What students find interesting or memorable from our classes on Social Marketing at George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services is one of my most anticipated opportunities of the year to get into the mind of the consumer. In this case, it is our MPH students in the Public Health Communication and Marketing Program, and an assortment of students from other programs and universities, who provide me with the valuable feedback of what am I talking about in class with them that makes sense to them.
Most faculty will argue that everything we talk about in a class is important, but the learning and experiences I have lead me to believe that if I can get 5-9 memories made in the 3 hrs we have together each week, then that is success. Two years ago I created a whole set of posts around each class entitled Student Voices. The idea for creating them is this:
At the end of each weekly class, or during the week, write down the 3-5 major points you got out of that class. Not what notes you made about a lecture or discussion, but the highlights – something that was said, a point that somebody made during the discussion, a thought or question you had that really had an impact on you or stuck with you.
The point is to have them consolidate their thoughts and provide me with some indication of what we have been talking about that resonates with them, gets a reaction, or completely misses the mark. In that way, these 'lesson logs' reflect the perspective of master’s level students in a MPH program (or related degree program) who have sat through, participated or engaged in classroom social marketing content for an extended period of time. I let them know ahead of time that some of their comments in the logs may be used on my blog without direct attribution.
SO without further introduction, some thoughts from this year's students about social marketing. Hopefully, you will find a few that resonate with you as well.
The definition of social marketing has certainly evolved since the 1970s, which reveals the shift in focus from influencing ideas (i.e. racism) to influencing behavior change. The current definition also demonstrates the need to solidify the scope and purpose of social marketing, and further establish its presence within the realm of public health.
Understanding various theories is crucial to providing a foundation for social marketing campaigns. As someone who is highly interested in the creative aspect and the implementation of campaign strategies, this particular class session made me realize that before these stages of the campaign can begin, selecting theoretical elements serves as an anchor for the campaign and is needed to ensure a successful end result.
This was the first behavioral theory class that I have enjoyed in a very long time. While learning about the theories was repetitive, I felt like I learned a more useful way to apply them to interventions. This was a nice break from prior classes that examined behavioral theory. The other enjoyable aspect of this particular session is that we learned about theories that were developed recently... and not in the 1950's. We also discussed how new technologies "expand the scope and capacity for learning". The lesson's slide at the end was particularly useful. I especially enjoyed, "Theories should be tools, not straight jackets"... "It's a complex world" and "Theories can inform - And Blind".
The idea of designing behaviors for a target audience that fit their reality was new to me. It makes sense that the behavior must be compatible with the audience, but in the world of public health people often think about only one “right” behavior. But if the “right” behavior is too complicated, or incompatible with the target audience – no one will do it
To change health behaviors, public health professionals must conduct exploratory research to gain insight from the target audience, not just validate already held beliefs about the population.
One point from tonight’s lecture I found particularly salient was that focus groups are too often seen as the go to method for collecting research. “Go to the jungle not the zoo,” instead of creating orderly controlled groups; there is an entire realm of ethnographic research where we can observe behaviors and communities in their natural setting.
The idea of marketing to a segment less than one was intriguing. As people supposedly develop multiple on-line personas, marketers seem poised to capture on these self-defined psychographic differences. Whereas previously marketers would make their best guess about a person’s preferences, the new web sharing media allows marketers more information than ever before on consumer preferences. Interesting comparisons promise on how the same person is marketed to on LinkedIn versus Facebook or MySpace. In essence, this seems to give more importance to the Place variable in the online world as it seems analogous to how someone is marketed to at a bar versus their workplace.
In lecture, we went over formative research which was very useful for our group projects. There are three components to formative research, exploratory, concept testing, and pre-testing of materials. From my understanding of each component of formative research, exploratory research is used to better understand the target audience, identify behaviors, and factors that contribute to the issues. Concept testing is actually testing the methods we discovered and created. This can be tested by using a representative sample of the intended audience through a focus group. Here we can examine our strategies/tactics of the four Ps with our sample population, and learn new information that we did not gain in our exploratory research. Before implementing a campaign, it is important to test the materials created. This provides an opportunity to test if the materials are coming across the way the marketers want it to. Also process evaluation is an important aspect to see if the campaign messages are reaching the intended audience, and if it is having a desired or undesired effect on the population.
The idea of making benefits of a behavior change personally relevant – I had usually thought of the health benefits to a behavior change as fairly obviously connected to the health problem (i.e., quitting smoking to reduce lung cancer risk, rather than to stop smelling like smoke) rather than needing to connect benefits to each individual, even in a mass market campaign.
Chanel perfumes – “We don’t market smelly waters, we market dreams.” In other words – the product in social marketing is not only the behavior but also the benefits of that behavior and any tangible objects and services that will help support the desired behavior change.