Marketing for Social Change


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An overview of 10 distinguishing ideas of social marketing for social change. These ideas are drawn from the book, "Social marketing and social change: Strategies and tools for improving health, well-being and the environment." It includes excerpts from the book as well as references for further reading. It begins with re-conceptualizing social problems from being those that require top-down prescriptions to being wicked puzzles that require searches for solutions with the people they are intended to serve. The international consensus definition of social marketing is presented, followed by 10 principles:
1. A marketing orientation
2. Theory and evidence-based
3. Segmentation
4. Research to inform program development
5. Designing products, services and behaviors that fit people's reality
6. Positioning behavior change
7. Realigning incentives and costs for products, services and behavior change
8. Creating equitable opportunities and access
9. Communicating change in linguistically, culturally relevant and ubiquitous ways
10. Program monitoring

NOTE: Downloads of this presentation include talking points for each slide.

Reviews of the book:
“This is it -- the comprehensive, brainy road map for tackling wicked social problems. It’s all right here: how to create and innovate, build and implement, manage and measure, scale up and sustain programs that go well beyond influencing individual behaviors, all the way to broad social change in a world that needs the help.”—Bill Novelli, Professor, McDonough School of Business, Georgetown University, former CEO, AARP and founder, Porter Novelli and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

“I’m unaware of a more substantive treatise on social marketing and social change. Theoretically based; pedagogically focused; transdisciplinary; innovative; and action oriented: this book is right for our time, our purpose, and our future thinking and action.”—Robert Gold, MS, PhD, Professor of Public Health and Former Dean of the School of Public Health at the University of Maryland, College Park

“This book -- like its author -- is innovative and forward-looking, yet also well-grounded in the full range of important social marketing fundamentals.”—Edward Maibach, MPH, PhD, University Professor and Director, Center for Climate Change Communication, George Mason University

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  • 10 characteristics of social marketing that can be used in the search for solutions to wicked health and social puzzles.
  • It doesn't take long to realize that most of the problems we are handed to solve are not ones with easy or straightforward solutions. And, I believe, that pretending that many public health and social problems have straightforward solutions keeps us from being better searchers.Many of us talk about “wicked problems” to distinguish them from older ways of approaching them in which runs can be broken down into their essential components, described and analyzed for the one or two variables that can be the be changed to make a difference. These older approaches to thinking about and solving problems is what often leads to the expert-driven, or top-down, approaches we are familiar with. Recognizing that many problems are in fact “wicked ones," brings with it some humility. In facing a wicked problem we understand that it is difficult or impossible to solve because of incomplete, contradictory, and changing requirements.
  • Some of the other characteristics of the wicked problems you will face in the future include:Characteristics of Wicked ProblemsWicked problems are difficult to clearly define.They have many interdependencies and are often multi-causal.Attempts to address wicked problems often lead to unforeseen consequences.Wicked problems are often not stable (they are often continually moving targets).They usually have no clear solution (since the problem itself is not definitive or stable).They are socially complex.Wicked problems hardly ever sit conveniently within the responsibility of any one organization.Wicked problems involve changing behavior.Some wicked problems seem intractable and are characterized by chronic policy failure (that is, they continue to present themselves despite many attempts to address them, sometimes over decades).Source: Adapted from Australian Public Service Commission, 2007
  • Let's start with how social marketing began. Whether it was trying to scale up family-planning programs in India, make the marketing discipline more relevant to social issues that emerged in the late 1960s such as racial unrest and environmental concerns, or attempting to reduce cardiovascular disease risk factors on a population basis, these and other early efforts were led by searchers. People, who I suspect, you have a lot in common with.Bill Easterly refers to us as “searchers.” You want to understand what reality is for people who experience a particular problem, find out what they demand rather than only what can be supplied, and discover things that work. You see that adapting solutions to local conditions is more important than applying global blueprints, and you value people's satisfaction with the offered solution, not how well crafted the plan was and whether it received all the necessary resources. Most of all, you have a bottom-line philosophy that you want to experience results they make you feel your life is being well lived. You have a hunger for doing something creative, amazing - something that will make a difference and perhaps change the world, and for being able to enjoy your work and someday look back and say, “Yes, I did that!” For many of you, I suspect that your search journey has brought to this class. By the end of it, I hope that you will not necessarily find all the answer you're looking for, but will be better searchers for solutions to pressing public health and social problems in communities, nations in the world.
