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Social Marketing in the Age of Direct Benefit and Upstream Marketing

Social Marketing in the Age of Direct Benefit and Upstream Marketing

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Published by: mahnooshjavadi on Jun 24, 2010
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Social Marketing in the Age of Direct Benefit and Upstream Marketing.Dr Stephen Dann, School of Management, Marketing & International Business,ANU College of Business & Economics, The Australian National University
Social marketing is predicated on the ideals of commercial marketing, with the needs of themarket being paramount in the creation of a message, idea or product that will lead to socialchange for the greater good. As an adaptation of commercial marketing, social marketingacquired the understanding of commercial exchange and the freedoms to accept and reject theoffers in an open market. With the 2004 revision of the definition of commercial marketing,social marketing also acquired the need to create, communicate and deliver value to theconsumer that directly benefited the organisation. Whilst direct benefit was historically theanthema to social marketing, social change outcomes can be seen as directly benefiting theorganisation who promoted the original ideal.To complicate matters, at the same time social marketing has needed to become moreoutcomes focused, the rise in upstream marketing has created a situation where marketing canbe used to restrict the available choices in the social marketing marketplace. Yet at the sametime direct benefit to the campaign is a necessary prerequisite for marketing, and thetemptation to modify the market to limit competition to increase direct benefit, socialmarketing cannot afford to lose sight of the fundamental need to remain a force for voluntarybehaviour. This paper overviews the conflicting dynamics of the changes required formarketing under the AMA (2004) commercial marketing definition, and the possible clashbetween upstream marketing, social marketing, and the revised marketing definition.
Social Marketing: One Social Change Technique, not The Social Change Technique.
Social marketing is one of a range of methods for changing the attitudes, beliefs andbehaviours of the broader public, or a smaller societal group. As a social change technique, itsits alongside the process of education, legal reform and structural change as a mechanism forthe adjustment of society. Increasing pressures on outcomes based measures have seen manymarketers consider reaching into other aspects of the social change toolkit to enhance thesuccess of voluntary change through upstream marketing to alter the market conditions(voluntary change through involuntary removal of choice) or implement legislativeenforcement (voluntary change through compliance with law). As effective as thesemechanisms may be for achieving social change outcomes, they are not marketing techniques.In fact, the alteration of a market to remove competitor messages is usually regulated againstby government as anti-competitive and anti-monopoly – in the commercial sense, theupstream sentiment is to actively encourage choice.In commercial marketing as well, governments will intervene to break monopolies, or enforceregulations to ensure competition or the pretence of market choice. In behavioural change,and social marketing recently, choice seems to become an anathema. Change campaigns forbacked by health policies include legislative restriction of marketing of smoking (Graham andDann, 1997), promotion of contrary messages to established social change campaigns (Dannand Dann, 2002), and restrictions on distribution of legal products to youth markets (videogames, junk food and carbonated beverages). This may be social change, but it is not socialmarketing. Social marketing has a parentage in commercial marketing and is the adaptation of commercial marketing techniques, which means it must remain committed to freedom of choice, competition of messages, and non-monopolistic practices (Andreasen 1995,Andreasen 2006). At least in theory, if increasingly less so in practice, social marketing must
respect the right of the consumer to banal, contrary or down right stupid, and preserve theability of the individual to enter or leave the social change transaction as they see fit(Andreasen 1995, Kotler and Roberto, 1985)
Defining the parameters of Social Marketing
Social marketing, as the name implies, is grounded in commercial marketing theory andpractice. However, given that the application of social marketing is predominantly in noncommercial sectors, social marketing practice draws on a range of related disciplinesincluding sociology, psychology and other social welfare related activities. Social marketinghas had a range of definitions over the past thirty years, from the foundation definition in1971, where social marketing was defined as “the design, implementation, and control of programs calculated to influence the acceptability of product planning, pricing,communication, distribution and marketing research. (Kotler and Zaltman, 1971)” through tothe definition used most widely and consistently which defines social marketing as "theapplication of commercial marketing technologies to the analysis, planning, execution, andevaluation of programs designed to influence the voluntary behaviour of target audiences inorder to improve their personal welfare and that of their society." (Andreasen, 1995).Kotler, Roberto and Lee (2002) contributed to the contemporary social marketing debate byoffering the following definition of social marketing as “the use of marketing principles andtechniques to influence a target audience to voluntarily accept, reject, modify, or abandon abehaviour for the benefit of individuals, groups or society as a whole.” The consistentelements of the definition of social marketing have been the use of commercial marketingprinciples and techniques, voluntary action by the target of the social change, and the accrualof benefit to the individual, and the broader society. Within the context of the Kotler andAndreasen’s definitions, commercial marketing was defined as the process of planning andexecuting the conception, pricing, promotion, and distribution of ideas, goods, and services tocreate exchanges that satisfy individual and organizational objectives’ (AMA, 1985, p. 2).Consequently, the marketing tools and techniques adapted for use in social change programswere based on the 1985 conceptual model of marketing, with its emphasis on the creation of exchange of goods, services and ideas (where exchange can be direct or indirect) through theapplication of the marketing mix.
