Branding and Social Marketing

Branding in the commercial sector is pervasive and fairly easy to understand and recognize. However, branding in social marketing is not as common but becoming more popular as it is very effective in creating visibility and ensures memorability.

The brand is the marketer’s most advanced emotional tool. It combines and reinforces the functional and emotional benefits of the offering and so adds value, encouraging consumption and loyalty. A good brand facilitates recognition, makes a promise, and, provided the full marketing back-up is in place, delivers satisfaction. Brands can provide very practical benefits. For example for young people, quick and clear brand identification can make both the buying and smoking of forbidden products such as cigarettes much less risky. Over time, brands become a fast powerful way of confirming the synergy between marketer and customer. (Social Marketing: Influencing Behaviors for Good by Philip Kotler, Nancy R. Lee)

There is also evidence that branding may be particularly effective way to reach people in deprived communities. Experts in branding have concluded that the symbolic appeal of brands is particularly effective in targeting those individuals who do not have the time, skills and motivation to evaluate the objective attributes and benefits of a particular campaign. A recent review conducted on behalf of the UK’s National for Health and Clinical Excellence also suggests that brands can be an effective way of reaching information-deprived communities. Branding with these communities seems to hold considerable promise. (Gerald Hastings in Social marketing … why should the devil have all the best tunes? p100).

In Canada and the USA, many government departments are constantly looking for effective ways to best hard to reach groups. This new finding should certainly be explored for “hard to reach” and “deprived communities”.

The following list includes a few of the stronger brands , in these cases names that have been to identify programs and products and are used consistently in an integrated way which is very important for social marketers.

“Participaction”… encouraging physical activity (CANADA)

“VERB” … encouraging physical activity (USA)

“Break Free”… Anti – smoking (Canada)

“Truth” … Anti -smoking (USA)

“McGruff the Crime Dog”… Crime prevention

“Operation Red Nose/Nez Rouge”… Drinking and driving (Canada)

“Road Crew” … Drinking and driving (USA)

“Don’t mess with Texas”… Litter prevention (USA)

“Rock the vote”… Voting

“Back to Sleep”… Sudden Infant Death Syndrome

“Energy Star “… Energy conservation

“One ton Challenge”… Climate change (Canada)

“Smokey Bear”… Wildfire prevention

“5 A Day”… Nutrition

“Fight” … “fight fear,” “fight distress” and “fight chaos,” Military recruiting campaign (Canada)

“Be all you can be”… Military recruiting campaign (USA)

“Yes You Can”…International Competitiveness (Canada)

“Believe in Yourself”… Student Loan (Canada)

Here is an excerpt from a blog from “branding in the field of social marketing “from Nedra Kline Weinreich which provides some further information on this topic.

“Nonprofits and government agencies are generally several steps behind the commercial sector in applying marketing concepts to their health and social issues.  Branding is a word that is thrown around a lot by marketers of all stripes without a complete understanding of what it actually means.  We know we want to have a strong brand, but to some that just means creating a logo and tagline.  A brand is much more than just the product itself, or the visuals you create to promote it.

Your brand is how your audience thinks about your product and connects with it emotionally.  It’s the combination of how you market your product and how the audience experiences it.  It’s the feeling that by using the product someone becomes part of an elite group, and membership in that group reflects the image of who that person aspires to be.

In the case of social marketing, the product is the health or social behaviour you are promoting — if the audience tries doing what you want them to do but has an awful experience, the brand image suffers.  Or the brand may be your organization, with various products that you offer falling within that brand (e.g., if you are at a local health department with initiatives addressing different health topics).  So branding involves strategically crafting all the elements of your audience’s interactions with your organization and its products so that they support the right image and evoke the right emotions.  Your product or organization may already have a brand image — but is it the one you want?

Jim Mintz is Director of the Centre of Excellence for Public Sector Marketing. The Centre’s mandate is to deliver strategic marketing solutions, designed to meet the unique needs & challenges of governments, associations and non-profit organizations. He is also Program Director of the “Professional Certificate in Public Sector and Non-Profit Marketing” and the “Executive Certificate in Public Sector and Non-Profit Marketing Leadership” at the Sprott School of Business at Carleton University. Jim lectures in the Undergraduate Program at Sprott in his specialty areas of marketing communications and non-profit/public sector marketing and at the University of South Florida, College of Public Health (Tampa). He was formerly Adjunct Professor of Marketing in the School of Management at the University of Ottawa.

3 Replies to “Branding and Social Marketing”

  1. I strongly disagree with this. Word of mouth is the most powerful tool in a marketer’s arsenal. Brand power is a passive and indirect way to reach people. I also seriously doubt that branding adds value in any way to a message. The focus should be on conversions, not recall ability.

    Brand power is destroyed by the Internet where folks are more concerned about the tangible and immediate qualities of your message and less about symbolism (as was the case in the era of print and mass messaging).

    If a group is hard to reach, than its time to evaluate marketing tactics (the strategies should remain the same). The best tactic to reach “deprived” groups might be face time versus focusing on the web and social media or mass advertising. Or better yet, ignore the hard to reach folks. Focus on those who are cheap to reach, those who will spread the word for you.

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