Why We Do Male Contraceptive Marketing Research

We recently got back our male contraceptive survey data from 1,500 nationally representative male respondents. Because we intend to analyze and publish this data, we have some restrictions about delving too deeply before publication. But in the meantime, we can talk about why we did this and describe what we did overall.

MCI’s mission is to get new male contraceptives to market. We want those contraceptives to be effective and widely used. To achieve that mission effectively we need to address potential roadblocks and strategically optimize where we place our resources.

One potential roadblock is from funders and pharma companies who may question male contraceptive demand. There’s already survey data out there indicating that there is demand, though some of that data is aging. One can also add the half-million American men who get vasectomies every year and count up condom sales. But being able to classify demand among specific market segments is also helpful.

Further, being able to see where that demand lies within those market segments makes it easier to know which contraceptives are most likely to have the broadest use. This was one of the main areas we were interested in. But our team also laid out a number of objectives beforehand:

  • Identify incidence of methods men who have sex with women currently use to protect against unwanted pregnancy.
  • Determine if male contraception methods by men who have sex with women currently used address their needs.
  • Identify desirable attributes of male contraception methods currently used by men who have sex with women.
  • Identify unmet needs of men who have sex with women with respect to male contraception.
  • Determine interest level in potential types of new male contraception options (i.e. hormonal approach, procedure, etc.).
  • Understand differences and similarities with respect to male contraception needs across key segments of men who have sex with women.
  • Identify desired attributes and degree of importance of male contraception methods among men who have sex with women.

We were able to answer these questions in a number of ways. Respondents gave direct feedback on existing and prospective contraceptives, including characteristics about those contraceptives. Men also indicated how many children they had versus how many they wanted. Plus they answered how many unplanned pregnancies they were responsible for. This is information we typically don’t see.

Some of the top-line summary results we have include that most men are trying to prevent pregnancy. Also, given the options, most men are using condoms to accomplish this task.

In order to focus our resources we excluded men who refused to use contraceptives based on personal beliefs, though we recorded the number of men who fell in this category. Men who had vasectomies were also given alternative questions to answer. We also limited the age range to 18-44. Unfortunately, we had logistical issues sampling at younger ages. This is an important factor considering that by age 18 more than half of males have already had intercourse. 

One component we expect to see repeated is that a contraceptive that meets one man’s needs will not necessarily meet the needs of another. The same has been true with women, which is why it’s been such a benefit for women to have many options. Giving men a similar range of options moves men as a group closer to fully satisfying their contraceptive needs. It’s important to recognize that while an additional male contraceptive will have great impact, a single addition will not be the end of the line. It’s still necessary to continue looking at the data to see how we can best meet the residual need.

What’s next?

We’re collaborating with social science researchers to analyze the data and submit it for publication. In line with our ethos, we plan to make any publication accessible to the public for free. We also intend to make the raw data available at that time. We’re excited for this data to help allow us to make better decisions internally as well as to remove unknowns so that other funders are more open to entering this underserved space. Additionally, we plan to use what we learn from this data set and experience to replicate this research in other countries, particularly countries with high contraceptive need.

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