Social Marketing 2006: Now with Direct Benefit and Stakeholders
In 2004, the nature of commercial marketing was radically altered by the American MarketingAssociation (AMA) releasing a revision of the formal definition of marketing. The AMA,with the tacit or otherwise endorsement of the global marketing community, relaunched themarketing definition as “an organizational function and a set of processes for creating,communicating and delivering value to customers and for managing customer relationships inways that benefit the organization and its stakeholders.” (AMA 2004). With the significantrepurposing of the definition of marketing, does commercial marketing remain compatiblewith social marketing, and vice versa?
Benefiting the Organisation and the Stakeholder
 On the whole, social marketing fared reasonably poorly when commercial marketingrealigned itself as a business discipline focused on organisational and stakeholder benefit.The introduction of direct benefit to the organisation as a core tenet of the marketing conceptis the antithesis of the social marketing principle of indirect benefit. The previouslyimmutable boundary between societal marketing (social causes for commercial gain) andsocial marketing (social causes for societal benefit) has been blurred, if not erased entirely.
Whilst problematic, this may not prove to be an insurmountable challenge for socialmarketing.The new definition broadens the role of the marketing orientation beyond the dynamicbetween client/customer and the organisation. The expansion of the concept to includestakeholder benefit as an explicit role of marketing impacts on the type and nature of thestrategies that can be considered to be marketing strategy. A core imperative to arise fromthe new marketing definition is the need to define the organisation's stakeholders. Freeman(1984) defines stakeholders as "any group or individual who can affect or is affected by theachievement of the firm’s objectives". This is a noticeable departure from the narrow view of stakeholders as shareholders, stockholders or owners of the organisation (Clement, 2005).Stakeholders can be further split into primary stakeholders, who are directly involved in theongoing survival of the organisation (e.g. employees, customers and suppliers etc.); andsecondary stakeholders, who are influential, but not essential for the survival of theorganisation (e.g. activists, communities and governments). The definition of "stakeholders"is now a critical element in determining what marketing can do to create benefit for theorganisation and the stakeholders. From a social marketing perspective, incorporatingstakeholders has been a central tenet of indirect benefit exchange, and as such, represents theinclusion of aspects of social marketing’s involvement in promoting marketing exchanges thatlead to benefits accruing to the individual and broader society. Both social marketing(individual and society) and relationship marketing (individual and partners) have contributedto the inclusion of the stakeholders.
Compatibility and Incompatibility of Direct Benefit
Frequently, social marketing is the inversion of commercial marketing – profit, direct benefitand shareholder benefit leads to long term sustainability of the business. Social marketinginstead seeks to solve a problem, present a cure for a disease, a reduction in the incidence of an event, or the ultimate cessation of the social campaign once it has “solved” the socialproblem. Few commercial marketers would regard a market need as “a problem to be solvedahead of being an ongoing opportunity to serve for gain.Commercial marketing and social marketing have often been the most uncomfortable of travelling companions. The dichotomy between the direct benefit “profit” orientation of commercial marketing, and the indirect benefit “social benefit” orientation of marketing hasalways strained the relationship between the parent and child discipline. Consequently, socialmarketing has always been based on the simultaneous adoption of marketing philosophy andthe adaptation of marketing tools. This is done in order to develop programs which, whilstthe programs are targeted at specific market segments, will lead to socially beneficialoutcomes for the broader community in the eyes of the social marketer – potentially then, if society exhibits a willingness to change, then the organisation proposing the change can takea direct benefit from the groundswell of support for the idea.
Change by any means possible is not Direct Benefit
Perhaps the greatest challenge to the social marketing community will arise from the adoptionof direct benefit as a core outcome of social change campaigns that use social marketingtechniques. If direct benefit is narrowly construed as the adoption of the change campaign’ssocial message or behaviour, then social marketing may be tempted away from the coredisciplinary message of voluntary change, towards an outcomes driven approach of “changeat any cost”. Increasingly, as the consumer becomes more resistant to the marketing

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