Where Next for Social Marketing?
1 July 2014 at 10:27 am
Identifying ways to expand social marketing’s reach beyond individual level interventions is a major challenge facing social marketers, writes Dr Fiona Newton, from the Department of Marketing at the Monash Business School.
Without a doubt, social marketing is continuing to build a strong track record in encouraging behaviours that benefit individuals and communities for the greater social good.
Within Australia, one need look no further than the effective use of social marketing tools by the Transport Accident Commission (TAC) and WorkSafe to reduce the incidence of road and workplace accidents.
Similarly, Not for Profit organisations such as World Vision are actively leveraging social marketing principles to address issues such as child labour, corruption and livelihood development in developing nations.
Yet leading practitioners and academics working in the field believe that there are a number of different ways that the impact of social marketing related activities can be enhanced.
Identifying ways to expand its reach beyond individual level interventions is a major challenge facing social marketers.
David Paterson – Chief Innovation Officer, World Vision – is already engaged in this type of initiative and is a strong advocate for bringing multidisciplinary perspectives to the table when addressing social issues.
David notes: “Some of the best disciplines I’ve engaged with in this respect come from quite lateral spaces such as the military, economists, designers/architects, and others. It’s not that these people see themselves as ‘social marketers’ per se. It’s that they can bring a conceptual framework that opens up new questions and angles.”
Another challenge lies in the area of establishing benchmarks for evidence-based best practice.
Adam Ferrier – Chief Strategy Officer, cummins&partners – believes the “biggest challenge facing social marketers is finding the right balance between science and creativity and to find robust evidence for breakthrough campaigns and prove they are replicable across various causes”.
These thoughts are echoed by Professor Simone Pettigrew of Curtin University. Drawing attention to the current constrained financial environment Professor Pettigrew emphasises that this means “social marketers need to identify and target those elements that can make the biggest difference to focal problems. It’s about identifying the best ‘bang for buck'”.
However, as Bill Shannon – Managing Partner, Behaviour Change. The Shannon Company – noted: “The challenge is to measure which intervention or interventions are responsible for the change. Our experience shows most behaviour change requires a range of interventions from legislation and policy to behavioural economics and incentives. Social marketing is just one of these tools. It can’t be regarded as a silver bullet.”
Looking at the issue of rigour from a different angle, Luke van der Beeke (Co-Founder and the Managing Director, Marketing for Change) believes that consideration could be given to the introduction of National Occupational Standards in Social Marketing and/or professional accreditation for practicing social marketers in Australia.
van der Beeke said this would mean purchasers could buy services with increased confidence and support practitioners to build on their existing skill sets.
Leveraging the potential of social marketing to bring about sustained behavioural change on vital social issues will be a key theme of the biennial 2014 International Social Marketing (ISM) Conference, which will be hosted by Monash University in July.
The conference, themed “Scaling the twin peaks of rigour and relevance” is designed to facilitate ideas exchange between practitioners and academics active in behavioural change.
About the Author: Dr Fiona Newton, prior to joining the Department of Marketing, undertook post-graduate studies, research, and teaching in the School of Psychology and Psychiatry, Monash University. Her research has been published in a range of marketing and health-related journals, including Industrial Marketing Management, Psychology and Marketing, Psychology and Health, and Journal of Business Research.