Tue, November 13 2007

Craig’s List: Marketing rules to live by

Katya Andresen's avatar

Author, Robin Hood Marketing

Filed under:   Marketing essentials •

Last week, I participated in a very interesting series of presentations and discussions on social marketing, organized by Craig Lefebvre from one of my favorite nonprofits - PSI.


The main point of my presentation was that all nonprofits need to apply social marketing to everything they do - not just programs or outreach but also partner relationships, training trainers, media relations and of course fundraising.

So what is “social marketing?”  Well, Craig provided the best list I’ve seen in a long time about what should define this field.  I’m going to share this list in the interests of encouraging us all (myself included) to strive toward these principles in whatever we do in the philanthropic sector.

Here is “Craig’s List”of social marketing principles:

Focusing on audiences, their wants and needs, aspirations, lifestyle, freedom of choice. And not just those audiences identified by our epi friends as having the greatest need, or by our pr colleagues as the low hanging fruit, but the people who are crucial to the success of our programs - the volunteers, business leaders, distributors, partner organizations, media representatives and policy makers to name a few.

Targeting aggregated behavior change – priority segments of the population, not individuals, are the focus of programs. Social marketing must be based on theoretical models that guide the selection of the most relevant determinants, priority audiences, objectives, interventions and evaluations for population-based behavior change such as theories of diffusion of innovations, social networks, community assets, political economics and social capital. My belief is that the major reason we cannot achieve public health impact for many of our interventions like HIV prevention is that we do not design interventions for scale, we design them with models of behavior change that are most effective with individuals.

Designing behaviors that fit their reality. We need to bring to behavior change the same insight, thought and rigor that designers bring to their work in developing products, services and experiences. If more social marketers thought like designers, and didn’t act as technicians plugging the latest scientific finding into their ‘message machine or wheel’ my hunch is we’d be more successful - and sleep better. Behaviors, not just messages, need to be tailored for people’s real lives - not the one we imagine or theorize they have, if we think about them at all.

Rebalancing incentives and costs for maintaining or changing behaviors. Though you might say ‘gotcha! back to pros and cons’ it’s a bigger idea than that. Rebalancing doesn’t mean convincing a person to use a new set of weights in their personal equation to calculate risks and benefits of acting in certain ways. People LEARN new behaviors and what I am mystified by is how complex theories are dragged out to explain and try to modify behaviors when simple learning principles like what gets associated with what and what gets rewarded and punished (or not) are often the elegantly simple solution.  Rebalancing also means adjusting the environment, policies and marketplace whenever possible to shift power to the individual to have freedom to choose and basic human rights. We need to start asking ourselves questions like: where do inequities in health status stem from? Is income generation a prerequisite for health improvement in impoverished communities? How do we allow markets to work for the poor and vulnerable?

Creating opportunities and access to try, practice and sustain behaviors. We must take distribution systems, in all their forms and expressions, as seriously - if not more so - as the messages and creative products we produce. People do not think or choose their way to new behaviors - they must have access to the information they need to make informed choices (in ways, places and times that literacy, cultural and other considerations should inherently inform: relevance should never be an after thought in social marketing). And they must have the opportunities to try new behaviors, practice them and then be able to sustain them. Behavior change is not a one-off proposition.

Communicating these behaviors, incentives and opportunities to priority audiences and letting people experience them. ALL social marketing programs are mired in the last century when it comes to models of communication. The reflexive urge to continue with top down, command and control techniques will continue for awhile (aka Source - Message - Channel - Receiver or inoculation models). I hold out that the technological revolutions we are experiencing in communications will lead to the adoption of modern communication models to frame our thinking and activities - even if many have to change while kicking and screaming or longing for ‘the good ol’ days.’ And then there are the questions we started asking 5 years about how do we apply what we know about positioning and brands to develop powerful and sustained behavior change programs, and not just logos and tag lines or ... mission statements.

Thanks Craig!



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