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A Social Marketing FAQ

A Social Marketing FAQ

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A Social Marketing FAQ
Professor Jeff French PhD, MBA, MSc, Dip HE, BA, Cert.Ed
Strategic Social Marketing Ltd
A Social Marketing FAQ
Professor Jeff French PhD, MBA, MSc, Dip HE, BA, Cert.Ed
Strategic Social Marketing Ltd

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Published by: Professor Jeff French on Feb 10, 2011
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A Social Marketing FAQ
Professor Jeff FrenchPhD, MBA, MSc, Dip HE, BA, Cert.EdStrategic Social Marketing Ltdwww.strategic-social-marketing.org jeff.French@strategic-social-marketing.org.
How did you first get involved in Social Marketing?
 About 17 years ago I was working in Public Health in the NHS and I was selected toattend a MBA at Durham. While I was doing the course we obviously covered marketing and I had a eureka moment. This is what had been missing from my understanding of how to help people change their behaviour. A systematic planning  process driven by user insights. While I was doing the course I did a module onmarketing discovered social marketing had been out there since the 1970s. Fromthen on social marketing is something I have researched, used and advocated across public service.
How would you describe Social Marketing to someone coming to it for the firsttime?How does Social Marketing relate to behaviour change?
Behaviour change is the bottom line of social marketing. Social marketing is focused on establishing the conditions and engorging people to change behaviour for social good. Social marketing often still gets confused with social advertising, which is ahelpful approach that is concerned with raising awareness, improving knowledgeand is on tool of social marketing. Many social marketing interventions however uselittle or no social advertising, rather, based on target group insight they may conclude that a systems change is needed, or a service or policy change. Social marketing also draws on the science of behaviour change form disciplines such as psychology, sociology, biology, economics etc just as good commercial sector marketing does.While social marketing can be described in different ways, one of the simplest is tothink of it as “using marketing to improve people’s lives”. A definition that CliveBlair–Stevens and I coined in 2006 and is now widely quoted is: “Social marketing is the systematic application of marketing alongside other concepts and techniques to achieve specific behavioural goals for social good” 
What is your favourite example of Social Marketing?
There are lost now, but one I really like is the Birmingham City Council and PCT ‘Beactive programme’ 
Why that one?
Because it’s a UK example and many of the more often quoted examples are formthe USA. But more importantly because it demonstrates all the key social marketing  principles. It was driven by a clear behavioural goal, to get more people form poorer backgrounds taking physical exercise. It is underpinned by robust market researchand clear insights about what will help people take up exercise and what will not. It has clear segmentation and target groups, it uses a mix of interventions, it is being sustained and it has clear ongoing evaluation. Most of all I like it because it works , ihas so far helped over 38,000 more people start taking more physical exercise.
How can Social Marketing go wrong?
If it is not done systematically. If it is not underpinned by research and insight. If it isconfused with just information giving, if it is not managed properly and not evaluated.Often programmes go wrong because they are not funded to a level that they canhave a measurable effect and or they are not sustained over a long enough timeframe. Another big problem is if there is not senior management understanding and buy in for the approach. Sometimes senior managers get impatient for quick resultsand just want to see things happening even if they are not based on what is knownabout what works.
How do we know that it works?
If the programme is set up correctly it with have SMART objectives and clear behavioural goals. If these are clear then evaluating them is simple. Measuring theactual behaviour change and some indicators of progress such as attitudinal shift and intention act as markers of success. There is also a growing body of evidenceabout the power of social marketing and lots of great case studies, many of theseare written up in social marketing books but also there is a good selection on theNational Social Marketing centres website.
Social Marketing has been used widely in health. To what extent has it beenused in other policy areas?
Social marketing is being used and has been used for many years in areas other than health. It’s a shame that some people think that it is a health focused approachwhich it is not. There are some big national and regional programmes like the PerthTravel Smart programme promoting active travel and lots of examples focused onenvironmental issues focused on issues as diverse as fishing conservationbehaviour of fishermen and promoting more efficient home energy use, there arelots of good examples at:
In what other areas do you think there is the greatest scope for its usage
 As well as health and environmental behavioural issues I think social marketing hasa lot to offer the field of crime and crime prevention. Some police authorities arestarting to take an interest in social marketing and apply its principles to planning interventions. I also think that the behavioural challenges associated with issuessuch as saving and better use of public services are ripe for social marketing.
I am interested in his recent ideas about local authorities taking a social marketingapproach
to encourage people to complete the next census. In what other key areascould you see local authorities developing a social marketing approach that they arenot already? I am speaking at the Local Government Communication conference in Leeds thisyear and have recently helped judge the Local Authority Communications awards. I was encouraged by the way that many local authorities are applying social marketing principles in areas such as recycling, benefits up take and active travel.
What is the role of research companies in Social Marketing?
Understanding audience’s knowledge attitudes and behaviour is the bedrock of social marketing. Customer insight and clear segmentation are essential for thedevelopment of effective social marketing interventions. Evaluation is also a key social marketing principle. Research companies have a big role to play in assisting organisations in all these areas as many organisations do not have the specialist knowledge or the capacity to develop and carry out this work themselves. Researchcompanies can also help by working with organisations to go beyond insight into thefield of implementation in two ways. First to help organisations take data that hasbeen generated and come to some conclusions about what will be the most effectiveforms of intervention, Companies can also help with process evaluation and tracking to provide feedback during implementation to assist organisations refine their interventions as they develop.
Is Insight research different from other forms of research? How can we definegood insight research?
Insight research principles are the same as generic good social research. I would define good insight research as a process of appropriate data collection and analysisthat develops for the client a clear actionable understanding about what will assist target audiences to change. This data collection and analysis process should becapable of standing up to independent review.
How well do you think evaluation is being done at the moment?
It’s patchy, but as a generality I would say that evaluation is not a well developed  process in many social change programmes. It is a process that is often tacked on to programmes and is frequently poorly commissioned and underfunded.
We have a new government. What do you think are the implications for SocialMarketing of this?
I think the wind is set fair for social marketing given the new coalitions interest incost effective interventions and the science of behaviour change. The evidence, thedescriptive data, the field experience and knowledge about how to plan deliver and evaluate social interventions is well known. These gives do not change overnight.What we know and what social marketing represents is a distillation of what isknown about how to develop, implement and evaluate social change programmes. I think the new administration will be looking to just this kind of evidence whenseeking to use every pound wisely and potentially saving quite a lot by not spending on forms of intervention that we know are very unlikely to have any measurableeffect.

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