In today's design-centered world, we might be tempted to design marketing materials and messages for low-income households that fit our own linguistic and aesthetic preferences. At best, they will appreciate the effort, at worst, our design ideas may miss the opportunity to clearly communicate messages.
Placing clients at the center of product design should not overlook their input on materials design. Some of the most effective materials that I have seen have been...well, not beautiful. In Nicaragua, I once saw a promoter hand out small slivers of photocopied papers with information on a savings product. Her institution couldn't afford re-printing it's fancy brochures, so she just jotted a few important points on a piece of paper, paid for copies herself, and manually cut them into slivers. "I had to give them something" she said. Her customers were asking for tangible pieces of paper with information on how much they would deposit each month and where and they held on to the slivers.
In Mexico, one financial institution I visited offered all new savings clients a lovely colorful folder full of information about savings. I saw these promptly thrown into the garbage as customers exited the branch. Perhaps if the information had included their pin number, branch hours and other references, it would have stayed in their hands.
Often during conversations with clients where we explain a new product concept, we carefully listen to how they explain it back to us give us and draw from there the marketing messages and languages that will be most useful. For example, we designed marketing and training materials for an agricultural insurance product in Peru last year and found that explaining a deductible as "getting back a part of your investment, was effective. We integrated this into radio testimonials, brochures and sales messaging. In Colombia, client video testimonials were a great way to present information clearly to other clients.
If the information is simply explained and useful, clients will use the material and hold on to it, regardless of the medium.