  • The first definition is the 2013 consensus definition of social marketing as endorsed by the Australian Association of Social Marketing (AASM) the European Social Marketing Association (ESMA), and the International Social Marketing Association (iSMA).The second definition is more descriptive and is from Lefebvre (2013), Social marketing and social change (p. 502-503).
  • See text, quote from p. 476.Several surveys of businesses that vary in their consumer orientations have found that in addition to achieving the stated objective of delivering more value to customers, a market orientation is positively related to overall business performance, the commitment of employees to the organization, and those employees’ overall attitude and job satisfaction.
  • Supernovas use to be a theory – until the evidence emerged to validate them. Social marketers rely on many different theories, including ones explaining how individuals learn and change behaviors; how behaviors, product use and services are adopted by large groups of people; how social networks and communities can provide context and shape behavior, and can be altered themselves to support positive changes; how groups of people can be mobilized for social change; and also how political dynamics and marketplaces can be altered to influence behaviors, organizational practices and policies.Then, research evidence for what really works come into play…
  • Segmentation reinforces and builds on the core tenet of marketing that we should be customer or people focused. Two key benefits of segmenting in order to understand the unique needs of different priority groups are that We can better design messages, products, services, and the behaviors we ask people to engage in that are relevant to their lives. We can better tailor and position our value propositions, behaviors, products, and services in relation to people’s existing beliefs and preferences and the behaviors they currently practice.
  • 1. Who are the people at highest risk? This question is designed to mine the demographic and epidemiological data that are often the only data available to program designers. The answers to this question can then be combined with other data collected during the formative research process in order to identify one or more possible priority groups.2. Who are the people most open to change? As we look at the groups identified in response to the first question, it makes sense from both a theoretical perspective (such as diffusion of innovations or stages of change) and a practical one to focus our initial efforts on those subgroups that are more predisposed or motivated to engage in new behaviors and to stimulate action among others.3. Who are the critical-for-success groups? Social marketers usually rely on other people or groups to implement various parts of a social change program (such as peer influentials, intermediary organizations, and media representatives). At other times, policymakers or senior managers might be key determinants for the long-term sustainability of a social marketing effort. Yet rarely do I see program designers explicitly focus a marketing strategy on these groups, despite their often critical role in accomplishing the goals of the program. Social change agents often take these groups’ interest as expected or assume that these groups will always be available and involved, an optimistic scenario that often turns out to be an illusion.Depending on the behavioral or social change objectives of a program, we may have more than one answer to each of these three questions. What I often find in going through this exercise is that answering question 2 (about who is most open to change) usually fine-tunes the choices made in answering question 1. This 2-step process is the most obvious part of segmentation, but answering question 3 matters too. Indeed, many program developers ignore this last question and only later discover that answering it would have revealed their plan’s critical weakness.
  • In practice, formative research breaks down into three groupings:Exploratory—in which the crucial element is to understand the priority group. What are the important things we need to learn before planning begins about the people we are to serve?Concept testing—in which insights about options for the target behavior and its associated value or benefits are validated among members of the priority group. What will make the value proposition for the behaviors, products, or services we offer compelling and irresistible?Pretesting—in which program developers look for reassurance that the messages, products, and services they have developed to facilitate and support behavior change are in fact relevant, acceptable, and motivating among members of the priority group. Did we come up with great ideas and tactics that are appealing, fit into their lives, and meet relevant needs, solve problems, or serve their aspirations?
  • A survey of the field of formative methods reveals literally hundreds of ways in which people have sought to understand members of their priority groups, develop group members’ input into the program development process, seek and receive feedback from group members, and test various approaches to program implementation before full-scale implementation. Among the more useful qualitative methods we have seen used are the ones in this slide. The point here is that not every research project needs to be, or should be, a focus group study.A guiding principle for social marketing research is that it should be designed for us to have a conversation with the people we wish to serve. A second principle is that it should occur in as natural a setting as possible. Finally, formative researchshould focus on empathy, insight, and inspiration—not collecting data.
