Let Social Marketing Be Your Guide

Do you want to change behaviors for the benefit of society? You have some options. You can educate or inform people (“show me”). You can regulate or intervene legally (“make me”). Or to be effective with a much higher share of people, according to Nancy Lee at this weekend’s Social Marketing Conference, you can use social marketing approaches (“help me”) (see the Changing Citizen’s Behaviors infographic).

Lee, a pioneer and leader in social marketing, noted that when a positive behavior is “in the marketplace,” the largest segment of people may have some interest in doing the behavior (or, at least, no major opposition to it). But they have barriers to action and may need goods and services to help them, incentives to motivate them, or easier, more convenient ways to perform the behavior. Our job, as social marketers, is to remove those barriers. Our job is to help them.

I led a workshop on the first day of the conference in which participants used the tools in the social marketing toolbox to create plans to help low-income women overcome barriers to breastfeeding. Anyone who has attempted or successfully breastfed a baby can tell you: the “show me” model is of limited use, and the “make me” approach is a non-starter. Truly, “help me” is the only road to success.

The beauty of social marketing is its deep respect for the people we strive to help. There are social marketing tools we can use to really understand people’s life experiences, motivations, and challenges. At the conference, Craig Lefebvre and his colleagues talked about using journey maps and value proposition design to get to these insights. Jeff Jordan talked about using photography to get insights from teens that are hard for them to express in words. In our workshop, we discussed the promise of mobile ethnography (using an app to get day-to-day, multimedia updates from people in the target audience to better understand their circumstances and real-time challenges with breastfeeding).  Look in the social marketing toolbox and you’ll find the right tool to help you better know who you are helping. And with that understanding, you can craft a better marketing plan.

Our workshop participants used other social marketing planning tools to create their breastfeeding plans as well: a SWOT analysis, guiding questions to determine behavioral, knowledge, andattitudinal objectives, a grid for determining benefits, barriers, and competition, and guiding questions to map out the campaign’s 4 Ps (product, place, price, and promotion). With tools like these at hand, you never have to think, “but where do I start?”

Look, 45 minutes is not enough time to create a complete social marketing plan for a behavior as complex and fraught and (potentially) wonderful as breastfeeding. But with the social marketing toolbox at our disposal, we made great progress. So as you face a new opportunity to improve society through behavior change, remember that “help me” will be the most effective approach for most people. And let social marketing be your guide.

– Darcy Sawatzki, MA, Senior Vice President