Up and Out of Poverty: The Social Marketing Solution by Phillip Kotler and Nancy Lee introduces social marketing as a systematic, and possibly transformative, approach for policymakers, program planners, field workers, national and local government leaders and others involved with helping the poor. Karl Hofmann, President and CEO of Population Service International notes: Kotler and Lee set the record straight in this important book: Social marketing uses a range of tools to influence behavior and reduce poverty, beyond simply the sale of subsidized commodities like condoms and mosquito nets. CK Prahalad, author of The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid, writes: Creative solutions to persistent problems that affect the poor require the tools of social marketing and multi-stakeholder management. In this book, the poor around the world have found new and powerful allies.
With the subtitle A Toolkit for Policy Makers, Entrepreneurs, NGOs, Companies and Governments, Phil and Nancy introduce the essentials of the social marketing approach and use 14 case studies from various organizations around the world to demonstrate where it has made a difference in the lives of the poor. A central tenet of the book is that social marketing can be used to understand, influence and assist people in poverty to participate in developing their own solutions. They suggest that social marketing can complement other approaches to poverty alleviation by providing a systematic way to create coordinated and collaborative programs that match the right programs to the contours of the problem, and more importantly, the characteristics of the specific priority group of people living in poverty – not making the assumption that the poor are a homogeneous group of people. Among the issues that social marketing can be usefully applied to include: health, education, family planning, food supply, employment, financial management and personal safety. Environmental and Conservation issues were notably absent from their list, but as a social marketing colleague, let me add here that they certainly deserve to be there as well (the significant work being done by Rare for example).
For social marketers, much of the book is dedicated to the basic principles and elements of the social marketing approach, culminating in a social marketing plan. Separate chapters discuss the role of the public, nonprofit (or NGO) and private sectors in using social marketing to become more effective and efficient in their work. Here, though none are provided for the private sector, some of the attitudes and commitments that need to be changed and made by these organizations in order to adopt a social marketing approach are discussed; they include:
- A willingness to prioritize market segments.
- A willingness to focus on single, simple, doable behaviors.
- A willingness to spend time and resources on market research.
- A willingness to develop products, services and improve distribution channels.
- A willingness to establish quantifiable goals and measure performance.
- A willingness to partner with other sectors.
The final chapter discusses ways in which one can get the three sectors to work together. The major contribution they make here is to encourage programs to map out and segment the opposition marketplace much like they would for the primary program. It may underscore the difficulty of these 3-way partnerships that all of their examples relate to various combinations of 2-way ones (business and civil society, government and civil society, government and business). I also noted the lack of any discussion of the ever growing role of global health partnerships and their positive and deleterious effects on local governments and programs trying to serve people in poverty.
As a basic text and introduction to the field of social marketing, there is much to commend this book. In over 300 pages, the authors offer up a lot of good information. I would have liked to see more discussion of social marketing as a tool for improving people’s lives through being producers of value, and not just consumers or recipients – a shift many inside and outside of the social marketing field need to make. Likewise, the issue of how to craft 3-way partnerships can be informed by developments such as the Total Market Approach. And the use of new technologies in social marketing and poverty programs require chapters of their own. The advanced book for social marketing in poverty and development now needs to be written – thanks to this ground-breaking effort by Kotler and Lee.