Social Marketing ain’ t easy but if done right can be a powerful tool for change

 There is a lot of confusion on what is social marketing and what are the most effective techniques to effectively develop a social marketing plan.

First let me say that there are no magic bullets or formulas to social marketing it is a heck of a lot of  hard work and most important requires the development of a comprehensive social marketing plan.

However in the world of “quick fixes”  the “5 minute manger”  and software that provides “instant solutions” it is hard to convince people that developing a successful social marketing initiative takes time and a lot of effort. 

My experience is that people are not willing to sit down and purposefully develop a plan.Here at the Centre of Excellence For Public Sector Marketing we developed a Social Marketing Workbook to help practioners to develop a plan.

This workbook that was developed by myself with support of colleagues is based on over 25 years of frontline social marketing expertise and is not an academic exercise. It  takes users through a proven planning process to develop a customized, structured social marketing plan for  public sector or nonprofit organizations. It assist users in developing a comprehensive social marketing plan on their own, resulting in an ability to implement your initiative strategically with proper evaluation.

Key features:

  • How social marketing need not be expensive to be effective;
  • How a step-by-step structured approach and process makes preparing a social marketing plan simpler;
  • How social marketing is different from public education, outreach and other communication strategies;
  • How social marketing gives organizations a single, integrated approach which may include: mobilizing communities, influencing the media, lobbying/advocacy, building strategic alliances with business etc.
  • For more information on the workbook or our workshops or our customized training courses go to or e-mail me at

    On another note the following   piece from my old friend William “Bill” Smith  Executive Vice President Academy for Educational Development is a must read for all social marketers.

    Believe, recognize, accept that marketing is an empirical process not a religious dogma.  There are no magic techniques- no short cuts to excellence – no secret handshakes.  There is a lot of work guided by a few principles such as:

    1. EXCHANGE A: One way to get people to change their behavior voluntarily is to offer them an alternative they like better than the one they’ve got already. This is often cited as “consumer orientation”.  While only captures part of the issue. Here’s the second.

    2. EXCHANGE B: Social Marketer’s have rights too- not only the consumer has rights. We have rights to expect behavior change. I am not in marketing to give people just anything they want. I don’t want them to have assault rifles in the car- to blow cigarette in other people’s face – or be afraid to have an HIV test.  I have decided there are a lot of things that hurt people and society too and I want to change the people who do themselves to themselves and to others.  I am not embarrassed to admit that I want to change people. I can’t force people to do these things as a marketer, and I don’t think that is right. I would be a politician or an advocate if I wanted to control behavior.  Incidentally they are both excellent professionals, just not for me.

    But I sure can develop new products and service alternatives for people- alternatives they like.  I can offer those alternatives in exciting ways. And I can monitor their reaction to see if I offered them something they wanted in exchange. 

    The consumer has the right to expect something in exchange for what we want. This is a fundamental difference from “participation theory” which argues that programs should be driven only by what people desire. I want to underline that this is a theory.  In 40 years of looking I have found maybe two—— maybe two—— programs — that lived up to this principle.

    What I have learned from participation theory is that people continue doing things if they feel some ownership for having created them.   I think that is true a lot of the time- but not always.  And marketing can absorb that insight with no problem at all. Participation has also added some new ways of listening to people which have enriched marketing a great deal.

    The belief that the marketer’s has right too is very disturbing to the liberation theologist among you.  I understand why.  I just think you are not being honest.  You don’t want people to have assault rifles either. 

    3. COMPETITION: If you’re marketing you are not educating, you are competing for people’s behavior.  It is very different to ask the question “What are they getting out of smoking while they are pregnant?” then to ask- “How can I get them to stop smoking while they are pregnant?”  You get a very different perspective on things and you get much closer to the people you hope to service.

    4. SEGMENTATION: People are not all alike.  It is better to know how people are different. We should try to reach those most in need and easiest to change. This is also a very controversial practice in marketing, but given our budgets a critically important one.  

    5. INSTABILITY OF BEHAVIOR: People change their minds all the time.  So marketers have to constantly monitor and address those changes.  Marketing is not a social vaccine that discovers the inner, unchanging truth of people’s heart and then turns a magic key to transform their being.  Many of my advertising friends like to believe this.  Marketing is a pragmatic process- that recognizes people change as the world changes.  We are never done marketing.  This belief is very unpopular with funders and governments who are looking for magic bullets to eternal change.  People get bored without products and services.  They don’t believe us anymore.    And something better comes along.  We have to adjust and continue marketing.

    6. MARKETING MIX: Marketers believe that there are four ways to implement the previous five principles.  We create products and services, price them, delivery than and communicate about them. This is the fundamental means to accomplish Principle No. 1.

    Technique No.1  FUN   Make what you want people to do FUN, or as marketing academics would say add benefits they care about to your offering.

    Technique No. 2 EASY.  Make is easy for people to find, get, and use, whatever you are offering given the condition in which those people live. Or reduce barriers they see as important.

    Technique No. 3. POPULAR People like to be popular.  They like to know their friends and relatives admire them.  They like other people.  They like networks and emotional supports of people.  They like being recognized for things they do.  They like being thanked for trying.  They like being told when they are doing it right.  To be accurate POPULAR is just another set of benefits and a way to make things FUN for people.  But they are so important in our field of social change  I have always separated POPULAR out and said – make people feel popular with their friends.

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