Social Marketing

What is social marketing?

Definition of Social Marketing:
so•ci•al mark•et•ing (noun) the application of marketing techniques that change behaviors with the ultimate goal of contributing to a social good.

Social marketing blends the social sciences with business marketing techniques. Social marketing strategies are essentially the same marketing principles that are used to sell products to consumers, but instead are used to “sell” ideas, attitudes and behaviors. Social marketing seeks to influence social behaviors that do not benefit the marketer, but rather benefit the target audience and the larger society. The “product” might be an idea (“It’s okay to ask for help.”) or a service (mental health screening). The “price” relates to what the participant must give up in order to get the product – time, effort, embarrassment and or fear of rejection. When the costs outweigh the benefits, the experienced value of the offering is low, and most likely, the “product” will not be adopted. By contrast, when the benefits outweigh the costs, the likelihood of a trial adoption of the product increases.

Education and awareness are necessary but not sufficient strategies for changing behavior. Social marketing uses psychological tools to increase motivation to change.


How to Build a Social Marketing Campaign:

When building a social marketing campaign that aims to prevent suicide in the workplace, one must follow similar steps as when building a traditional marketing campaign:

Environmental Analysis

  1. Create a vision for change
  2. Where are we going with this campaign?
  3. Identify the target market
    • Whose behavior are you trying to change and why?
    • What are the demographics?
  4. Focus on the consumer’s needs and psychographics
    • What interests them?
    • What do they want?
    • What motivates them?
    • What do they avoid?
    • What are their personalities?
  5. Analyze the competition
    • What is the competition to your product?
    • What are the competing messages?

Marketing Strategies, Action and Evaluation

  1. What is your “offer”?
    • Product – what is your message? What are the benefits of your message?
    • Price – what is the cost of this behavior/attitude/knowledge change?
    • Promotion – how will you get the message out?
    • Placement – where will you place the message?
    • Positioning – how do you differentiate your message?
    • Branding – do all related offers/messages have the same look and feel?
  2. Product development
    • Testing the messages – focus groups and surveys
    • Are the messages credible?
    • Can they be recalled?
    • What story does the target market tell about the people in the social marketing images?
    • Is there a direct call to action (what behavior needs to be changed)?
    • What emotion is evoked?
  3. What is your strategy?
    • Traditional Promotion – posters/brochures/give-aways
    • Public Relations – Radio and television PSAs, white papers, Op-Ed pieces
    • Advertising – paid space in print, radio and television
    • Nontraditional media – videos, blogs
  4. How will you evaluate your efforts? How will the results from this feedback loop inform the next social marketing campaign?

For examples of social marketing and suicide prevention, click here. Download a copy of the Regis “Don’t Erase Your Future” PDF.

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