What’s health got to do with it? Testing marketing messages for clean cookstoves in Cambodia and Kenya

This paper presents findings from studies in Cambodia and Kenya commissioned by SNV Netherlands Development Organisation to understand the impact of health messaging on the purchase of clean cookstoves. The Cambodia study took an action research approach to test the effects of positive and negative health messaging, as well as effects of more or less intense health messaging. Effectiveness was measured in terms of number of stoves sold. In Kenya, a randomized controlled trial was used to test the effect of three health-based interventions: SMS messages sent on five consecutive days, graphic imagery, and the combination of personal goal-setting and measures to remove barriers to the purchase of an improved stove. The campaign’s impact was measured in terms of willingness to pay for stoves, score on a health awareness index, and whether people had switched stoves during the study. Both studies found that health messaging had a minimal effect on stove purchases, whereas price was a key factor. While in Cambodia, the campaign increased awareness of the health risks associated with traditional biomass cooking, in Kenya there was little improvement, as awareness was already high. In Cambodia, the efficacy of individual sales agents was the strongest factor affecting sales. Future studies should therefore carefully control for the sales agent factor. To overcome the price barrier, future studies could consider testing the efficacy of health messaging where innovative financing for cookstoves is made available to the participating households. In addition, future research could look at ways to design and deliver health messages within stove marketing campaigns so that they are better aligned with the needs of the end-user.