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Social Marketing

Chris Hambly's picture
Submitted by Chris Hambly on 27 April 2010 - 3:22pm

Social marketing could be described as conventional advertising doing community service. Since it’s inception in the 1970’s it has a long history of subtly influencing public behavior and attitudes about a variety of sensitive issues. It’s purpose is to serve the greater good rather than being a for profit venture. Public service announcements and other broad scale campaigns are common place to help educate the general public on everything from seat belt safety to cancer prevention.

Social marketing requires the same in depth research as traditional marketing. But the approach begins with finding out the needs of a specific group and designing a program around that target audience. There must be an offer of a product whether tangible or intangible. The target audience must be educated about the benefits of the offering as well as a value assigned to said product. There must also be a motivating factor for the targeted group to make use of the product. In certain cases there may be distribution points. For example an HIV campaign may entail giving away free condoms at concerts or clubs. Many major cities have clean syringe campaigns to prevent the spread of HIV through drug use. The motivation to stay healthy and halt the spread of the disease may also remove the stigma associated with it when the group recognizes the benefits.
 
The next phase is promotion which will exceed customary media channels. There are issues that may require the cooperation of a number of entities to promote the cause. It may encompass government agencies, private companies, community service groups, and even schools systems being brought together to spread the word. In the case of health and safety concerns, when the US government wanted to stress the importance of child safety seats, several insurance companies held events to demonstrate the proper way to install car seats. The overall effect was a drastic drop in children being injured in accidents because they were not secure within the vehicle.
 
Social marketing does require the same planning as commercial applications. There must be short and long term goals. There must be assessments as to the effectiveness of the program. It can be difficult to tell if the program achieved the desired goal of getting the group to change life long behaviors or beliefs. There maybe adjustments over time to reach a broader or narrower group. Over time it is advisable to conduct periodic surveys to fine tune the program. Social marketing is vital in terms of being able to reach out to various groups on their level. It takes the approach of speaking their language in order to benefit society as a whole.
 
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