The Cycle of Social Marketing

The cyclical nature of social marketing guarantees that a communications expert’s job is never done. And we wouldn’t have it any other way.

On Wednesday, June 24, Hager Sharp and the International Social Marketing Association (iSMA) hosted a conversation about social marketing and cancer prevention. Shelly Spoeth, Vice President of Hager Sharp, Inc., and Wendy Moniz, Executive Vice President of Plowshare Group spoke about their experiences with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on HPV vaccination and smoking cessation. While each campaign is unique, they had one thing in common: their campaign strategies are continually revisited throughout the campaign’s duration.

Spoeth emphasized the importance of message reframing during the HPV Vaccine Is Cancer Prevention campaign. The campaign began with key messages aimed at de-linking the belief around the HPV vaccine and sexual activity, with parents as a primary target audience. However, as audience research continued, the focus shifted to health care providers (with an emphasis on having Ob Gyns, who see the negative consequences of HPV, influence their pediatric colleagues who provide the vaccinations). The dominant message then became “HPV vaccine iscancer prevention,” a strong, impactful message that resonated with both audiences.

Moniz echoed Spoeth’s experience when she discussed her work with anti-smoking campaigns. For example, for one campaign, through initial research, Moniz’s team discovered that the target audience reacted strongly to messages that illustrated the many debilitating diseases caused by smoking rather than death by smoking. In response, the team created campaign messaging to reflect this finding. They worked closely with the evaluation team to ensure the campaign ads continue to motivate quit attempts regardless of the health consequence depicted.

“Both social marketing campaigns are effective because they never lose sight of the importance of a clear, defined target audience,” said discussion moderator Darcy Sawatzki, Hager Sharp senior vice president and member of iSMA. “Behavior change is possible when social marketers understand and work directly with the people whom seek to help positively influence.”

Social marketing is a continual process that does not end in the measurement stage. Social marketers must analyze a campaign’s success in order to make strategic recommendations to further the campaign’s reach. This cycle guarantees there is always more to be done in social marketing and in the field of cancer prevention.