market to service and positioning effectively as a brand. In order to serve a market well, marketers must ensure proper segmentation that involved dividing a large market into small sub-groups with similar characteristics, needs and wants (Maclaran et al. 2009, p. 32). There are different bases of segmenting a market that include geographic, demographic, psychographic and behavioral segmentation. From analysis of Doctors without Borders activities, it emerges that the charity organization has segmented its market geographically. The organizations serve every part of the world, as the presence of MSF is felt everywhere. This suggests that the organization has segmented its market geographically by focusing on the whole world.
Targeting is the second stage of marketing and involves identifying a specific target customer group from a segment to serve (Raju 2009, p. 44). Targeting is important as it enables marketers to focus their effort and resources on a customer segment that presents the greatest opportunity for an organization. Analysis indicates that the target market of Doctors without Borders is individuals in need of medical care. MSF is a humanitarian medical service provider that has a team of nurses and doctors that travel across the globe to provide medical aid in places where there is emergency. This implies that the organization is only focusing on customers/patients in need of medical care in any part of the world.
The third stage in marketing involves positioning. Positioning involves the image that a company wants to occupy on the minds of its targeted customers (Maclaran et al. 2009, p. 36). Effective positioning is important for organizational success because customers are willing to associate with brands that they consider to be able to meet their needs and this can be done through effective positioning in a market relative to competitor brands. Doctors without Borders have position in the market as a quick, independent, ethical, impartial and neutral medical care charity organization (MSF 2017).
Having understood Borders without Borders’ STP and market opportunity, the following recommendations will help increase the organizations competitiveness and market share. First, to become more competitive, MSF should consider focusing more on MENA region. From the PESTEL analysis, it emerged that MENA region witnesses political instability that exposes people to the risk of injuries and even death, thus require medical care that in most cases are not available to the people. In the Middle East, for example, the longstanding war between Israel and Palestine is causing a lot of suffering to innocent Palestine civilians at the West Bank (Akala & El-Saharty 2006, p. 963). Therefore, giving a lot of attention to the Middle East that is badly affected by armed conflicts will help increase the organization’s market share. The same applies to other MENA countries, such as Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen, Libya, Tunisia, Nigeria and many other MENA nations that are affected by armed conflicts. The adoption of market penetration by focusing more attention in MENA region will certainly result in a growth in market, thus ensuring its competitiveness.
Second, it is recommended that Doctors without Borders consider diversifying their service portfolio to help increase its market coverage (Raju 2009, p. 64). At the moment, MSF focuses only on the provision of medical care to those affected by conflicts, natural disasters and diseases among other catastrophes. However, the customer segments that the organization serves are not only in need of medical care; rather they also need food, shelters and clothing. For this reason, MSF can increase its competitiveness by diversifying its services to include the provision of other humanitarian assistances, such as food, shelter and clothing to people in emergency situations. The International Red Cross is an example of a humanitarian organization whose success and competitiveness has been attributed to the fact that the Red Cross not only provide emergency medical aid, but also engages in victim evacuation, and provision of food, water clothing and temporary shelters to victims of conflicts, natural disasters and catastrophes. For this reason, in order for Doctors without Borders to increase its competitiveness, it also needs to increase its service coverage areas the same way the Red Cross has done.
Lastly, Doctors without Borders need to engage more in promoting its brand. Although MSF has been in operation for many years, brand recognition for the organization remains low in most parts of the world and this gives popular humanitarian organization, such as the International Red Cross a competitive advantage over the organization. For this reason, there is a need for MSF to invest more in promotion that include direct selling, and the use of mass media, such as international television channels, such as CNN and Aljazeera, as well as enhancing its social media presence to increase brand awareness among its targeted population (Bird 2004, p. 35).
Médecins Sans Frontières is an internationally recognized humanitarian medical care provider operating in all parts of the world, where it provide medical aid to people in emergency situations. The PESTEL analysis shows that MSF’s operations are affected by external environmental factors that create both opportunities and threats with political factors emerging as the main factor that affect the organization’s operations. The marketing mix model also indicates that the current marketing activities of MSF focuses on the delivery of quality medical care services to patients affected by disasters, diseases and conflicts free of charge with the help of nurses and doctors that work in conjunction with hospitals and service care units to ensure medical care delivery. At the same time, the organization promotes its brand using direct selling and digital communication that include the use of social media. However, going forward, the company needs to adopt market penetration, especially in MENA region that is worst affected by conflicts, diversify products, as well as focus more on promoting its brand.
- Akala, F. A., & El-Saharty, S 2006, ‘Public-health challenges in the Middle East and North Africa,’ Lancet vol.367, no. 9515, pp. 961–4. http://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(06)68402-X
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