This page describes Audience Dialogue's approach to promoting social change: our view of the problems with social marketing, and our preference for a more participative marketing approach, known as Communication for Social Change (CFSC for short).
Let's begin with social marketing. Most of its practitioners agree that it does not involve selling products or services. With social marketing (unlike commercial marketing), people are not persuaded to spend money, but to change their behaviour - to stop smoking, to avoid AIDS by practising safe sex, to use public transport, and so on.
Alan Andreasen, one of the founders of the social marketing concept, posed the question "How is social marketing distinguished from commercial marketing?" (This was in the March 2002 issue of the Journal of Public Policy and Marketing.) He suggested six ways in which social marketing was different:
Some counter-arguments and qualifications from us at Audience Dialogue, taking each point in turn...
Another point where we differ from Andreasen is his implicit emphasis on individuals. Our experience is that large-scale behaviour change is something that communities do, because peer pressures are much more powerful than advertising.
So much for the normal approach to social marketing. We much prefer the approach of the Communication for Social Change (CFSC) group, from their 1998 conference in Cape Town. This approach is more rooted in social action than is Andreasen's. The CFSC group favours moving away from the standard social marketing approaches in the left column of this table, on to the approaches in the centre column...
|Away from...||On to...||Audience Dialogue's comment on "On to"|
|1. people as the objects for change||people and communities as the agents of their own change||We completely agree.|
|2. designing, testing, and delivering messages||supporting dialogue and debate on the key issues of concern||Agree strongly.|
|3. conveying information from technical experts||sensitively placing that information in the dialogue and debate||The implication is that information from experts shouldn't be questioned. But "information" is not neutral: it's rooted in an unstated context, and constructed on a pyramid of assumptions. So let's reword "sensitively placing" etc as: "engaging in a dialogue with relevant experts, to find the best application of their expertise to the local situation".|
|4. a focus on individual behaviours||social norms, policies, culture, and a supportive environment||Very important, to look beyond individuals|
|5. persuading people to do something||negotiating the best way forward in a partnership process||Yes, but as it's not possible to negotiate with a population of millions, it's vital to ensure that the negotiators are fully representative.|
|6. technical experts in "outside" agencies dominating and guiding the process||the people most affected by the issues of concern playing a central role.||Agreed - but the affected people are often hesitant, and need a lot of support to participate.|
Despite a few minor reservations, we mainly agree with the above set of principles. The focus is more inclusive than social marketing, and thus more effective. We call our version of CFSC participative marketing - to emphasize that it's a process involving all stakeholders.
This is another approach to social change, in the same general area as social marketing and CFSC. Unlike traditional marketing, its focus is not on the individual, but on how a whole community can change at once. The principle of social mobilization (like Paulo Freire's concept of conscientization) is that the population are made aware of a problem, often through local media. The public will changes, and people become motivated to solve the problem. Social mobilization can be a powerful tool, but also a dangerous one, when a population majority turns against minorities - as in Nazi Germany, or when Milosevic was elected in Serbia in 1992. For more on social mobilization, see the book Social Mobilization and Social Marketing in Developing Communities, by Neill McKee (Southbound Press, Penang, Malaysia, 1993).
Social marketing is more challenging than ordinary marketing, for all these reasons...
By itself, social marketing doesn't change behaviour. Large-scale behaviour change needs more than marketing. Other important factors include the legal, the economic, and the technological. Some writers would add educational factors, but our view is that participative marketing is itself an educational process.
James Grunig has written a lot about what he calls "symmetrical public relations" - an idea closely related to participative marketing. After extensive research with hundreds of organizations, Grunig found that the most effective ones tended to use what he calls "symmetrical" approaches to communication. Put simply: they engage in a dialogue with their publics, rather than taking a spin-doctoring approach.
In the commercial world, a marketing campaign is usually set up with great urgency. If a new product is launched, the development costs must be recouped quickly, so advertising campaigns come and go in a few weeks.