  • This statement serves as a rallying call for the many researchers who champion observational methodologies over ones that take place in focus group facilities or in shopping malls. Many corporate marketers and designers have embraced this “go to the jungle” approach, in which they participate with people in their lives, whereas many social marketers continue to learn only from the lions in the zoo, where there is more control (and safety). (p. 189)
  • Roberts’s point, and one that is echoed by many others involved in consumer research, is that developing insights into how consumers think about the problems and puzzles we have identified leads to more effective behavior change programs and socially beneficial products and services. which questions are posed to participants, but rather from interactive sessions where consumer-collaborators can make an immediate difference in the way we design, produce, and distribute our value propositions in all their various forms. (pp.189-190).
  • Now would you explain “reduce your salt intake” to someone who eats like this?Ambuyat, a traditional Bruneian traditional meal-
  • Yes, Coca-Cola is a product, but delivering that product to be ‘within an arm’s reach of desire’ involves much more than formulating, bottling and pricing it. In many cases, service provision is at the core of many health and social solutions. But are they designed for efficiency and providers or effectiveness and accessibility for clients?
  • How do we tap into the motivations people already have for themselves, their families and their community to get better. What are their passions? How do the behaviors we promote help them achieve what they are after – not just what we believe is important for them to have – such as a healthy diet, safe sexual practices or a ‘cleaner environment.’
  • We must understand not only what people find beneficial about our offerings but also how they view the competitive offerings, whether these are other behaviors they can engage in or other products and services they can use. Then we can see, from these people’s point of view, whether and how our offerings can be more valued than the ones offered by the competition. In terms of planning behavior change programs, the challenge of positioning comes down to answering these questions: What relevant behavior can we ask people to engage in rather than the one they are currently doing or the alternative ones suggested by other people, organizations, and social or cultural norms? How can we make this behavior more compelling, relevant, and potentially more valuable to people when they practice it, in comparison to the other alternatives?In general, a positioning statement might take this form: “We want [our priority group] to see [the desired behavior] as [descriptive phrase] and as more important and valuable to them than [the competitive behavior or point of differentiation].” An example of a positioning statement comes from the VERB™ campaign, which addresses twelve- to thirteen-year-old tweens: “We want tweens to see regular physical activity as something that is cool and fun and better thanjust sitting around and watching TV or playing video games all the time.”What seems like a straightforward exercise, especially given the simplicity of the statement we want to end up with, is often not approached with the level of analysis and thought that it demands. If choosing a priority group is the firstcritical decision in developing a social marketing program, the positioning statement is the second critical one. Positioning, when done well, is the DNA of the marketing plan—it should be expressed in every activity the program planners subsequently develop. It is based on a thorough understanding of the competitive landscape, whether our offerings are behaviors, products, or services. Positioning involves understanding the exact need people are searching to meet, the exact problem they are trying to solve, or the exact aspiration they have for themselves or others (for example, their children, their group or organization, or their constituents).
  • There are two essential roles for price in the marketing mix.Allocation. How prices are considered and offered (are all customer-driven costs considered or only those incurred by the organization) will be a strong determinant of who adopts behaviors, purchases products, or uses services; how much or how often these people engage with these offerings; and what the total demand for the offerings will be. Unfortunately,trying simply to price our offerings to maximize their reach and market penetration is not always the most appropriate solution.Information. Prices do convey positions related to the quality or intrinsic value of the offering, and at the same time, they affect the social status of the people who engage in the behavior, own the product, or use the service. In other words, the perceived price of a behavior, product, or service (whether we set it directly or inadvertently) makes the offeringmore or less appealing to different segments of the population.
