I have spent 20 years thinking about and doing social marketing - how do I explain it to other people? About 30 students in the social marketing class offered by the GWU Public Health Communication & Marketing program (and me) are going to find out over the next 15 weeks. The class will consist of presentations, BIG projects working on real issues, plenty of class participation, a BarCamp (if you're in the DC Metro area, stay tuned for more on that!), and who knows what else?
The intent of the course is:
- Developing the most resourceful social marketers in the field.
- Creating experiences where we can learn, fail, and learn some more.
- Coaching that pushes the best out of ourselves.
- Seeing amazing thinking and actions.
In this first session we spent some time talking about the definition of social marketing. Here are the slides I used to kick off some riffs and discussion.
Three key points:
- Most definitions of social marketing come through a marketing lens rather than a social change or public health one. All industries adapt marketing concepts and principles to their unique business environment, objectives and challenges (pharmaceutical, tobacco and food marketing as three examples). Once you put a public health and health promotion perspective on life, a lot of other features fall into place, like...
- It's not about individual behavior change. When you use the public health lens, population-based behavior changes and social and structural changes are necessary features of any definition of social marketing (for example, Donovan & Henley). Go around the public health wheel of 10 essential services; every one of them present opportunities for social marketers to contribute. Which means that...
- Most public health people have a very narrow perspective on what social marketing is and its potential because they've never been exposed to broader conceptualizations of the method and process. Hard to believe that this was written 20 years ago:
…it is more than research, product design and distribution, diffusion of information, or the formulation and implementation of a communication strategy. It may include introduction of a new product (e.g., oral rehydration salts), the modification of existing ones (e.g., iodized salt), restricted consumption of others (e.g., cigarettes, infant formula), and promotion of structural change in existing institutions (e.g., food stamps, hospital practices). Social marketing may be exclusively educational (e.g., restriction of sodium consumption) yet still be obliged to do missionary work with food companies for sodium-reduced products (Manoff, 1985).
By the time we were done, at least one response was: 'I thought I knew what social marketing was before I came in the door, now I'm confused.' PERFECT! Defining what social marketing means for you is something you do after you've experienced it - not something you get out of a book. Not if you're out to change a piece of the world.
I'll try and keep you posted on what we're up to. You can also follow along with the syllabus.
Image via Houtlust