Inspiring Change through Social Marketing

Marketing can at times be considered a profession which only serves the corporation. It is an ever evolving process designed to convince and sway others, but the extent of this is most commonly believed to be “Pay money to buy our thing, it’ll make your life better!” When a lot of the time, the verity of this can be questionable. Transparency in business is a philosophy that outright rejects the often sensational tone of traditional marketing techniques to reach customers on a level of candor and honesty. However, both of these techniques are for the benefit of a company. There is still a product to be traded, or service to be rendered.

This changes when we imagine the “product” to be something that betters the community around us, or humanity as a whole. The corporate entity is not providing a product or service in social marketing. We consider the “price” to be the effort someone endures to see that product made real. The way a sign reminds us not to litter as we walk through a public park, showing us in infographic form how easy it is to simply put our garbage away. In social marketing, our role as the company, becomes philanthropy, rather than profit.

When we prepare our social marketing campaigns, it is important to understand that your involvement is in spreading the word, and facilitating the action you want to promote. For example, cost is not a factor in social marketing. Investment however, is. Investment in reducing the aforementioned “price,” or ease of access of the campaign’s desired result. For instance, reducing the “price” of someone throwing a piece of garbage away rather than littering, is in making sure enough garbage cans are nearby to facilitate it. The investment in this case, is the cost of ensuring those garbage cans are there, and regularly emptied.

All of these facts considered, a social marketing campaign has three main components. Result, or the outcome you want to obtain, Accessibility, which is the “price” people have to pay to contribute to the cause, and Investment, which is the steps the company behind the campaign will take to both promote the Result, and to increase Accessibility or, reducing the “price.”

When choosing a desired result, consider the scope, and the overall reach, and keep it within feasible terms. It is not realistic to end littering in your city with a single garbage can. Consequently, it is also unrealistic to expect to end littering by having fifty garbage cans on a sidewalk, leading into the following point, which is data. Research thoroughly the causes, and the geography of the issue. If most of the littering in your city happens to be in the park, then the park is the geographic center on which you should take action. This factors neatly into the concept of accessibility. For instance, a campaign dedicated to feeding the hungry would benefit from donation boxes placed directly in local supermarkets where food is sold, rather than in the parking lot of an office building.

Accessibility is the reason social marketing campaigns flourish or fail. A campaign should ideally promote an action that is both easy, and feels good to contribute to. Seeing a food donation box as you walk into the supermarket makes it easy to leave a donation behind when you leave, as the campaign’s goal has been woven into the daily life without obstructing it. Thus, the “price” is merely the cost of a can of soup on the individual’s behalf.

Investment is the practice of facilitating the change you are advertising. In the case of the previous food donation example, the partnership with the supermarket to allow the presence of the box in their facility, and the organization of delivering said donations to those who need it, all fall into the jurisdiction of your investment. As an entity, you are taking the difficult parts of doing worldly good off of the shoulders of the population by financing it yourself. The placement and maintenance of garbage bins becomes your responsibility, because it is your cooperation with local ordinance and policy, and your investment into the infrastructure that facilitates the lower “price” of the campaign.

With these ideals in mind, creating a social marketing campaign can be as easy as getting the word out, as with any other ad, with only the additional consideration of what your company can do to help in addition. Fixing the problems in society does not happen overnight, it is a slow and gradual process that demands continual investment and resources to foster, and the reward is often one of satisfaction of seeing the positivity you can spread on the world with a little help from the community to make Earth a better, cleaner, and safer, place.

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