  • Prices are more than weighing risks and benefits. The homo economicus model, or economic human, is the concept in many economic theories of humans as rationaland narrowly self-interested actors who have the ability to make judgments toward their subjectively defined ends. Using these rational assessments, homo economicus attempts to maximize utility as a consumer and economic profit as a producer. Similar approaches to risks and benefits are seen in psychological models including stages of change and are incorporated into models of social marketing.Recall the behavioral economics literature that has challenged that model in economics, and we have reviewed several psychological and social models for behavior change in this text that do not rely on simple notions of rationality.
  • Notes:Energy refers to the physical and psychological expenditure of energy – such as in overcoming the status quo bias (see photo)Geographical costs typically involve time/distance – Place decisions almost always have cost implications.Opportunity costs are the benefits not experienced if one had selected to do something else
  • Place is not a message distribution or channel issue.It is a location where people can engage in the target behavior and/or access the product or service.Image, The Vegetable Dealer from
  • The image of the poster is from a CDC campaign to increase levels of physical activity. The idea was to remove perceived ‘place’ barriers or ‘signals’ for being physically active – see
  • My the nature of taking a people-centered approach, social marketing programs should be adept at designing messages and communication products that are linguistically and culturally relevant. What we are also learning from research is that we need to make these communications or Promotions ubiquitous in people lives – surrounding them when possible rather than putting all of our energy and resources into just one or two channels – especially relying only on mass media.The most frequent mischaracterization of social marketing is that it is synonymous with large-scale promotion and mass media campaigns. Social marketing is more than mass media communication campaigns, but that is not to say social marketing programs should not employ mass media when that makes strategic sense; mass media simply should not be the default choice. However, it is important to understand that mass media efforts are going to have very littleimpact on solving our social puzzles.
  • The question isn’t whether they are effective – it’s what is the average effect size they achieve (how much change do they result in)?About 5 percentage points, so that a baseline level of a behavior usually in increased, for example, from 60 to 65%. Campaigns for seat belt use (r = .15), dental care (r =.13) and adult alcohol reduction (r = .11) have had the strongest effects, while youth alcohol and drug campaigns have had the least (r = .01 -.02). Family planning (r = .06)Youth smoking prevention (r = .06)Heart disease reduction (including nutrition and physical activity; r = .05)Sexual risk taking (r = .04)Mammography screening (r = .04)Adult smoking prevention (r = .04)Youth alcohol prevention and cessation (r = .04 - .07)Tobacco prevention (r = .04)Preliminary findings (smaller number of studies)International breast feeding (r = .17)Fruit and vegetable campaigns (r = .08)In-school nutrition programs aimed at 4-5th graders (r = .12)
  • A critical feature every marketing manager demands, for both private and public sector projects and programs, is as close to real-time monitoring of critical operational variables as feasible. These operational variables are often associated with elements of the marketing mix, though they may also include behavioral indicators, changes in awareness, and levels of user and stakeholder satisfaction.
  • How can I change the world?How can we make the world a better place?Where do we start?If you often ask yourself questions like these, and keep yourself up at night worrying about the answers, then perhaps you might want to discover how social marketing can help you.Hopefully, this presentation will get you started exploring it in more detail.
  • Marketing for Social Change

    1. 1. R. Craig Lefebvre, PhD University of South Florida College of Public Health @chiefmaven
    2. 2. Wicked Puzzles Difficult to defineSeemingly impossible to solve Multiple causes and linked Solutions can led to unforeseen outcomes Socially complex
    3. 3. SEARCHERS: You want to understand what the reality is for people who experience a particular problem, find out what they demand rather than only what can be supplied, and discover things that work.
    4. 4. Definitions Social Marketing seeks to develop and integrate marketing concepts with other approaches to influence behaviors that benefit individuals and communities for the greater social good (AASM, ESMA & iSMA, 2013). Social Marketing develops and applies marketing concepts and techniques to create value for individuals and society. This is done through the integration of research, evidence-based practice and social-behavioral theory together with the insights from individuals, influencers and stakeholders. These inputs and perspectives are used to design more effective, efficient, sustainable and equitable approaches to enhance social wellbeing. The approach is one that encompasses all of the processes and outcomes that influence and are associated with change among: individuals, organizations, social networks and social norms, communities, businesses, markets, and public policy [Lefebvre, 2013].
