Here is more on what I learned at the World Social Marketing Conference. (Click here for Part 1)
4. Savvy social marketers conceptualize a campaign as a ‘value exchange’ rather than simply an attempt to ‘empower’ or ‘inspire.’ Successful social marketing campaigns often do well because they are based on an understanding of the target audience’s perceived self-interest. People typically (though not always!) opt for a behavior in exchange for benefits they perceive as valuable. Taking this outlook has practical implications to how you approach campaign development. Most importantly, it leads social marketers to think seriously about all four of the classic 4 P’s of marketing—product, place, price, and promotion—
rather than just focus on promotion and ignore the other three, which is too often the case. I’ve seen a lot of great examples of product offerings in social marketing that have proved successful—from malaria nets, to reduced-rate breast screenings, to free DVDs, to ride share programs to prevent impaired driving. These were initiatives that were conceived from the outset as a value exchange, either in material or psychological terms.
5. Many of the success stories were local, and leveraged on-the-ground support. Social marketing encompasses a lot more than large-scale national media campaigns. Some of the best cases I heard were confined to a particular town or region. Locally based fulfillment is often critical in order to provide ‘legs’ to a media campaign. A good example combining these elements comes from a Tokyo-based breast cancer screening initiative called Cancer Scan: http://wsmconference.com/downloads/11S4%20Akio%20Yonekura.pdf
6. A lot of social marketers are preoccupied with behavioral economics. ‘Preoccupied,’ as in, ‘We can learn a lot about human behavior from this burgeoning field of study.’ Also as in, ‘This new field is threatening to elbow us out.’ Behavioral economics starts with the premise that people make predictably bad decisions, mostly out of inertia or irrationality. Its advocates look to improve the ‘choice architecture’ that confronts people in their everyday decision making, providing ‘nudges’ that help people make better choices. Examples vary widely, from school cafeterias placing healthier foods at easier reach than unhealthy foods, or making organ donation an opt-out rather than opt-in proposition. Behavioral economics is not the panacea that some of its proponents claim, but I do think it offers social marketers a valuable perspective on human decision making. Enough so that I’ve been recommending Nudge all around the office.
7. Social marketers need to do a better job of documenting return on investment. As a research & evaluation specialist, this is a topic near and dear to my heart. It’s often not easy to measure the impact of a social marketing program, and it’s particularly difficult to isolate its impact from other factors. But it’s absolutely necessary to do so, and do it using unbiased, above-board methodology. Everyone in the field agrees on this point, in the face of a rising tide of skepticism during a time of budgetary uncertainty.