Participative marketing is very different.The budget is usually a lot lower, and the process is slower, because it's often hard to reach the target audience directly. Also, when people do change their behaviour, it needs to stay changed. Without plenty of reinforcement, many people are likely to regress to their previous behaviour. All this means that, in social marketing, a long-drawn-out campaign is usually more effective than a short, sharp one. Advertising often isn't very effective in social marketing, but if it creates mild social pressures it can work indirectly - though that often takes a long time. Thus effective participative marketing programs usually involve a lot of community participation, and a wide range of different initiatives.
The indirect effects of participative marketing make it difficult to evaluate the success of a campaign. For example, imagine a campaign to decrease smoking among teenagers. It might involve 10 different activities, at different geographical levels, and it might run for several years. What if there's no change in the level of teenage smoking after the first year, but within 5 years the percentage of smokers aged 15-19 has fallen from 30% to 25%. How much credit can the participative marketing campaign claim for that? Or might this have happened anyway? (Bear in mind that 5 years later, it's a different cohort of teenagers.)
A normal Program Logic Model (one way of evaluating such campaigns) has difficulty handling these effects. As part of our program of developing participative marketing, we are working on a multiple-ladder variation on PLM, that involves a kind of "weaving" back and forth between the goals intended and their side-effects and side-causes, and creating from those a set of counterfactual scenarios. The purpose of the multiple ladders is to more accurately to what extent the intended factors were responsible for an outcome. This extension of PLM is touched on on this page about effectiveness. (Though the topic is website effectiveness, the principles are identical.)
For more background on Audience Dialogue's approach to marketing, see my book Participative Marketing for Local Radio, - particularly chapter 1, which unlike the rest of the book is not specifically about radio.
Communication for Social Change
You can read about the 1998 Cape Town conference in a report by Denise Gray-Felder and James Deane on Communication for Social Change. This and others are on the website of the Rockefeller Foundation - a difficult one to navigate. The easiest way to find these links is to type Deane in the search box on the home page.
The Ottawa Charter was a declaration on health promotion from the World Health Organization in 1986. This is broader than it might seem, as the WHO's all-encompassing definition of health is "a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity." Despite "promotion" being only one aspect of marketing, the Ottawa Charter is much broader in its scope than promotion in the usual sense. It covers:
Symmetrical corporate relationships
An interesting account by James Grunig on his research on excellence in corporate communications [link not working, December 2004]. A website on Communications in Latin America has a concise summary of Grunig's approach.
RE-AIM.org is a website with a useful framework for evaluating the success of social marketing. RE-AIM stands for
Marketing Social Change by Alan R Andreasen (Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, 1995). A clearly written book on the principles of social marketing - subject to the reservations discussed above.
Social Marketing... by Nedra Kline Weinreich (Sage Publications, Los Angeles, 1996). A useful and practical book on social marketing, though limited in scope in the usual one-sided view of marketing. Social-Marketing.com is Nedra Kline Weinreich's website, with a wealth of material on social marketing.
Donovan and Henley
Social Marketing: a book by Rob Donovan and Nadine Henley (IP Communications, Melbourne, Australia, 2003): a clearly written and comprehensive background to the subject. Donovan and Henley go well beyond the standard view that "marketing is something that marketers to do consumers". They discuss influencing the environment as well as the individuals. Their solution to the ethical problem of social marketing is to define it as improving the welfare of individuals and society in terms of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Conflict resolution is almost a form of participative marketing. Donovan and Henley's use of the UNHDR makes an interesting parallel with Johan Galtung's approach to conflict transformation. If you haven't heard of Galtung, think of him as the "father of peace studies". See his online book Conflict Transformation by Peaceful Means: the Transcend Method (United Nations Disaster Management Training Program, 2000).
Social Marketing Institute
The Social Marketing Institute has a useful Links page - though nearly all the links are North American. From that website, you can join the SOC-MKTG email mailing list.