    5. 5. 1. Marketing Orientation ―Having a focus on interactions with one’s customers and then looking within the organization to explore how the knowledge gained from these interactions can be integrated with existing capacities and experience to build organizational responses.‖
    6. 6. Barriers to a Consumer Orientation  Poorly defined mission/objectives  Lack of identification of key audiences  Political or professional objectives  Organizational culture  Influence of intermediaries  Sense of urgency
    7. 7. 2. Theory and Evidence-based
    8. 8. Where Theory Can Make a Difference  What problem to tackle—and how  What the program objectives should be  Which priority audiences to choose, and how to characterize them  What questions to ask in formative research  Which approaches may be the best to use with specific groups of people  How to best promote behaviors, messages, products, and services
    9. 9. 3. Segmentation  A shift from a producer’s mentality: ―Let’s give them what we have!‖ to  ―Let’s try it their way!‖ – A marketing orientation.  An understanding of people’s needs and desires that drives offerings, communication and organizational decisions.
    10. 10. The Three Critical Questions  Who are the people at highest risk?  Who are the people most open to change?  Who are the groups that are critical for success?
    11. 11. Segmentation Variables  Demographics  Occupation  Social status  Geography  Benefits sought  Health information seeker  Readiness for change  Achievement oriented  Socially conscious  Current practices  Access to technology  Willingness to pay
    12. 12. 4. Research to Inform Program Development  Understanding – important things about the priority group(s)  Insight – what will make the behavior compelling and irresistible to them  Reassurance – did we come up with great ideas and executions
    13. 13. Formative Methods Anything that allows you to listen and have a conversation with the audience  In-depth individual interviews  Natural dyads and triads  Ethnographic (observational) studies  Intercept interviews  Samples of convenience (snowball samples)  Focus groups  Positive deviants
    14. 14. ―If you want to understand how a lion hunts, don’t go to the zoo, go to the jungle.‖
    15. 15. ―If you want to catch a fish, first learn to think like a fish.‖
    16. 16. 5. Designing products, services and behaviors that fit their reality
    17. 17. Products to Solve Problems
    18. 18. Services That Meet Needs
    19. 19. Behaviors That Serve Aspirations
    20. 20. 6. Positioning Behavior Change What relevant behavior can we ask people to engage in rather than the one they are currently doing or the alternative ones suggested by other people, organizations, and social or cultural norms? How can we make this behavior more compelling, relevant, and potentially more valuable to people when they practice it, in comparison to the alternatives?
    21. 21. 7. Realigning incentives and costs for products, services and behavior change
    22. 22. Price Decisions to engage in or change behaviors are more than the rational weighing of risks and benefits.
    23. 23. Costs of Change  Financial  Energy  Geographical distance  Opportunity  Social  Psychological  Physical  Structural
    24. 24. 8. Creating equitable opportunities and access
    25. 25. Place: The ‘Where’ Question Where can we locate a service, distribute a product, or create opportunities for members of our priority group to engage in healthier behaviors?
    26. 26. Attributes of Place  Availability of products and services  Accessibility to products and services  Physical environment that supports or impedes engaging in behaviors  Place = Distribution of (competitive) products, services, behaviors, ideas, information
    27. 27. 9. Communicating change in linguistically, culturally relevant and ubiquitous ways
    28. 28. How Effective are Health Communication Campaigns? 5%
    29. 29. 10. Program Monitoring  Is the plan implemented as intended?  Is it reaching the audience(s)?  Are the program offerings relevant and appealing for the audience?  Is it having the desired effects?  Is it having unintended effects?
    30. 30. Resources for Social Marketing  Lefebvre, R.C. Social marketing and social change: Strategies and tools for improving health, well-being and the environment. San Francisco: Jossey- Bass, 2013. ductCd-0470936843.html  Lefebvre, R.C. Social marketing (Six volume set). London: Sage Publications, 2013.  International Social Marketing Association.  Journal of Social Marketing. nals.htm?id=JSOCM  Social Marketing Quarterly.