The opportunities and dangers of social marketing
The government has cottoned on to the advantages of social marketing to create camapign engagement and deliver a message without preaching to the audience. But it's still easy to get it wrong. The CIM's Mark Stuart looks at what commercial marketers can learn from their social counterparts and how to foster better dialogues with consumers.
Social marketing, broadly speaking, is the application of techniques from commercial marketing and, to an extent social sciences, for social good. Currently, the UK government is recognising its importance and much investment is being allocated to social marketing, particularly in the NHS. Witness the number of campaigns recently for responsible drinking, smoking cessation, and diet and exercise (such as the Change 4 Life programme).
The idea is to use techniques that understand how and why people behave in certain ways, and to influence them to make positive choices that will be good for them, for the people around them and the environment. Rather than a doctor telling you to not do something because it’s bad for you, you try to show why it’s in the person’s interests to change their behaviours.
For example, in smoking cessation campaigns, social marketing approaches can identify why smokers act the way they do, what the barriers to them changing their behaviours are and offer solutions that will achieve ‘buy-in’ from the patient. This is like the way commercial marketing offers a process of exchange that shows people it’s to their advantage to make certain choices, rather than others.
Social marketing has been shown to be highly successful in responsible drinking campaigns, anti-crime initiatives, environmental behaviour schemes, obesity and many other projects. It fits strategically with the Government’s desire to focus on prevention rather than cure, and its successes are widespread. Look at the NHS adverts now running on TV; very different in tone and scope from how they used to be and much more effective for their use of social marketing techniques.
The smoke alarm ‘pull your finger out’ campaign, for example, is a textbook piece of social marketing – especially the reminder that comes at the end of the ad break. We don’t just want to give you a message, we want to say something that you will buy into, agree with and identify with, and be able to change behaviour with a minimum of inconvenience.