Many social marketing programs, and most public health ones, have shied away from working with their customers or members of their priority groups. Rather, we have stuck with the ‘marketing-to’ approach that Lusch (2007) describes as one of stimulating demand through use of the 4Ps in order to get customers to purchase goods, use services or adopt behaviors, and then be satisfied with their decision, in order to meet organizational (or social) objectives.
Service-Dominant marketing Logic (S-D Logic) marks a shift from this 'marketing-to' approach to a 'marketing-with' perspective (Lusch, 2007). This 'marketing-with' approach is an adaptive process through which organizations learn about their customers and markets, and collaborate with these customers and other stakeholders to create and sustain value for themselves and society. For organizations that engage in public health and social change activities, this 'marketing-with' framework is similar to other approaches that seek to engage people in the change process – not be an object of it (see the community-based prevention marketing approach as an example, Bryant et al, 2009).
Following-up on the last post, one implication of S-D Logic for social marketing is that our customers rarely obtain 'value-added' from the behaviors, products or services we offer. That is, the notion that we conduct research to unearth the ‘benefit’ that will compel people to exchange with us is misguided; we cannot presume to be the final arbiters of ‘value’ – the user must create or find that value as they engage with the behavior, product or service we are offering. Marketers who attempt to imbue their products or services with value, or benefits that consumers will find attractive, are reflecting ‘goods dominant’ logic. Rather, social marketing can be thought about as facilitating customer experiences or discoveries of value when using the product, trying the service or practicing the behavior. In short, value is uniquely experienced by each customer when they use our offering – not in how persuasively or creatively we ‘sell it’ to them. The S-D Logic perspective encourages marketers to suggest what the value might be - value propositions (“we think you may like this because it…satisfies a need you are experiencing now, solves a problem for you, facilitates your getting a job done, or helps you reach a goal”) - that customers must then validate through their experience of using the offering (product, service or behavior) in their lives. This perspective on how value is created by users means we must design interactions (or service touch points) to facilitate value-in-use and feedback. This feedback, or exchange, can suggest how we might refine, augment or change our initial offering.
To put this idea into action, let’s look at a tobacco cessation offering. In a classic social marketing approach, the first task would be to understand from the potential customers’ perspective, and there may be several segments of them with different perspectives, what benefits and barriers they perceive in quitting smoking. Along with other information we have about these customer segments, we design messages, products or a service to appeal to one or more of these benefits and/or reduce barriers; for example, older smokers sometimes resonate to “not smoking will allow me to live longer and watch my grandchildren grow up.” After testing these concepts and messages with members of the priority audience, we create materials and a program ‘look and feel’ to reflect this benefit positioning, launch it, monitor its uptake and completion rate and evaluate the results (for how long is a critical point here).
Using the S-D Logic framework for the same problem: first, we will think about the behavior differently – 'learning not to smoke’ versus quitting (a longer-term experience rather than a one-off quit episode). Then we would incorporate smokers into every facet of our discovery, design, creation and rollout of the program – not just invite them into focus groups and testing sessions. Finally, we would treat our value offering as a proposition and not be so sure we have actually ‘made value’ for a smoker who is trying to quit (see above for 4 possible approaches). This allows our offering to be subject to change and modification based on customer input and response (and not blame them for 'not getting it').
We would view the launch of our smoking cessation effort as the continuation of a conversation with them. Our role is to facilitate value creation as they quit smoking: they must integrate what we (and perhaps others) are giving to them as an active creator of value, not a passive recipient of benefits (Gronroos, 2011). We would also put into place feedback mechanisms about our value proposition (are we on the right track?). We could then learn from them what their experience is and whether they are obtaining the value we proposed and they expected (a very valuable exchange for us!). They may surprise us by noting that over time they are experiencing other benefits that are now more important to them. Or perhaps the initial value (benefit) was misjudged and together we need to come up with alternatives for creating more value from not smoking than continuing to smoke (rather than refer back to promoting 'pros' and reducing 'cons' to alter a decision-making process). What we are doing is co-creating value (or call it wrap-around or ubiquitous supports) with the smoker after they have made a decision to adopt a new behavior and/or use our cessation product or service. That's when the work starts and "experience-in-use" is not some theoretical expression, but the everyday reality of the smoker trying to quit.
The key shifts in thinking for social marketing that S-D Logic present to us are:
1. Exchanges are not the giving of something for the receipt of something else (value-in-exchange) as is understood in the Goods Dominant (G-D) logic model. Rather, we should view exchanges as mutual sharing of knowledge and resources among the social marketing agency, the priority group or customers and other actors or stakeholders (co-creation of value-in-use).
2. We need to focus on value-in-use to facilitate long-term adoption of healthier and sustainable behaviors. People we refer to as customers or clients are active agents in creating the value of our offerings and create value for us in return (if we are open to it). When we embrace this fact, we are then committed to developing the means and opportunities to co-create value with them throughout the process of a social marketing program (co-creation is more than being involved in program planning and materials development, it is getting something of value out of it).
3. Within the larger networks in which we operate, the S-D Logic also involves creating value propositions for stakeholders and partners. As with customers, the value for organizations to participate with us comes from their investment of information and resources to co-create value in the partnership (it is not something that is simply handed over, or exchanged, with them). What the value proposition does is set the expectations for what these values-in-use might be (Frow & Payne, 2011): value is not intrinsic to participating, it must be continually created and recreated through the interactions of the partners with each other.
Bryant, C.A., Brown, K.R., McDermott, R.J., Debate, R.D., Alfonso, M.L., Baldwin, J.A., Monaghan, P. & Phillips, L.M. (2009). Community-based prevention marketing: A new framework for health promotion interventions. In R. DiCiClemente, R.A. Crosby & M.C. Kegler (Eds.), Emerging theories in health promotion practice and research (2nd ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass (pp. 331-356).
Frow, P. & Payne, A. (2011). A stakeholder perspective of the value proposition concept. European Journal of Marketing; 45: 223 -240.
Grönroos, C. (2011). Value co-creation in service logic: A critical analysis. Marketing Theory; 11: 279-301
Lusch, R.F. (2007). Marketing’s evolving identity: Defining our future. Journal of Public Policy & Marketing; 26: 261-268.
Note: A special thanks to Graham Hill [@GrahamHill] who provided several resources for me to consider and integrate into this discussion after the first post appeared.