Long before the hyperventilation over social media marketing, social marketing was being used to create change, large and small, across the globe. The first [in-person] international meeting of social marketers in Brighton last September brought together over 700 of us and included a number of the leaders in the field [for those of you who missed it, the international social marketing on-line conference in March 2008 was "the first global conference" I am aware of and had over 1,000 participants].
The organizers of the conference have just published Effectively Engaging People: Views from the World Social Marketing Conference 2008 [PD] that features brief Q&As with 21 of the keynote speakers. Among my favorite excerpts:
To Philip Kotler:
If you were trapped in a lift for ten minutes with your nation’s President, what would you say?
We are at that stage in time, Mr President, where we are beginning to have a methodology which is cost effective and could help us resolve many of the social problems that have plagued society. That tool is social marketing.
To Sameer Deshpande:
What example would you give to highlight social marketing’s potential?
Grameen Bank by Mohammed Yunus. Although Dr.Yunus does not label his work as social marketing, his work exemplifies many of the features that we social marketers use.
To Craig Lefebvre:
How can we promote social marketing to relevant practitioners and key decision-makers?
This is not so much an empirical or evidence-based question of highlighting to them what studies have shown social marketing to be effective at doing, although that is important. For practitioners and decision makers, it’s about being able to tell them stories about how social marketing was adopted in a programme in significant and very basic ways and the improvements in reach, service and benefits that resulted. It’s that kind of narrative of before and after, helping people see and understand how social marketing approaches apply to and change practice and policy development.
To Clive Blair Stevens:
What are the key ethical issues in trying to influence behaviour?
For me, the two key ethical issues in social marketing are: How is the social good being defined?; and who is involved in the defining of it?
To Francois Lagarde:
What are the challenges faced by an organisation with limited funds to invest in a social marketing intervention?
If they see social marketing as an isolated budget item or intervention, they face a significant challenge! If they see social marketing as a framework for planned change, they will see their whole budget as a social marketing budget.
To Seynabou Mbengue:
Where will social marketing be in 20 years?
More and more, it will be known as a successful approach to resolving many problems we encounter (health coverage, accessibility of services and products, environmental issues, and so on). I feel social issues are often barriers to market development. Improvement to the quality of life in general is a universal need throughout the world.
To Tane Cassidy:
What are the key challenges we face in further developing social marketing?
1. Establishing agreed standards or benchmarks of practice for the discipline. If we have a united view of practice that moves beyond relying on the force of individual practitioners, then we are more likely to bring others, especially decision makers, along with us.
2. Determining the right mix of individual and upstream marketing (including influencing the decision- makers) for particular social issues.
3. Breaking down the ‘system’ silos we tend to get caught up in. Often we are funded to address single issues or specific disease states. This can create competition within and across health and social disciplines, and may lead to a saturation of the market with all our messages, rather than promoting more collaborative efforts.
4. Establishing good information dissemination systems for the discipline, so that we can learn from each other and avoid duplication.
5. Demonstrating good short-term success measures as proxies for long term achievement.
To Robert Marshall:
What one thing would help most to solidify the field?
I think social marketing needs to find a professional organisation base, either in its own organisation or as part of a larger existing one. Also I think it needs to be organised as a ’community of practice’ so that it focuses on inclusion rather than exclusion of partners in different fields (other than public health).
To Paul Brewer:
How can we build capacity in social marketing?
By inspiring, motivating and training the talent to do it.
To William Smith:
Social marketing increasingly encompasses people from both marketing and the social sciences. What are the challenges in integrating learning from different disciplines?
Social marketing, like commercial marketing, is an eclectic practice. It assimilates other professions. That is one of its greatest strengths. As long as the goal is voluntary behaviour change on a large scale I am very eclectic about tactics. I worry more about missed opportunities when people come to social marketing from long careers in advertising, health promotion or environmental education or even from advocacy and don’t understand what else marketing can bring to the table.
To Jeff French:
What should we be doing to develop a robust shared evidence base?
We all have a responsibility to capture and learn from what we are doing. In social marketing this is key, so that we can reflect on what has worked and what hasn’t, and so build better interventions. Everyone has a responsibility to share as widely as possible what they have learnt, especially when things do not go as planned.
There are some who wonder whether social marketing will survive the onslaught of social media marketers. After reading these interviews, you may agree with me that the world of social marketing is changing; it is coming together and confidently looking to the future. I think it will become clear to many people in 2009 that using new communication channels to promote products and services is much different from using marketing to improve health and social conditions around the world.
I hope that in this booklet you will also find ideas, inspiration and resources for your social marketing efforts next year. And I ask you to take a moment to consider what your 2009 resolution will be for being part of the change.
Image from Brent Kompelian.