Making a Difference

Chuck Kapelke

In 2000, Merck, the global pharmaceutical manufacturer, partnered with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to help the African nation of Botswana fight a growing HIV and AIDS epidemic. In addition to donating $56.5 million, Merck pitched in the services of its marketing and advertising teams. Their challenge: to use their expertise to develop customized public health campaigns for various at-risk populations.

“We used a market segmentation strategy to figure out what was driving the epidemic,” explains Maggie Kohn, director of corporate responsibility at Merck & Company, Inc., based in Whitehouse Station, N.J. “There were different parts of the population: teenagers who were unemployed, men with multiple sex partners, etc. We brought in our marketing people, and they were able to use their skills to understand the different attributes of those populations and to develop tactics to reach out to inform them. We had marketing skills that a government doesn't necessarily have.”